OOS 46-10
Land use and livelihood diversity on permaculture agroecosystems in the US

Thursday, August 14, 2014: 4:40 PM
308, Sacramento Convention Center
Rafter Sass Ferguson, Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
Sarah Taylor Lovell, Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL

Permaculture is an agroecological movement emphasizing livelihood diversification based in biological diversity across multiple temporal and spatial scales. Despite it's broad international presence and high public profile, permaculture has received relatively little attention from scientists and scholars (recent publications, however, may indicate a shift in this isolation). Like diversified farming systems in the US more broadly, very little is known about how permaculture farms operate, succeed, or fail. This makes it difficult to estimate the importance of permaculture's proposals for radical shifts in land use and production practices. Questions addressed by this project address questions of multiple kinds of diversity in permaculture agroecosystems: (1) What patterns of land use (including diversity and configuration) characterize these agroecosystems, and how can they be assessed in terms of productivity and ecological function? (2) What patterns in livelihood type and diversity exist in permaculture agroecosystems? (3) How does complexity in land use relate to complexity in livelihood? These questions are addressed through participatory methods, including mapping and livelihood analysis, at permaculture-identified farming operations in the US.


The researcher visited 47 permaculture sites in 17 states in the continental US.  Analysis is ongoing, and preliminary results include high levels of land use complexity in comparison with regional reference production landscapes, with complexity displaying an inverse relationship with the scale of production. Similarly, livelihoods display high levels of diversity in comparison with farm household reference data, though diversity varies widely between research sites.