Conservation contra Permaculture: Alternative Ecologies of Multifunctionality and Resistance to Neoliberal Agriculture
Permaculture is a model of agriculture that emphasizes multifunctionality and its sensitivity to spatial configuration, with important differences compared to the official policies supporting multifunctionality. Multifunctionality - the simultaneous performance of production, ecological, and cultural functions - is increasingly regarded as a norm to be measured and supported through farm policy such as the US Conservation Security Program. The spatial character of farm-scale landscape multifunctionality has been identified as a critical question, but has received little attention. This project investigates how permaculture producers in the US negotiate with social and biogeophysical processes to generate a configuration of land uses and produce multifunctional space, and how these spaces are supported or excluded by official policy. Permaculturists select and configure land uses, and define and evaluate functions, using different criteria than those embedded in the CSP: producing agroecosystems that are smaller in scale, more complex, and which make strategic use of landuse configuration. As a result, the contributions of this alternate, bottom-up model of multifunctionality are illegible to official measures, and excluded from institutional support. This presentation reports on ongoing research investigating these relationships through spatial-functional analysis of permaculture agroecosystems; interrogation of producer land use planning processes; and examination of the effect of regional- and national-scale policy on producer goals and practices.