Environmental Literature | Social Justice | Sustainable Futures

Large Scale Permaculture

April 3rd, 2017 | Posted by Riley Cohen in Uncategorized

After watching the documentary Inhabit, I was thoroughly impressed with permaculture’s ability to produce different types of vegetation without the environmental harms of large-scale, commercial farms. However, I was left with one, very important question: how can permaculture be scaled so that it can nourish the world? After doing some research, I found it no surprise that many other people share my curiosity. Evan Wiig, the director of the Farmer’s Guild, claims that “there are many constraints on professional farmers that exist beyond production techniques,” to which permaculture pays too little attention, like land access, food safety regulations, labor costs, global competition, and fickle markets.” (Roman-Alcala) Given these constraints, it would be very difficult for permaculture to override the commercial farming industry, at least from a purely short-term economic analysis.


That being said, Wiig also claims that permaculture has a lot of potential. However, in order to fully utilize that potential, it is necessary for a major change in the way citizens of developed countries obtain their food to occur. In the book Sacred Economics, Charles Eisenstein discusses how commercial agriculture is not set up to maximize the yield per square acre, but is set up to maximize the yield per unit of labour. This is because, currently, less than two percent of the population of the United States of America is engaged in agriculture. (Bureau of Labor Statistics) The constraining factor here is sheer labour power. Eisenstein estimates that the U.S. would be able to feed its entire population without the use of pesticides or growth hormones if ten percent of the population was engaged in agriculture.


The question then becomes, is it feasible for one in every ten Americans to either be full-time agriculture employees or to considerable incorporate agriculture into their daily lives. The answer to this question depends on how you perceive the future of American culture. If we would like to continue the status quo, then the answer is no. There are way too many important economic sectors that cannot afford to transfer eight percent of all employees in the US to the agriculture sector. However, given that the current way we farm is not sustainable, we may have no choice but to change the way we obtain food.


Works Cited:


Alcala, Antonio Roman. “Can Permaculture Disrupt America’s Farm Landscape?” Civil Eats. N.p., 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.


“Employment by Major Industry Sector.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 08 Dec. 2015. Web. 03 Apr. 2017.


Eisenstein, Charles. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition. N.p.: Readhowyouwant.com, 2011. Online.

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