March 4, 2014

Research Question, Need Opinions!

Permaculture and Agrarianism. The same? Similar? Different? Why or why not? Let's discuss!


Fiona from Arbordale Farm said...

I am not sure they are the same. I have not heard of the agrarianism philosophy talk about sharing the surplus and I think it is more focused on farming and rural lifestyles where as permaculture is adaptable to urban living as well.

Farmer Barb said...

I have been researching permaculture for my farm and there is a lot of the Guild concept that, while intellectually stimulating, would look like a big rangy jungle to the neighbors! I am utilizing Hugelkultur mounds to restrain the downward flow of water and the devastating effects of it. I am using the soil "uppening" of Joel Salatin. I am using my own North Star and removing the use of machines and their petroleum from my land all together. I feel that a lot of the Permaculture tenants are great. I feel that the no-prune/no-till would certainly be easier. Food forests are essential, but getting to the harvesting of the food (if you follow the diagrams) might be a bit of a challenge.

I don't know enough about Agrarian Philosophy, please elaborate.

Anna said...

(Caveat --- I've read lots of books about permaculture, but only blogs about agrarianism.)

I think the two are very different, primarily because agrarianism is focused on *why* we farm while permaculture is focused on *how* we farm. Sure, you can go over to the philosophical side in permaculture too, but a lot of folks like me are primarily interested in the permaculture methodology. In contrast, I can't think of any specific agrarian methodology at the hands-on level.

Ed said...

They are definitely different in my opinion. Agrarianism is the belief that rural society is superior to urban society. Those who are agrarian in nature don't necessarily follow the permaculture belief which believes in working in harmony with nature rather than against it. I know many agrarians who don't practice permaculture in any form.

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are this: agrarianism would be living an agricultural based lifestyle, generally in a rural community. Permaculture would be more of working with what nature gives us and/or mimicking nature and could be produced anywhere. Basically I see it as actively tilling earth versus letting nature take its course. Whether or not I'm actually close to any sort of formal definition of the terms, I don't know, but that is where my mind goes when I hear the terms.

Su Ba said...

Good terms to explore and debate since many young people "going back to the land" can't really define either. Perhaps there is not set clear definition.

Permaculture seems to me to be farming via mimicking nature or using nature's examples to use as part of farming. But it's not purely following nature. For sample, permaculturists seem to advocate making food forests, and advocate planting non-native trees. Not quite the way nature works, but the idea of food bearing trees in your woods is ok in my mind. Another example from my homestead, I've had great success growing bananas atop hugelkultur pits. I no longer need to bring water to the trees even during drought.

Agrarianism seems to me to be a philosophy that farming oriented lifestyle is superior to urban oriented lifestyle. It has nothing to do with the actual farming itself.

On a personal level I currently lead an agrarian lifestyle, and yes, for me it is superior to the urban style life I had before. I've gained a lot of respect for farmer types. But I wouldn't belittle urbanites.

Leigh said...

Thank you to everyone for participating. Right now I'm just reading comments and making note of questions. I will respond with my own answer in an upcoming post.

Bluegrass Endurance said...

I think there is an element where Agrarianism is a broader perspective than Permaculture, more on that in a moment, such that,as Anna said, Permaculture is more of a "How" and Agrarianism is a "Why."

On the surface Agrarianism is usually related to the superiority of a life lived off the land while Permaculture usually tries to focus on how to best utilize the land within the context of sustainability and how nature is perceived to work.

That said a true fully thought out agrarian perspective should include both a "Why" and "How" and if most that hold to a permaculture view would think about all that is written on the subject they also to hold a "Why" perspective but many try and avoid that part so as to appear to be neutral. However, as with everything there is no such thing as neutrality. Thus, the permaculturalist also has a "why" and that "why" may vary but in general most that is written is naturalistic but does not need to be.

In some ways, at least in what has been written agrarianism most often starts at the "why" and moves to the "how" while permculture adherents often start at the "how" and speak to the "why." But in truth I thin they both start at the why but one is more verbal about the starting point.

Agrarianism, again, does not have to be just about the "why" and most that hold to some sort of agrarian viewpoint are in truth also holistic and seek to look at all areas of life. The agrarian perspective can take on a naturalistic view of or even a Christian view but I would say the naturalistic view itself is also religious. But then again there is a religious aspect to all things even if people try and avoid it. As Henry Van Til once said, "Culture is religion externalized." So, all things have a religious component to them and even if it is minimized that does not take away from its existence. The foundation of anything is what it is based on and that foundation is true of Permacuture as much as it is of Agrarianism.

My personal perspective is that only a Christian view of agrarianism, with God's word as the foundation, is the view that has any hope of lasting since it is based on an unchangeable foundation, God and HIs word. I am sure some would disagree and that is OK but we do need to look at foundations when we look at any viewpoint since that will in the end dictate the structure and its ability to survive.

So all that said, it depends on how you view permaculture and use its precepts as to whether it is just about the how, the why, or both. But again I think no matter what one does it includes and involves ones worldview, or the "why." My personal opinion is that agrarianism is a more robust look at life based on where it starts, the "why," and it usually does not shy away from that aspect of it.

As for me I read both sides and while I would see agrarianism as were I am at I also appreciate some of the ideas that permaculture has brought in to the conversation. So, let us not ignore permaculture but seek that which is good from it and use it be good stewards of God's provisions.

Good stuff to ponder, thanks for asking the question Leigh.

Chris said...

Agrarian lifestyles can choose to apply permaculture design into their location, but I'm not sure Agrarianism translates into permaculture in the same way. Their ideologies share similar threads, but they're born of different goals.

One has a universal application, regardless of location (permaculture) and the other is isolated from large segments of the environment (agrarianism) to set up a single system of agriculture.

It's quite possible however, if a large portion of urbanites suddenly decided to call their urban gardens "agrarian", then we'd see a shift in the definition. We saw that development with urban homesteading - it crossed over from an exclusive rural pursuit, to cities all over the US, just by the addition of the word "urban" in front of homesteading.

The two different origins of permaculture and agrarianism, remain separate however, and I wonder if that's the point you're trying to identify - where do they cross over for people?

jewlz said...

In the simplest sense, I'd respond that Agrarianism suggests a construct related to the organization of a society, while permaculture is a construct dealing with the organization of land. The former gives off a whiff of being more than just building an economy based on farming. It seems to include politics, spheres of influence over the world of ideas and resource allocation etc. Where as permaculture seems to strive only to impact that gestalt that is their own domain, seeking to create an eco system that thrives because all the systems within it sustain and enhance each other.
::shrugging:: General first impressions, hope they help.

Scott M Terry said...

They are most definitely not the same thing. Permaculture's vision of a more permanent, perennial kind of agriculture can be used as tool by agrarians. I appreciate much of the nuts and bolts of permaculture. However, as Tony said, most of permaculture writing has presuppositions that are at odds with christian agrarianism so I am careful to pick and choose. I'm not willing to buy into permaculture's idea of "partnership with nature" as opposed to stewardship of creation. There are other problems I have but I won't go on it about it. I have learned a lot from permaculturists and enjoy visiting with them.

Unknown said...

Great question. I think I need to reply in a blog post. Simple answer is they are similar and cross-over but are distinctly different too, I think.

Unknown said...

Prefacing my comment with the fact that I've read one book on the subject of permaculture thus far (Gaia's Garden)... I would say that agrarianism is a lifestyle and a mindset, perhaps these days a subculture. And that permaculture is one of the methods one might utilize as an agrarian... or not if they chose.

If I'm understanding it correctly, the author seemed to promote the ultimate goal of a permaculture setting as being a food forest and then spoke of how very few working models there were to date. If that's the case then isn't permaculture really a new kid on the block whereas that isn't the case with agrarianism?

While I respect and may ultimately borrow some of the principles from permaculture on our homestead- I'm incredibly intrigued by some of the symbiotic relationships that can be utilized between plants-I'm nowhere near being ready to give up the deliciousness of a ripe tomato or any other of a myriad of wonderful annual crops in exchange for wildcrafting, nuts, and whatever other squirrel food a food forest would have to offer ;)

Su Ba said...

I too am not interested in giving up my annuals. But I don't see the need to be a purist of any particular philosophy. I see some good ideas from many different viewpoints that I can incorporate into my farm. People who have seen my place will ask if I'm organic, or biodynamic, or permaculturlist. Am I a survivalist or self- sufficient? I have to say partly yes, partly no. I simply do what works for me.