Episode #160: The Failure of Permaculture Redux

Frank once again dives into the morass of Agroinnovations Episode #145 addressing a listener’s comment through a series of clips from recent podcast episodes featuring Simon Huntley, Narendra Varma, David Holmgren, Darren Doherty, and Tom Giessel.  Frank reiterates his argument that permaculture isn’t failing as an agroecological design science, nor are permaculturalists failures.  As my guests explain, permaculture’s shortcomings have much more to do with our cultural worldview and our socioeconomic circumstances.  They also offer numerous examples and case studies that point us in the direction of a new, cooperative model where common land use rights are interwoven into the social and ecological landscape, and different people with different skill sets can collaborate and innovate together on a shared landscape.

Episode #159: Gotham Unbound

Frank concludes his interview with Dr. Ted Steinberg, ecological historian and author of the book Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. In this second part of a two-part conversation, Dr. Steinberg explains the origins of the book title, and challenges the notion that New York City can grow without limits in an age of rising sea levels. Climate models predict an 11 to 24 inch rise in sea levels in the coming decades, which spells big trouble for the Big Apple as flooding and other natural catastrophes become a certainty in one of the most built environments on the planet. He breaks down the different plans that have been put forth for mitigating these problems, most of which are costly and unrealistic, while monyed interests continue to push for an ever-expanding growth horizon for New York City.


Episode #158: The Ecological History of Greater New York

Frank welcomes Dr. Ted Steinberg, author of the book Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York. Dr. Steinberg begins by explaining the origins of the book, and then describes the ecological condition of New York City before European colonization. He explains the biological diversity once found in this rich estuary, and breaks down the reason why this particular location became such a magnet for human commerce and engineering. The historical process of industrial development led to the division of underwater parcels and subsequently massive increases to the size of the island of Manhattan. Also, the growth of New York City was made possible via massive infrastructure projects in transportation and other infrastructure, most notably infrastructure to move water vast distances to feed the insatiable appetite of an ever-growing population. Finally, Dr. Steinberg discusses the good and bad of New York’s open space, concluding with a brief discussion of species extinctions caused by water pollution.


Episode #157: Trends in Community Supported Agriculture

Frank is joined by Simon Huntley of smallfarmcentral.com. Simon shares his motivations for creating a CSA member management software platform, and the features of that platform. He then discusses the newly emerging business model of venture capital funded local food delivery services like Farmigo and Good Eggs, and offers some analysis as to what these businesses mean for CSA farmers. Simon also discusses his recent Trends in CSA Farming report that shows rapid growth for CSA’s while mean gross incomes are extremely low. The interview concludes with some suggestions as to how CSA’s can be more competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace.


Episode #156: The Future of Food and Farming

In Part II of this two-part series, Frank Aragona concludes his interview with Tom Giessel, who is the honorary historian of the National Farmer’s Union. Tom begins with a brief foray into the history and status of farmer cooperatives, and argues that small operations unifying under a cooperative structure is the future of food and agriculture. He also advises listeners to beware of threats to uniform cooperative law, and the further danger of wholesale privatization of cooperative assets. The discussion concludes with a look at the role of commodity groups in the political landscape, and the dwindling role of cooperative extension in the face of persistent budget cuts.


Episode #155: History of the Farmer’s Union

Tom Giessel, honorary historian of the National Farmer’s Union, joins host Frank Aragona for a discussion of the history of the Farmer’s Union. Tom begins with the origins of the Union in the early 20th century amongst cotton farmer’s in Texas. He explains the importance of community organizing and collaboration in an age where farmers had to help one another to survive and prosper. Tom then describes the impact the technological revolution of the 20th century had on the Farmer’s Union, and also shares the the ideas of visionary leaders throughout the Union’s history. Also discussed is the role of Farmer’s Union in the conservation crisis of the 1930’s. Part I of II.


Episode #154: Our Table Cooperative

Frank interviews Narendra Varma, founder of Our Table Cooperative located in Oregon. Narendra explains the genesis of the cooperative, and the cultural norms that prevent more cooperative development in the United States. He also describes a food system that is structurally broken, and the challenges individuals and groups face when confronting structural injustice. Narendra outlines the unique elements of Our Table as both a consumer and a producer cooperative, and offers insights into how we can make these organizations successful.

Our Table Cooperative


Episode #153: Appropriate Technology at Home and Abroad

Frank welcomes appropriate technology enthusiast and humanitarian Robert Fairchild, also known as Solar Bob. Bob shares his decades-long journey in the realm of appropriate technology, including the genesis of the movement during the oil crunch of the 1970’s and the now growing interest in all things AT in the Age of Internet. Bob addresses the role appropriate technology can play for the suburbanite in contemporary America who is looking for an alternative lifestyle. He also asserts that appropriate technology has been open source since the beginning, and shares some views from his experiences in Haiti and central Asia.


Episode #152: Neofeudal Permaculture

Frank welcomes back regrarian and permaculture designer Darren Doherty. Darren shares his experiences from his current Regrarians world tour, and then describes the precarious economic situation of the commodity farmer and the often degraded state of the world’s agricultural landscapes. The conversation then launches into the complexities of the current land tenure system as Darren explains the neofeudal character of agricultural economies. The interview concludes with some observations about the need to develop a capable labor force to meet the market demand for sustainably produced food. Useful links below:

Heenan Doherty

Everett Rogers (via Wikipedia)

Earl Butz (via Wikipedia)

Fordhall Farm

The Farmer, The Plough, and the Devil


Episode #151: Pathways to Intentional Communities

Frank concludes his interview with permaculture co-originator David Holmgren. David begins by sharing some strategies people can employ to develop permaculture in their own lives without having to purchase land or go deeply into debt. He then discusses his realization in the very early days of permaculture that freehold land tenure would not be an effective way to implement broad-acre permacultural polycultures. He suggests some why this fact has been so often overlooked, and offers some strategies for the development of intentional communities. David also shares his ideas on the prospects for seasteading and the possibilities for permaculture in the suburbs.

Useful links below:

Holmgren Design
Joe Rogan Experience Podcast with Joe Quirk of the Seasteading Institute