Can Arable Be Permacultural?

My presentation will be based on outlining the concept of “arable permaculture” and will also include a brief introduction to my field work at New Gokul Farm.

Permaculture is often considered the antithesis of tillage, cultivation and indeed arable farming in general. Hemenway, for example, sees agriculture as intrinsically unsustainable (“Is Sustainable Agriculture an Oxymoron?”) both before and after the industrial revolution, and regularly promotes a paradigmatic shift from “agriculture to permaculture”. My main contention is that arable farming is potentially compatible with permaculture and that the latter can provide an alternative and sustainable approach to practicing the former.

Permaculture’s objective has been defined as “the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems”. The arable permaculture system should differ from other permaculture systems by virtue of being characterised by a different ecology, one which is dominated by domesticated annuals, grassland and herbivores, whilst remaining consistent with the above definition.

The field methodology I have developed at New Gokul is guided by permaculture principles and design methods. The presentation will outline the basic principles and methods applied on the field. In particular, it will discuss the role played by grains and legumes and contrast it with other approaches to the cultivation of these crops, from conventional to organic.  

I would like the presentation to include an interactive element.


I have a background in world religions and classical philosophy, specializing in the ancient Indian traditions. I am a Researcher and part-time farmer whose interests include permaculture, agro-ecology, organic farming, urban horticulture and traditional farming systems from around the world. I manage a charity urban gardening project in London and farm with oxen at New Gokul, Hertfordshire. I am undertaking postgraduate research at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University located at Ryton Organic Gardens in Warwickshire.


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