Panarchy is a conceptual framework that describes how systems, both human and natural, change through time (Gunderson and Holling 2002). The concept is related to sustainable agriculture, in that it suggests that there is no such thing as infinite sustainability, that the span of maturity of any system is limited, and that all systems eventually decompose, only to arise again, Phoenix like, in a new format. 

Starting at alpha, the system reorganizes the remains of a previous incarnation, goes through a stage of rapid growth (r), reaches a plateau where gains are consolidated (K) , and enters a period of decline and decomposition, ending at point omega.

We have chosen the panarchy symbol as the icon for Spring Valley Ecofarms, a 100 acre farm on the Georgia Piedmont.  The alpha point represents the first part of the eighteenth century when colonists first settled the Georgia Piedmont and began to cultivate cotton.  The cotton empire grew and reached its climax (Point K) in the nineteenth century.  As soils became depleted in the early twentieth century, the boll weevil infested the weakened cotton plants, and cotton farms were abandoned and replaced by pine forests (point omega). In the beginning of the twenty first century, organic farmers began buying up and cultivating the depleted soils, and began practices to restore the soils to produce fruits and vegetables (transition to point alpha).  Thus Piedmont agriculture rises again, but in a new format (transition to point alpha).

Gunderson LH, Holling CS (2002) Panarchy: Understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press, Washington D.C.

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