Texas Farmers Learn Holistic Biological Monitoring and Land Planning

Intensive Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning training continues for our Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in Texas year-long program. HMI Project Manager Peggy Cole filed this report….

The class  met January 14-15 at Red Corral Ranch in Wimberley, TX. The ranch has been practicing Holistic Management since  mid 1980’s. The ranch has cattle and hunting enterprises as well as a a retreat/event center.

The class started around a big fireplace with the participants reporting on the breakthroughs they have achieved to date. Then we settled down to learn ecosystem processes and biological monitoring. Long time Holistic Management practitioner Betsy Ross, one of our mentors, is a Texas icon on soil health and was able to contribute her enthusiasm.

After lunch we divided into six groups and went out into the field to do some monitoring. Each group had a clipboard with the basic and the comprehensive charts, a pvc pipe monitoring square and a dart. Each of the 4 mentors plus Peggy Sechrist and myself led a group.

My group created an imaginary transect line between 2 trees and placed the square. Discussion was lively as we looked for the messages from the land.   We took turns throwing darts, observing and making notations on the on the charts until each in the group had done each role at least once. I was impressed with how quickly they caught on to the process, how well they were able to read the land and how much they embraced monitoring.
We started Land Planning at 8am on Tuesday. Peggy Sechrist  decided to have the participants  work in small groups – all on the same project.  She brought copies of the topo maps from her own ranch, explained the layout and challenged each table to come up with the ideal layout for paddocks and water. They really got into it and each table discussed and discussed before drawing their plan on the overlay. Each table presented their best result plan and rationale for why it works best this way.

More large group discussion took place after lunch, including a beneficial discussion on the evaluations and what they are trying to measure (the whole training on this topic including both the reading assignment and the class lesson).

Then, by request, we divided into more small groups based on the topic they wanted class time to work on. Mentors, Coordinator and Instructor rotated among the tables, helping each get clear on anything they needed more help on.

All in all, the event was a wonderful learning experience for all involved.

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