Profitable Ranching with Holistic Management

Sands  grazingThe website, On Pasture, has been running a series of articles about Holistic Management practitioners, Cody and Deanna Sands. The Sands used Holistic Management to help them move from being in debt $20,000 to turning a profit in 5 years (and having fun doing it). They made changes such as combining herds and were able to use EQIP funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to help them improve their fencing and water so they had 65 paddocks instead of 16, increasing forage utilization and plant recovery. The Holistic Management class they took helped them understand that they were both understocked and overgrazing. Improved grazing helped address both of those issues and increase their profitability by more than doubling their grazing days in less than 2 years. To learn more about Holistic Planned Grazing, download our free Grazing e-book.

Whole Farm Planning for Beginning Farmers in New Hampshire-2016 Report

UNH Cclass-for-web-2ooperative Extension teamed up with HMI to offer a five session course to farmers; teaching participants how to use Holistic Management techniques and theories to develop a whole farm plan.  Additional financial support for the program was provided by a New Hampshire Risk Management Agency grant.

12 participants representing 10 farms attended the training sessions, and a total of 22 people were ultimately reached as participants also engaged farm management team members after training. Session 1 provided participants with the opportunity to develop a values-based goal to guide farm management decisions; showing participants how to move towards their farm goal.  Sessions 2 & 3 guided participants through developing a financial plan for their farm, with the Holistic Management financial planning process helping producers to define the profit they need, estimate their income, prioritize expenses, and weave all of the components together into a financial plan.  Sessions 4 & 5 guided participants through exercises and the necessary thinking in order to develop an effective marketing and business plan for their farm. Instructors for the sessions were Holistic Management Certified Educator Seth Wilner and Pam Bruss.

The course was very successful, with participants having a diverse level of experience in both whole farm planning and Holistic Management. In the end, all class participants reported that they enjoyed the class, learned a great deal, and were successfully able to develop business and financial plans to advance their farms.

Results of the training are as follows:

Knowledge Change
Topic Number of Participants Experiencing Knowledge Increase  % Participants Experiencing  Knowledge Change
Defining Effective Management Team 10 83%
Inventory Farm Resources 12 100%
Develop a Whole Farm Goal 12 100%
Identify Needed Farm Systems and Protocols 10 83%
Integrate Social, Economic, and Environmental Factors into Decision-Making 12 100%
Ability to Make Complex On-Farm Decisions 9 75%
Attitude Toward Financial Planning 12 100%
Ability to Develop Balance Sheet 9 75%
How to Increase Farm Net Worth 12 100%
Determining Viable Profitable Enterprises for Your Farm 12 100%
Determining Your Farm’s Projected Revenue 10 83%
Identifying Logjams and Adverse Factors on Farm 12 100%
Skills in Developing Whole Farm Financial Plan 11 92%
Getting Profit You Need from Your Farm 12 100%
Delineating Farm Expense Categories 12 100%
Prioritizing and Cutting Farm Expenses to Guide Reinvestment 12 100%
Assessing Farm Cash Flow 7 58%
Profitably Price Products and Services 12 100%
Effectively Promote Products and Services 10 83%
How to Determine Breakeven Sales Volume 10 83%
How to Determine Breakeven Price 10 83%
Understanding Your Competition 12 100%
Marketing Outreach 12 100%
How to Develop a Marketing Plan 10 83%
Knowledge of Resources for Developing Strategic Plan for Farm 12 100%
Ability to Use Holistic Goal to Guide Business Strategic Plan 9 75%
Ability to Use Financial Plan to Determine Viable Markets for Farm 10 83%
Ability to Implement Systems and Projects to Move Towards Whole Farm Goal 12 100%


Holistic Goal/Whole Farm Plan 100%
Implemented Systems towards Holistic Goal 92%
Financial Plan 67%
Business Plan 50%
Marketing Plan 83%
Forge Relationships That Positively Impacted You 100%

Participants were also asked “what were the greatest learning impacts for your farm as a result of what you learned in this course?”

  • The support to delve into issues deeply
  • Financial planning, planning for profit, use of spreadsheet tools, setting up record system for tracking expenses and income
  • To look at the farm business as part of your whole life
  • Form a goal and identify your values to drive your management. Going through this process as a couple.
  • Quality of Life statement. Marketing-mission statement.
  • Pulling it all together. Focus on direction, goals and then plan around that.
  • Helped me set up my personal goals.
  • The important connections between your holistic goal and business planning.
  • How easy and effective using the testing questions can be.
  • Vision statements, quality of life statements.
  • Learning about others’ struggles with their farms and how we share similar struggles.

A special thank you to The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension for making this training possible.






Leaving the Ranch to Young, Like-Minded Producers

Glen and Doreen Hicks











Open Gate: Hicks Ranch Day

August 12, 2016
D & G Hicks Ranch
Ninga, Manitoba, Canada

Our Hicks Ranch Day is part of HMI’s Open Gate Learning Series. Open Gates are peer-to-peer action-based learning days with short presentations and small group exercises geared for participants to share discoveries and management techniques with guidance from experienced facilitators and producers.

Come and be a part of this on-the-ground learning day and help strengthen your local foodshed. Because we all have a stake in the way our food is grown. 

Learn more and register.


FridayAugust 12, 2016
9:30Welcome and Introduction to Holistic Management -R. Corcoran
10:00Introduction to the Hicks Ranch and their Succession Plan - G. & D. Hicks
10:30Succession Plan - D. Gilford
11:15Goal Setting Exercise: 5 Years from Now - R. Corcoran
1:00Ranch Tour; Land Planning/Infrastructure Discussion; Plant Community Succession; Biological Monitoring Exercise - G. & D. Hicks
2:30Succession: An Accountant's Perspective - MNP
2:45Succession Brainstorming Exercise; Q & A
3:30Evaluations & Wrap Up - R. Corcoran

Learn more and register.

Thank You to our Collaborators & Outreach Partners:

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Planning for Success into the Next Generation of Farmers and Ranchers

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Open Gate: Redtail Farms Day

August 3, 2016
Redtail Farms
Castor, Alberta, Canada

Our Redtail Farms Day is part of HMI’s Open Gate Learning Series. Open Gates are peer-to-peer action-based learning days with short presentations and small group exercises geared for participants to share discoveries and management techniques with guidance from experienced facilitators and producers.

Come and be a part of this on-the-ground learning day and help strengthen your local foodshed. Because we all have a stake in the way our food is grown. 

Learn more and register.


WednesdayAugust 3, 2016
9:30Welcome and Holistic Management Overview - K. Sidoryk
10:00Redtail Farms Succession Planning Story - I. Greibel & K. Charpentier
10:45Holistic Management Goal Setting: Values clarification exercise, 5 year visioning exercise - K. Sidoryk
1:00Succession Planning - M. Good
3:15Redtail Farms Direct Marketing - I. Greibel
4:30Q & A and Evaluations

Learn more and register.

Thank You to our Collaborators & Outreach Partners:


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Healing Desert Rivers with Holistic Management

landThere was an interesting article about Holistic Management practitioner Paul Schwennesen by Sandra Postel on the National Geographic site. The Schwennesens are long-time Holistic Management practitioners and Paul took over operations on the Double Check Ranch from his father about 10 years ago. The ranch abutts part of the San Pedro River and Paul is working with the Arizona Land and Water Trust to see if he can reduce his water use by 20-30% through improving the water cycle function on his land. He’s working to increase organic matter so he can hold more water. More than 300 migratory birds fly along the San Pedro, so what is good for the river is also good for these birds. In turn, Paul gets compensated for the water saved. If this experiment shows promise, there may be more opportunity for ranchers to earn money by saving water through good grazing practices. To learn more about how to implement Holistic Planned Grazing, download our Holistic Grazing e-book for free.

Director of Agriculture Position Open in Ohio

greenacresGreenacres Foundation is a educational farm using Holistic Management near Cincinnati, Ohio. They are currently looking for a Director of Agriculture.

The Greenacres Director of Agriculture will be a strategic thought-partner and report to the Greenacres Chief Operating Officer.  The ideal candidate is an experienced practitioner of Holistic Management and grass based sustainable agriculture  with proven experience leading and developing a team that manages all sustainable agriculture production.  This position manages cattle, poultry, sheep, equine, pastures, crop and hay production, sustainable agriculture and research.

This position will play a critical role in partnering with other senior leaders to develop a long term strategic plan as well as other operational improvements that will enable Greenacres to continue to grow and build capacity.  This is a tremendous opportunity for a Holistic Management Agriculture leader to maximize and strengthen the capacity of a well-respected, high-impact organization.

Given the dynamic nature of the Greenacres Foundation Property and Mission, in addition to standard duties, this position may be called on to assist in any activity that may further the Mission of the Greenacres Foundation.


Agricultural Management:

  • Responsible for the daily planning, organization, supervision and administration of the Farm.
  • Delivers leadership to Greenacres agriculture departments: Livestock, Vegetable Production and oversee Agriculture Research.
  • Analyze and present data in an accurate and timely manner; clearly communicate monthly, quarterly, and annually on goals.
  • Works with the agriculture managers to create and manage enterprise budgets. Review all plans and budgets; monitor progress and changes; keep the senior leadership team abreast of the Agriculture team’s results.
  • Responsible for long term planning, operations, marketing and development of agriculture businesses. One of the long term goals is for Greenacres  to become a demonstration site for Holistic Management and regenerative agriculture.
  • Build and implement proposals and schedules for vehicles, infrastructure and machinery. Work with property and estate crew managers to complete tasks.
  • Creates and implements production guidelines and protocols consistent with Holistic Management and grass based systems.
  • Develops relationships with vendors to effectively manage and maintain a variety of unique machinery, buildings, infrastructure and production systems.
  • Coordinates and oversees pasture and forage management responsibilities for Equine department.
  • Develops relationships and speaking opportunities with world renowned consultants and presenters.
  • Responsible for managing product through all phases to sales. Ensure that Greenacres is profitable and meets projected financial targets.
  • This position lives on property and is on call 24/7.
  • Review, update and implement all necessary processes and practices as needed to expand Greenacres capacity.
  • Ensure compliance with government regulations and health and safety standards.
  • Effectively communicate and present: projects, data, etc.  to the appropriate stakeholders.


  • Bachelor’s degree in agriculture or related fields.
  • Training in Holistic Management certified through Holistic Management International.
  • Experience in the agriculture sector.
  • Experience in ranching for profit.
  • Proven track record for being a strategic thought partner as well as getting results.
  • Must be able to put a business plan together justifying proposals.
  • Additional qualifications may include an MBA, Master in Agriculture or related degrees.
  • Previous experiences that ensure a deep understanding of grass fed methodologies.
  • At least 7-10 years of overall professional experience.
  • Previous experience working on a farm managing crop, horticultural, livestock, and poultry production.
  • A successful candidate must have a proven record of management using a “Dream It, Sell It, Implement It, Evaluate It” business model.
  • A successful track record in setting priorities; keen analytic, organization and problem solving skills which support and enable sound decision making.
  • Excellent communication and relationship building skills with an ability to prioritize, negotiate, and work with a variety of internal and external stakeholders.
  • Personal qualities of integrity, credibility, and dedication to the mission of Greenacres.

Employment dependent on the ability to pass a physical, drug screen, and Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation fingerprinted background check.

Send a cover letter and résumé to: Greenacres Foundation- Human Resources, 8255 Spooky Hollow Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242 or by email to [email protected].


Measuring Microbes: A New Approach to Soil Testing

GabeBrownSunflowerA recent article on the AgProfessional website talked about how soil testing in the future may include microbial content. This is a great move as researchers like David Johnson of New Mexico State University have shown that while organic matter in soils is an important criteria to determine soil health, the fungal:bacteria ratio is even more important. The higher that ratio (favoring the fungal), the more productive the land. For gardeners one way to accomplish is through a good compost. For large scale farmers and ranchers, another way is through Holistic Planned Grazing. Read about how Gabe Brown increased soil fertility with cover crops, no-till, and Holistic Planned Grazing. Click here, to get a free e-book on Holistic Planned Grazing.

Using Grazing Systems to Produce Healthy Food and Ecosystems

walls farm pic

walls farm pic









Open Gate: Walls Farm Day

July 26, 2016
Walls Farm in Alameda, SK, Canada

Our Walls Farm Day is part of HMI’s Open Gate Learning Series. Open Gates are peer-to-peer action-based learning days with short presentations and small group exercises geared for participants to share discoveries and management techniques with guidance from experienced facilitators and producers.

Come and be a part of this on-the-ground learning day and help strengthen your local foodshed. Because we all have a stake in the way our food is grown. 

Learn more and register.


TuesdayJuly 26, 2016
10.00amIntroduction, Purpose, & Overview of Holistic Management - B. Hjertaas
10.30amGrazing Systems & Soil Health - K. McRae
11:00amHow Decisions are Made - T. & C. Walls
11:30amExercise: Holistic Decision Making - B. Hjertaas
1.00pmHealthy Soil & Carbon Sequestration - B. Hjertaas
1.30pmFarm Tour - B. Hjertaas
2:15pmExercises: Forage Assessment & Biological Monitoring
3.00pmQ & A and Evaluations


Learn more and register.

Thank You to our Collaborators & Outreach Partners:


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Sponsor This Series

Our Open Gate series offers organizations, agencies and businesses a great opportunity to network with farmers, ranchers and consumers interested in sustainable agricultural ideas, products and services. We offer a variety of affordable Sponsorship Opportunities to connect you with our community. Please email Stephanie von Ancken at stephv(AT)holisticmanagement(DOT)org for more information.


South Valley Farmers Grow to Re-Cover Albuquerque

by Stephanie von Ancken

In March, HMI completed Whole Farm/Ranch training with farmers  from the Albuquerque South Valley who are members of the Agricultura Network (ACN).

Starting in Spring of 2015, seventeen ACN farmers participated in Holistic Management International’s Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning series  evening classes with HMI Certified Educator, Kathy Harris.  This March they convened again for two Saturday sessions focusing on Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management.  During this course participants learn about and experience holistic goal setting, on-farm decision testing, ecosystem processes, biological monitoring, crop planning and land planning.

Speakeasy Farms hosted the first session at their one-acre operation. The day started out inside the beautiful and colorful living room of farm owner Jeff Warren where the participants learned about the value of organic matter in soil and the benefits of biodiversity and covered soil.  The group then headed outside to take a look at the soil and followed Kathy through holistic biological monitoring techniques.

The second session was at the Baca Family Connection where Gloria Baca, her husband John and son Alfonso are experimenting with their new hoop houses. Participants learned about the value of long-term planning, the benefits of holistic crop planning and about ways to improve the health of the ecosystem processes on their land. Good discussion was had about the local ecology and Kathy used the recent extreme windstorms the South Valley has been experiencing to segue into discussion about how to plan your land to alleviate wind concerns. After lunch from Pop Fizz, a locally-owned restaurant, NRCS set up a rainwater simulator which demonstrated how the holistic management practices of no-till farming, cover crops and planned grazing benefit soil health and improve the water cycle on cropland and rangeland.

Dan Bloedel, Chad Dunnahoo, and Ana Gomes from the local NRCS office demonstrate runoff and infiltration of rainfall on differently managed land.

Both sessions were successful and sunny experiences for all! Many of the participants have already started making positive changes on their land. One said he ordered cover crop seeds the very next day!

The 9 participants that completed post-program surveys managed 28.5 acres combined. There was a 100% satisfaction rating with the course and there was interest expressed in learning more about Holistic Management.

In the 2010 Census the Albuquerque South Valley was noted as having 25.9% of its population below the poverty line. Since 2012 ACN has been working to provide fresh produce to the low-income community through their CSA program, La Cosecha.  In 2015, ACN farmers provided more than 200 families with weekly bags of fresh produce.

Certified Educator Kathy Harris and Program Assistant Stephanie von Ancken thoroughly enjoyed working with and getting to know the local producers of such a worthy project. La Cosecha is a Spanish word that means ‘the harvest’ or ‘the gathering of’ making it an appropriate name for this project; harvesting nutritious food while gathering together the community.


Outcomes % of participants
Do you intend to complete or modify a written land plan as a result of today’s session? 100%
Your ability to improve land health using holistic crop planning? 88%
Increased ability in creating a whole farm/ranch goal? 100%
More confident in your ability to make complex decisions on your farm as a result of today’s class 100%
Increased ability to monitor your farm’s/ranch’s ecosystem health 70%
Intend to change management practices as a result of today? 100%
Increased knowledge of design strategies that can build resilient, diversified farms 100%
Do you intend to conduct biological monitoring on your farm/ranch as a result of today’s session? 100%

Special Thanks


Thank you to the Thornburg Foundation for funding this training, and to Speakeasy Gardens and Baca Family Connection for hosting the field days.




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Mangarara Station Day a Success

May 16th and 17th, 34 participants gathered at The Ecolodge at Mangarara Station at Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.  Titled Amazing Grazing, this two-day event focused on how to never run out of gChecking litter 1rass. The Ecolodge overlooks Horseshoe Lake, a natural landscape feature and is another enterprise to a diverse operation. Key learning objectives of this two-day event included:

  • Plant recovery and its relationship to livestock performance and soil health
  • Rainfall infiltration rates, how they vary, and what that could mean for production
  • Creating sample/demonstration area
  • Signs when grazing is not enhancing the landscape
  • Experimenting with longer rotations
  • Diversity of pasture species
  • Roll of litter in pasture production

Speakers built on these topics, with Steve Haswell from BioAg explaining relationships between organic matter and humus, and connection to litter. Gavin Clements from Wesco Seeds focused on the benefits of diverse pastures, exploring the roles of a number of traditional and non-traditional pasture species.  Bruce Wills told of his farming operation which involves many complimentary practices to managing holistically including higher grazing residuals, planting trees in paddocks, and fencing off native bush.   Greg Hart spoke on the history of Mangarara Station and the increasing number of enterprises including pigs, dairy, beef, sheep, chickens, and the Ecolodge.

Holistic Management Associate Certified Educator John King took the opportunity to demonstrate the decision testing process by exploring whether lengthening recovery periods benefited a generic holistic goal so all participants could see how managing holistically involves much more that grazing.  Malcolm White assisted with practical examples from his situation to illustrate points John raised.   There was a long discussion about recovery periods, overgrazed plants and bare soil.

An outdoor session allowed the group to visit Greg Hart’s grazing operation where Steve Haswell explored the soil profile and an infiltration test was conducted – an inch of water disappeared in 40 seconds on the slope whereas it took 8 minutes at the top of the ridge where livestock tend to camp.  Much was made of the standing litter and how that might be recycled better. The following day the group visited Glenlands operated by Dean and Antoinette Martin and explored the reality of cocktail crops and livestock performance.

Here are some of the results of this two-day event:


Knowledge, Behavior, and Confidence Increase %
Intend to change any management practices/apply ideas  learned in this event? 100%
Expand your network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available? 100%
Would recommend this event to others 100%
Overall Satisfaction of the event 97%
Facilitator’s Effectiveness 97%
Presenters’ Effectiveness 97%
Increased ability to monitor ecosystem health 91%
Increased ability to determine land health 91%
Increased ability to determine appropriate grazing strategies 91%
Intend to conduct biological monitoring as a result of today’s event 90%
Ability to determine plant recovery 76%

NewZealandchecking cows 1
HMI would like to thank Mangarara Station and the Ecolodge, The Association of Biological Farmers, Hawkes Bay Regional Council, Wesco Seeds and Bio Ag for their support of this event.