It’s Time to Put Soil and Ocean Carbon on the Agenda

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By Dan Towery

FROM THE WEB EDITOR: In response to the focus on alternative energy as the great salvation against excess CO2 in the atmosphere there was a recent piece written on the Ecowatch website: The following is Dan Towery’s response to that post.

Agriculture crop fields have lost significant amounts of organic matter (carbon) via soil erosion and tillage (30-50% of total organic matter).  Pasture and rangeland which has been overgrazed has also lost significant amounts of organic matter.

There are 2 basic types of organic matter.  Passive organic matter is centuries old and is very stable (Prairie soils).  This portion of the OM is only lost through soil erosion and ends up in sediment. Whereas, the active organic matter portion is relatively new (2-5 years old) and the carbon is lost through tillage operations.  This carbon is released into the atmosphere as CO2 and is the result of oxygen being stirred into the soil.

Planting cover crops and minimizing tillage (no-till) will add active organic matter to the soil. However, this organic matter is also very fragile.  Most of the active carbon is in the top 2″ of the soil.   5 to 10 years of accumulated active carbon can make the soil more resilient and provide nutrients to following crops.  However, this carbon can be lost if management changes, i.e. Cover crops not planted or multiple full width tillage trips occur.  What took 5-10 years to gain can be lost in 1-2 years.

So while crop fields have the potential to be an incredible carbon sink, the needed management isn’t there on many acres at this time. In the US cropland managed to sequester C is somewhere between 10-15% of all cropland acres.  However, the number of acres is increasing.  But this carbon could also be released into the atmosphere if management changes, i.e.  the farm changes hands (owner or tenant).  This carbon is very important but is also very fragile.

Grazing lands can also increase the active carbon if planned grazing is utilized.  Whereas, overgrazing will result in a loss of active carbon in the soil.

Working with farmers in the Midwest to adopt no-till and cover crops is what I do.  Change is slow both in the rate and acres involved with increasing the active carbon in the soil.  And a management mistake can cost yield and lower profits for the farmer.

Dan Towery has operated Ag Conservation Solutions as a Midwest conservation agronomist over 10 years.  But has spent over 30 years working on improving soil health.  [email protected]



Meet Pete!

Pete Hutton, Director of Development

Introducing our New Director of Development, Pete HuttonPete-Pic

Pete Hutton comes to HMI from Orange County, Virginia, where he has spent a long career in sales, business management and donor development. Pete has worked as Major Gifts Officer and Director of Development for Christian ministries throughout the East Coast and has spent the past 10 years working as a major Gifts Officer for Wycliffe Bible Translators. Pete specializes in creating connections between programs and people and has, throughout his career, successfully united donors with causes they care about.

HMI is excited to bring Pete’s talents to the organization where he will join our efforts to bring Holistic Management to more farmers, ranchers and land stewards! Pete and his wife, Linda, will be relocating to New Mexico in January 2016. Pete received his Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communications from David Lipscomb University.

Ann Adams, HMI’s Executive Director, Awarded at the 2015 Quivira Coalition Conference

Ann Award Quivira

Ann Award QuiviraAt the recent Quivira Coalition Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, our Executive Director, Ann Adams, was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Leadership in the Radical Center Award for Conservation. Quivira recognizes individuals who have shown remarkable and enduring leadership. The Quivira Coalition believes that change needs strong leadership to advance the work of collaboration and innovation in natural resource management. Ann was selected for her work in developing Holistic Management programming and curriculum for many multi-state programs, as well as her writing and presentations about the Holistic Management community. Congratulations and thank you for all your hard work, Ann!

2016 Whole Farm/Ranch Training Open for Registration


Another great training opportunity is brought to you by HMI and a host of amazing funders, sponsors and collaborators!

We’ve opened up registration to our 2016 Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning and Land Management Series in several states, and together, these courses cover all the topics of Holistic Management! They can be taken individually, but we encourage you to make the most of this training opportunity and sign up for both.

Here’s why you should sign up… P9120052.small

Our Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning program gives both new and experienced farmers and ranchers the knowledge and tools they need to create a sustainable, healthy agricultural enterprise. Additionally, our Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management program helps land managers regenerate the land for better soil health, bio-diversity, productivity and profitability through the practice of Holistic Management®. Because we know farming and ranching isn’t just your livelihood – it’s your passion!

And as if that weren’t enough, this price that can’t be beat!

Due to grant funding, each course (valued at $800 each) is priced at $100 per person with advanced online registration, but space is limited. The walk-in rate, if available, will be $150 per person so don’t delay! You must register for each course if you plan to attend both. For those who need a little help with the fee, the Terry Gompert Memorial Scholarship fund allows HMI to offer full and partial scholarships. Just remember, scholarship deadlines come before registration deadlines, so apply early!

2016 Schedule

Henrietta, Texas

Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning
DATES: January 6-7, February 4-5, March 2-3, 2016

Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management
DATES: March 30-31, March 4-5, June 1-2, 2016
TOPIC: Improving Wildlife Habitat with Holistic Management


Willits, California

Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning
DATES: January 13-14, January 27-28, February 5-6, 2016

Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management
DATES: February 20-21, March 5-6, March 16-17, 2016
TOPIC: Improving Land Productivity with Holistic Management


Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning
DATES: January 15-16, February 5-6, February 26-27, 2016

Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management
DATES: Coming Fall 2016


Montrose, Colorado

Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning
DATES: February 19-20, March 4-5, March 18-19, 2016

Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management
DATES: Coming Fall 2016


Central Point, Oregon

Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning
DATES: Coming Fall 2016

Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management
DATES: March 4-5, March 18-19 and April 8-9, 2016
TOPIC: Improving Land Productivity with Holistic Management


Tucumcari, New Mexico

Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management
DATES: April 1-2, April 15-16, April 29-30, 2016
TOPIC: Improving Land Productivity with Holistic Management

Many thanks to our funders, sponsors and collaborators for making these courses possible.


Henrietta and Clay County Chamber of Commerce

Sallie Calhoun – The Christiano Family Fund, an advised fund of the Community Foundation for San Benito County



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Learning New Decision Making Processes and Monitoring Practices – All We Need Open Gate Results


All We Need Farm’s beautiful little goat dairy was the site of the October 9th HMI Open Gate near Needmore, TX. Fifteen participants gathered group-for-webwith dairy-maid Stacey Roussel, HMI folks and Agrilife Extension representatives. Stacey was a vegetable farmer with a local CSA when she went through HMI’s Beginning Women Farmers and Ranchers training in 2012-2013. Just this year she decided to follow her heart and concentrate on a goat dairy and pork operation.

After introductions and a brief description of HMI’s mission and programs by Peggy Cole, HM Certified Educator Tracy Litle described the basic components of HMI’s Whole Farm/Ranch Planning process.

The real fun began when Tracy led the group through a decision-testing exercise with a big decision Stacey was considgoat-dairy-treats-for-webering—whether or not to buy a milk pasteurizer. This was a unique way to introduce Stacey, the dairy, the background and the enterprises that may (or may not) produce income. The group enjoyed gathering the information they would need to get the whole picture around the pasteurizer and how it fit into Stacey’s Holistic Goal, so that they could help her test the decision. They appreciated learning how the testing guidelines shed light not only on the financial part of the decision, but the social and ecological aspects as well. (In case you’re curious, it appears Stacey is not likely to have a pasteurizer in her near future.)

Tracy then presented a very informative piece on soil health and how it affects the water cycle. After a delightful lunch, each participant got one of the fast-becoming-famous goat milk gelato pops we had been studying during the decision testing. They are amazing.milking-station-for-web

The afternoon session began with learning a great deal about dairy goats as Stacey took us on a tour of her well-researched and planned operation. We saw the spotless milking room, the does’ overnight accommodations and finally got to visit with the 17 does. Mostly Nubian and Nubian crosses, these sweet pets yield up to a gallon and a half daily. Their grazing is carefully planned to enhance the soil health while keeping the goats fat and sleek with milk delicious enough for the pops we just ate. To learn more about Stacey’s little dairy, pick up the latest copy of Acres USA Magazine.

Back in the barn, Tracy led us through an introduction to how monitoring land health is part of successful and sustainable land management. We went into the field to practice in small groups, then discussed our findings.

Agrilife horticulturist Boone Holladay talked about rainwater harvesting for home, garden and livestock production. He offered the Texas A&M University website as an excellent resource:

His colleague John Goody talked about water quality and urged well owners to get the water in their wells checked yearly.

The 15 participants in this group represent 1690.5 acres in a variety of production enterprises including cattle, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, hay, vegetables and fruits. 100% ranked the event excellent or good and all said they would recommend it to a friend.

Here’s what they had to say about the day:

“Great! Always good to relearn, always new info or ah-ha moments – making connects of learned info/experiences.”
“Relaxed, pleasant, interesting and informative.”
“Loved it!”
“Overall helpful and healthy.”
“We got good, useful info and some hands/minds-on practice.”
“I intend to rewrite/revisit goals – inventory – management team & identify who is on team – match team member desires/experience to management duties.”
“I intend to start a notebook w/copies of the decision-testing form to check off, keep in records.”
“I intend to begin biological monitoring by doing analysis of forage layers.”
“I intend to use the form given for biological monitoring.”


Outcome% Participants
Feel more confident in their ability to test important decisions93%
Feel more confident in their ability to see indicators of soil health100%
Feel more confident in their ability to do biological monitoring86&
Intend to change any management practices/apply ideas they learned as a result of this event100%
Intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of this event100%
Intend to test decisions as a result of this event100%
Increased knowledge of critical monitoring criteria to increase land health79%
Increased knowledge of understanding the role of soil biology in the water cycle71%
Expanded their network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to them100%


This Open Gate Farm day is partially funded by a grant from The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

mitchell foundation logo, Holistic Management International Sponsor

Oklahoma Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning


We’ll help you put pen to paper and work out the important business side of your operation – because we know that farming or ranching isn’t just your passion, it’s your livelihood.

HMI is proud to bring our Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning course in Oklahoma for the first time! This in-depth course will teach you how to improve your financial, marketing and business results through Holistic Management®. This is an active hands-on course and by the completion of the six days, you’ll have a draft business plan, a whole farm/ranch goal, as well as both financial and marketing plans.

John E. Kirkpatrick Horticulture Center, Oklahoma City, OK

Instructor: Tracy Litle, Holistic Management Certified Educator and Owner of Faith Hollow Farm
Assistant Instructor: Lauri Celella, Holistic Management Certified Educator in Training and Owner of Dry Creek Livestock
Assistant Instructor: CD Pounds, Holistic Management Certified Educator in Training and Owner of Triple Cross Farms

January 15-16, 2016 – Introduction to Holistic Management Whole/Farm Ranch Planning
February 5-6, 2016– Holistic Financial Planning
February 26-27, 2016 Holistic Marketing and Business Planning
9:00 – 5:00 each day

Key Dates

Deadline for scholarship applications:  December 13, 2015
Last day to register online:  January 3, 2016

Details & Registration Info

“All things grow with love.”


Restoring Grassland in a Thorn ForestLoving-on-the-burro-for-web

Join HMI, Faith Hollow Ranch and a variety of amazing collaborators to share your love of people, animals and the land with our latest Open Gate! We’ll discuss how holistic planned grazing can lengthen growing seasons, invigorate soils and enhance rainfall effectiveness resulting in lush, healthy grasslands. This will also be a fantastic opportunity to broaden your network in South Texas and beyond!

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. Whether you are an agricultural producer, local agency representative or just interested in ranching, land stewardship, and healthy food, this is a day for you!

  • Hear how Holistic Management enables producers to better manage risk, make better decisions and enjoy the benefits of sustainable agriculture
  • Learn how to regenerate the land by grazing livestock
  • Meet our invisible allies – the microbes beneath our feet
  • Learn about the ecosystem processes and how solar collection, ground cover, water cycle and diversity are critical to successful building of sustainable grasslands
  • Read the land and learn how to record its path to greater health and productivity
  • Practice rangeland monitoring
  • Discover how holistic grazing planning is being used to restore the native prairie from a thorn forest
  • Assess forage in brush country

Open Gate: Faith Hollow Ranch Day
Orange Grove, TX
November 14, 2015

For more details and to register, click here.

Sponsorship opportunities are available.


This Open Gate Farm day is partially funded by a grant from The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

mitchell foundation logo, Holistic Management International Sponsor


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TomKat Ranch in the news


tomkat-for-web-rectHMI friends and Holistic Management practitioners from the TomKat Ranch in California are featured in an article by Evan Halper in the LA Times.  The folks at TomKat not only practice Holistic Management, but they also host many educational events and are driving research into the effects of Holistic Management and climate change. Here’s an excerpt…

Steyer, Taylor and a staff of scientists and farmers are riding herd not just over cattle, but also accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The number crunchers are meticulously analyzing whether there is merit to the couple’s theory about how cattle ranching and climate interact. “We are picking apart the whole operation, looking at all the supply-chain effects, adding data collection, recruiting a data consortia,” said Taylor, the inspiration behind the ranch…

Read the entire article on the LA Times website.

Get Down to Business…


With Holistic Management.

While many folks are attracted to farming and ranching because of their love of the land or their desire to do truly meaningful work, farming and ranching is still a business. To create a sustainable, healthy agricultural enterprise, you need to run it like a business, and our Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning course gives both new and experienced farmers and ranchers the knowledge and tools they need to do just that. We’re excited to announce enrollment is now open for our upcoming course in California.

The Grange Farm School, Willits, California

Grange Farm School logoInstructor: Holistic Management Certified Educator, Richard King
January 13-14, 2016 – Introduction to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning
January 27-28, 2016 – Holistic Financial Planning
February 5-6, 2016 Holistic Marketing and Business Planning
9:00 – 5:00 each day
Scholarship Deadline: December 13, 2015
Registration Deadline: January 3, 2016. Details & Registration Info

Open Gate: Barking Cat Farm Day Recap


Socially Engaged with the Biological – Learning and Networking at Barking Cat

P9120046.smallA nice little cool front set the stage for a most delightful outside day at Barking Cat Farm. About 46 interested folks gathered September 12, 2015 at Barking Cat Farm in West Tawakoni, TX to learn how the farm is evolving since beginning the practice of Holistic Management in 2012. Proprietors Kim Martin and Laurie Bostic were students in HMI’s first class of Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas. There they learned to discover their goal and make every decision count toward that goal. It started out simple: We want the farm to make a profit and we want to have fun. Their journey has been about careful planning to manage their time and enterprises for a more efficient operation…and it’s working!

The day began with an introduction to Holistic Management International by Program Manager Peggy Cole. She described HMI’s various programs in service to its mission “to educate people to manage land for a sustainable future.”  Holistic Management Certified Educators in Training, Lauren Bradbury and Lauri Celella, walked the group through the principles and practices of Holistic Management, then spent some time on each of the 4 ecosystem processes (water cycle, mineral cycle, biological community and energy flow) that comprise the whole of any ecosystem.

P9120052.smallThey divided the participants into small groups of 2 to 6 people and gave each group a monitoring form with which to find and examine a bit of land on the farm, then return to report on what they saw.

Kim Martin’s talk on the experience with Holistic Management and how it changed the farm was excellent. From discovering the goal to the recent decision to close the farm for a year and transition into enterprises that are more perennial, every step has been about creating healthier land while creating a healthier business that allows more fun and free time for Kim & Laurie.

P9120086.smallOne of the treasured outcomes from the beginning women farmers course is the wonderful network of other women who share a passion for the land. Many of those other women were present at this open gate. One mentor who changes lives consistently is Betsy Ross. Betsy talked to this group about the soil food web. Kim and Laurie set up microscopes so the participants could see the amazing life in compost tea, projected onto the screen. Betsy explained how each of the odd shapes on the screen functions in the soil food web. A former teacher, Betsy held the audience spellbound as she brought the world of microbes into their awareness. The Q&A session was fascinating as practical application of these concepts was realized.

Lunch included food from the farm and some especially nice pies, so all were ready for a tour of Barking Cat. We began with a look at the making of compost tea. CD Pounds brought a home-made brewer to show. Kim showed their larger scale brewer and described the modifications they had made. Laurie showed the tractor sprayer and the modifications they made to that – the primary concern being that nozzles are large enough not to damage the delicate life you are spraying onto the land and leaves.

P9120063.smallWe followed Betsy through the woods and into the fields, stopping to learn what is growing and why. We looked at sites for the fabulous forest dinners Kim & Laurie plan to serve and the permaculture features that will be producing when we return next year.

The 19 participants filling out an evaluation represented 1405 acres with a variety of enterprises including cattle, sheep poultry, bees, vegetables and fruit.

Here is what they had to say about the day:

“It was good value. I took 4 pages of notes, which means I was learning. I want my wife to attend if this is done again.”

“Excellent presenters & information shared.”

“Very good – this was more than I anticipated. Overwhelmed by what I didn’t know.”

“Very informative, lots of new information. I liked all of the speakers & the pie!”

“I really liked getting to walk through the land to identify grasses.”

“Time to start learning more about HMI.”


Outcome% Participants
Confident in your ability to incorporate new management strategies to build resilience in soils plants & animals84%
Confident in your ability to improve land health 79%
Increased knowledge of how to observe and assess ecosystem processes 79%
Intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned as a result of this event83%
intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event 89%
Increased knowledge of critical monitoring criteria to build biological wealth79%
Increased knowledge of understanding the role of soil biology in the water cycle 68%
Did you expand your network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you? 100%
Overall Satisfaction of the event (rated good to excellent) 100%
Would recommend this event to others 100%


This Open Gate Farm day is partially funded by a grant from The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.


mitchell foundation logo, Holistic Management International Sponsor



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