Rancher hosts seminar on ranching success

Open ate JX Ranch Day, Tom Sidwell, HMI Holistic Management
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Our latest Open Gate learning day is in the news. It’s always good to see Holistic Management Practitioners and Open Gate Hosts like Tom Sidwell from JX Ranch  getting well deserved recognition in their areas.  Steve Hansen wrote an article in the Quay County County . Here’s an excerpt…

Quay Valley rancher Tom Sidwell has acquired a reputation as a successful user of agricultural practices that are considered sustainable and holistic, and on Saturday, he hosted a group of 50 like-minded farmers and ranchers from as far away as Oklahoma and Colorado to show them how he does it.

Sidwell not only showed them how, but how well he has succeeded by using new-age ranching techniques.

The bottom line: these techniques hold water—quite literally. His assigned subject for the day was successful ranching during a drought.  Read More….

If you are currently practicing Holistic Management on your farm or ranch and are interesting in possibly hosting an Open Gate day in your area, please contact Ann Adams, Director of Programs to find out more.

And if you would like to attend an Open Gate, check out the programs page to see this year’s schedule.

Open Gate: JX Ranch Day Shows Green

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The over 50 participants, who came to the Open Gate: JX Ranch Day south of Tucumcari, New Mexico on August 9th, looked around in wonder at all the green growing grass. While the JX Ranch has received 9 inches of rain this year, the amount of grass in this area that has struggled with drought since 2011 was very impressive.

Open Gate JX Ranch Day, Sustainable AGriculture, holistic management hmiAfter HMI’s Interim CEO Ann Adams opened up the event with orienting everyone to the agenda for the day, Tom Sidwell explained how they have been able to survive the drought by the practice of Holistic Management, effectively investing in infrastructure development, and improving the marketing of their animals. In particular, since 2004 the JX Ranch has put in 38,400 feet of pipeline, 11.5 miles of fence, new corrals, 12 livestock drinkers, 4 solar pumps and panels, 2 new wells, and 7 storage tanks (80,000 gallons total) , as well as clearing 1800 acres of mesquite and juniper. They have found willing partners in the NRCS (EQIP money) and the National Wild Turkey Federation to reduce the cost of these investments.

The results? Prior to the drought, the Sidwells increased their stocking rate by 40% and after destocking deeply during the drought, they still have a 25% increase in stocking rate as compared to what they were running in 2004. Due to tree clearing, their house well has increased by 500%, even through the drought.

The increased range productivity was evident to all participants as we broke into small groups to practice forage inventorying and discuss grazing practices and how much to have animals graze and why. Group participants shared their experience then we headed back to the ranch house for a great lunch from Jimmy Watson’s Barbeque. At the end of lunch Susann Mikkelson of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union explained to participants the value of cooperatives and the assistance that RMFU can provide to producers.

Open ate JX Ranch Day, Tom Sidwell, HMI Holistic ManagementIn the afternoon we continued stepping through the grazing calculations before Scott Lerich of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Tish McDaniel of the Nature Conservancy, Jake Swofford of Quails Forever, and Amy Erickson talked about how good ranch practices can improve wildlife habitat as well as livestock forage. We discussed how wildlife can be an additional enterprise for some ranches. We then went out to the field again to do some on the ground biological monitoring and talking about indicators of soil and wildlife habitat health. The small group discussions were lively again with lots of information shared.

We ended the day with a discussion on profitable marketing. Laurie Bower of the Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance talked about how SWGLA assists grassfed producers, then Mimi Sidwell talked about how she grew her grassfed customer base and how they maintained it during the drought. Lastly, Jack and Tuda Crews talked about the New Mexico Beef program they are involved in and how they are able to get the premiums they want from that program.

Participants managed over 240,000 acres and were influenced the following ways by this event.

Participant Comments

“Very educational! Great balance of hand on/lecture.”
“Very nicely put together. I really enjoyed the out in the field trips and looking at all the ground cover.”
“I liked how open the environment was.”
“Great networking event. Good to look at some pasture.”

Slide Show

(hover over the photo to see the caption)

  1. Biological Monitoring
  2. Gathering Samples
  3. Dr. Ann Adams from HMI leads transects excercise
  4. Attendees break out into smaller groups for excercises
  5. Land Planning Discussion
  6. Open Gate Days always allow for time to meet and discuss agricultural production issues with others
  7. Open Gates include a delicious locally sourced lunch
  8. Tom Sidwell from the JX Ranch explains his operations
  9. Open Gates always include a variety of presenters knowledgeble about the local area
  10. Local ranchers discuss ranching in New Mexico
  11. Open Gate days are always full of valuable information


Question% Participants
Would you recommend this event to others?100%
Did you expand your learning network of people and resources100%
Do you intend to complete a biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event?100%
Do you intend to develop or modify a grazing plan as a result of today's event? 89%
Increased Knowledge Experienced% Participants
On how to determine land health64%
On how to improve ranch profitability62%
Of the value of grazing planning for drought mitigation59%
On determining plant recovery 55%
On grazing strategies to survive drought50%
Increased Confidence in Ability to...% Participants
Determine land health83%
Determine appropriate grazing strategies83%
Determine plant recovery75%
Create a grazing plan71%
Monitor ecosystem health71%
Determine appropriate infrastructure development71%
Analyze ecosystem health67%



Thanks to Tom and Mimi Sidwell for opening the JX Ranch gate to all our participants. Thanks also to the Thornburg Foundation for their support of this event and to our sponsors, Southwest Quay SWCD, the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance, the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Canadian River SWCD

Be sure to check out the Open Gate page for a complete listing of learning days scheduled this year.

Should you diversify your ranch?

bar lazy s ranch, Holistic Management practitioners, new mexico
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Come to your next Open Gate learning day to find out what it takes to manage a small diversified ranch.  We’ve just opened up registration for another  peer-to-peer learning event  at the Bar Lazy S Ranch in New Mexico. Out last Open Gate learning day  in New Mexico sold out, so please be sure to register soon!

Developing a Small Diversified Ranch

September 19, 2014
Bar Lazy S Ranch
Los Lunas, New Mexico

Whether you are an agricultural producer, horse owner, local food consumer, agency representative, or just interested in land stewardship and local food and small farms, this is a day for you.

At the Open Gate: Bar Lazy S Ranch Day, you’ll…

  • See what fellow land managers are doing to maintain land health and profitability in a changing environment
  • Learn about small acreage management in a desert environment
  • Learn indicators of good soil health and pollinator habitat
  • Gain enterprise analysis skills to increase profitability
  • Understand how effective land planning can maximize resources
  • Learn the advantages of cooperatives for producing and marketing
  • Discuss the importance of a whole ranch goal and value-based decision-making to improve land owner’s quality of life
  • Hear how Holistic Management enables producers to better manage risk, make better decisions and enjoy the benefits of sustainable agriculture.

Get the full details and register now.

Program Results from New York

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We’ve just tabulated more results of our Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the Northeast & Texas program. These are from the 2013-2014 season in New York. This program, funded by a grant from the NY Beginning women farmer, HOlistic management practitionerUSDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program, was coordinated by Sarah Williford of Central New York RC&D. This group finished their Holistic Management learning sessions in April and their final farm mentor visits in July. Lead instructors were Holistic Management Certified Educators Phil Metzger, Erica Frenay, and Elizabeth Marks. Additional instructors included Crystal Stewart. Mentors for the program were Tricia Park, Kylie Spooner, Rebeca Torres Rose, and Amie Collins


“Meeting and talking with other farmers has allowed me to improve my understanding of what is involved in small scale farming.”
“I find that the mix of women in the class I attended to be smart, savvy and determined this positive chemistry can only be of benefit to others whether it be for moral support, help with testing questions or giving an issue a different perspective.”
“The program has given me ideas and motivation and helped me become more involved in my community.”
“I got connections with local farmers to help me continue to practice Holistic Management.”
“The farmer network and experienced resources are invaluable.”

Demographic Information

Beginning Women Farmer graduates Holistic ManagementOf the 9 participants who completed the final survey:

  • 8 are currently farming
  • The average years of farming was 4 years
  • The average acres under production was 55 acres under production
  • The average age was 47 years old
  • The types of farm operations were as follows: Cattle/Cow/Calf (2), Vegetable/Fruit/Produce (3), Poultry (1), Pigs (1), Sheep (1), Dairy (1), Honey (1), Hay (2), Education (1), Hops (1).
  • The total customers of all participants: 107
  • 100% of participants intend to keep farming

If you are a beginning women farmer in the Northeast, or know someone that is, be sure to check out our 2014-2015 enrollment page  as we are now accepting applications for the upcoming season.

You can find out statistical details from the program  here.

Getting Started Holistic Grazing Planning Course Results

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Bishopp Farm

HMI’s Online Learning Series Getting Started Holistic Grazing Planning course began in May 2014 with 22 participants from all around the world. This course focused on key grazing planning principles and practices. The participants were excited to improve their ability to observe and understand critical grazing considerations, determining forage inventory, animal needs, along with grazing and recovery periods before putting all these calculations into a written grazing plan.

After surveying the participants who completed the Getting Started Holistic Grazing Planning course, all of the participants experienced knowledge and behavior changes with:

Getting Started Holistic Grazing Planning Evaluation Results
Knowledge/Behavior and Confidence Increase % Increase
The value of grazing planning 100%
How to assess recovery periods 100%
How to improve land health with livestock 100%
How to determine the number of paddocks 100%
How to determine grazing periods 100%
Assessing quantity of forage in a pasture 100%
Determining the number of animals your land can support for grazing 100%
% of Participants
Do you intend to complete or modify a written grazing plan as a result of today’s session? 100%
Do you intend to change any management practices as a result of this session? 100%
Overall Satisfaction of the course 100%




WSARE Grazing Planning Course a Success

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HMI completed our third online course as part of our Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Program for Agricultural Educators funded by The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) Professional Development Program. The Holistic Grazing Planning course began in April 2014 with 26 participants from 10 different states. This course provides key grazing planning principles and practices to help participants facilitate conversations with producers about grazing planning and implementation. This simple approach to grazing planning helps agricultural educators and producers hone in on critical grazing considerations, determine forage inventory, animal needs, and grazing and recovery periods. After gathering all of the information and putting together their calculations, participants created a written grazing plan.

After surveying the participants in the WSARE Grazing Planning course, a high number of participants experienced knowledge and behavior changes as noted below.

HMI thanks WSARE for their funding of this program.

WSARE Land Planning Evaluation Results
Knowledge/Confidence Increase % Increase
How to assess recovery periods 80%
How to assess quantity of forage in a pasture 80%
How to determine grazing periods 87%
How to determine the number of animals your pasture can support 93%
How to determine the number of paddocks 93%
Behavior Change         % of Participants
Increased confidence in assessing quantity of forage in a pasture 80%
Increased confidence in determining the number of animals your land can support for grazing 80%
Increased confidence in determining how long animals will stay in each paddock 80%
Do you intend to complete or modify a written grazing plan as a result of today’s session? 87%
Do you intend to change any management practices as a result of this session? 92%
Overall Satisfaction of the course 100%


What the Participants Said:

“Getting your ‘system’ down on paper helps immensely in understanding a complex grazing plan.”


“I am finding I am better able to communicate with my clients greater purpose in grazing management planning and further subdividing current management units in such a way that provides a space and place for curiosity from my client and allows for even broader conversations than prior to this class; I’ve been witnessing a change in some of my somewhat resistant clients. It seems I have made a change in the way I present myself or a concept that allows them to dig deeper into being more vulnerable around their management strategies and investigating, in conversation, changes that they would be willing to explore.”


“I’m more comfortable with the numbers and the math via the spreadsheet and interpreting it with “on-the” ground management”


“I learned how to assess forage quality and quantity, animal performance and how to calculate paddock size and ADA.”


“I really enjoyed the resources and was able to share many of them with co-workers and clients.”

Featured Participant

Maggie Matoba

Maggie Matoba “I have nothing but praises for HMI’s Grazing Planning class that I just  completed this past spring.  If there was any fault, I wish the course was a little  longer, because there was so much to absorb and learn.  We were given the  tools to improve our skills (and to help other ranchers and farmers) to more  effectively manage grazing resources and increase the ability to make more  informed decisions utilizing HMI’s whole farm/ranch goal-setting and  ecosystem processes.  With these tools and through observation and better  understanding of these type of grazing practices, I am better equipped to  advise my clients and students (as an agriculture educator) as to how to  improve their grazing management skills and enable them to increase their  productivity.  I feel more knowledgeable about how to work with nature and to maintain environmental sustainability, while being able to focus also on how to effectively make decisions to maximize positive financial gains.


With this course, as with the other courses in the HMI Program, real-time application will be the next step, in order to synthesize these concepts that I have learned and put them into practice.  I look forward to be working with farmers and ranchers in the area and introduce them to these exciting approaches in agriculture! “


Agriculture Business Management Advisor & Horticultural Therapist– Eugene, Oregon



Want to improve your land, animal & water health?

Holistic Managment Rendezvous 2014, Texas, HMI
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If you do, you’ll want to attend our next Open Gate day. This one will be in Marfa, Texas. Open Gates are on-farm/ranch learning days  that are held on the land throughout the U.S. Each day is hosted by an experienced Holistic Management practitioner and features numerous innovative and sustainable agricultural topics and practices.  We’ve had a few our Open Gates sell out this year, so be sure to register soon for this important event.

Dixon Mimms Unit Open Gate HOlistic ManagementSeptember 13, 2014
Dixon Ranches Mimms Unit
Marfa, Texas

Whether you are an agricultural producer, wildlife manager, local agency representative, or just interested in sustainability, drought mitigation and biological research findings, this is a day for you. Sul Ross State University students will also find this well worth their time.

  • Learn effective ranching techniques to improve rangeland productivity, water holding capacity, soil health, and wildlife habitat
  • Improve land monitoring skills
  • Connect with folks from the local sustainable ag and ranching communities
  • Understand key soil health indicators and ways to improve soil
  • Shorten your learning curve by talking to producers who have improved stocking rates by implementing grazing strategies to improve water infiltration and land productivity.
  • Better understand the effects of wildfire on soil health and how to mitigate its effects
  • Hear how Holistic Management enables producers to better manage risk, make better decisions and enjoy the benefits of sustainable agriculture

Learn More and Register Now

Holistic Grazing Planning Course in OK

Kim Barker talks about land management practices at the Cornelsen Ranch
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The Oklahoma Farmers & Ranchers Association is hosting a 2-Day Introduction to Holistic Management Grazing Planning course later in August.

August 22-23, 2014
Spring Forest Farm
Hulbert, OK

Registration: juliegahn@yahoo.com

Cost: $20 OFRA Members
$55 Non Members

Instructor: Holistic Management Certified Educator Peggy Sechrist

The 2-Day Introduction to Holistic Management Grazing Planning course focuses on key whole farm/ranch goal setting and ecosystem processes to help producers manage their farm/ranch for the triple bottom line (social, environmental, and financial sustainability) and more effectively manage their grazing resources. They will learn how to improve their ability to observe, understand, and make decisions, based on what they can control. Through these new skills they improve their ability to work with nature and to increase the productivity of their farm or ranch.


Participants will be able to:

  • Get their livestock to the right place at the right time and for the right reasons
  • Determine appropriate stocking rate
  • Plan grazing to increase profits from meat, milk, or fiber
  • Utilize the “tools” of grazing and animal impact to create the future landscape in a whole farm goal
  • Effectively plan and utilize stock density, and herd effect
  • Maximize production (and profitability) from both land and animals
  • Maximize forage production in the growing season and ration it out in the non-growing season without animal performance drops
  • Plan for and survive a drought with minimal financial losses
  • Integrate all other activities on the property with the grazing plan to avoid stress, surprises, and to lower costs


  • Define key management considerations
  • Identify and map grazing areas
  • Key regenerative grazing principles
  • Determine the number of animals that can be carried and herd makeup
  • Define plant recovery periods and grazing periods
  • Develop a written plan to maximize productivity and profitability
  • Address issues around implementing and monitoring a grazing plan
  • Identify feed needs for grazing and non-grazing periods
  • Build a grazing plan that works with Nature

Be sure to register soon.

NY Senator meets with women farmers

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Senator Tkaczyk, Senator Gillibrand, and HMI’s New York Beginning Women Farmer Coordinator, Sarah Williford.

Senator Tkaczyk, Senator Gillibrand, and
HMI’s New York Beginning Women Farmer
Coordinator, Sarah Williford.

On Sunday July 20th graduates of the HMI’s Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the Northeast  program as well as a wider group of NY women farmers gathered for a roundtable event with U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and New York State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk. Twenty-five women farmers of all ages, stages and production, plus fifteen or so agency folks and local politicians were there to represent a diversity of experience at the Crossroads Brewery in Athens NY. They discussed affordable and secure access to land including wanting land held by non-profits to ensure that farmland will be farmed in perpetuity, access to capital for women farmers, migrant labor ,and  excessive regulations creating obstacles and high costs for slaughterhouses to exist. Senator Tkaczyk, a NY woman farmer herself, offered that access to capital is a major  obstacle for women farmers, and suggested looking for alternative lending institutions outside of banks. Senator Gillibrand noted that women have the gift of collaboration and can use it to support one another. Both Senator Tkaczyk and Senator Gillibrand will be following up with the group through an Agriculture working group

Major Gathering of Holistic Management Folks

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We are extremely excited to announce that last week we opened registration for the Holistic Management Rendezvous 2014.  This is expected to be the largest gathering of Holistic Management Practitioners and Educators this year.   HMI is proud to co-host this event with the Dixon Water Foundation.  While there will be plenty of time to network with your peers,  enjoy fine dining and live entertainment, we’ve also got a number of in-depth learning opportunities for you to expand your skills and knowledge of Holistic Management.  Holistic Management practitioners, educators, organic ranchers, and anyone interested in sustainable land management and local food will want to attend.


Rendevouz Graphic.3

All events are located in and near Decatur, Texas

Learn More and Register NOW