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



Sustainable Growth Texas Logo


The Soil Story


Here’s one of my favorite videos – of late. It’s the Soil Story published by Kiss the Ground.  In just under four minutes of simple animation they clearly explain in layman’s terms the carbon cycle and the hows and whys of building carbon in soil.

If you are a farmer or rancher and want to learn how bet to build your soil health, consider enrolling in one of our Holistic Management training programs.



2015 Maine Beginning Women Farmer Report

 2015 BWF class Maine

 The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number Grant #2012-49400-19673 funded HMI’s 2015 Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the NE & Texas program. We recently completed evaluation of the Maine program which was coordinated by Gail Chase through Maine’s Women’s Agricultural Network and the Kennebeck Valley Council of Government. Lead instructors for this program were Gail Chase and Diane Schivera. There was 97% average satisfaction rating for all sessions and 100% of the participants noted they had increased their network as a result of the training. Thanks to the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program for their support of this program.

Here’s what we’ve learned from our 13 Maine participants, of which 8 graduated from the program:

Participant Demographics

  • The average years of farming was 8 years
  • The average acres under production was 9 acres under production with a total of 43 acres influenced

Here’s what some of the participants had to say:

  • I have greater confidence as a partner in our farm, to have an educated opinion and contacts with experienced people.
  • The Holistic Management class has completely changed how I view and manage our farm. We’re going to work through the book as a family during our homeschooling this fall, which will help even more. The classes were broken down so the work was easily manageable, and I especially appreciated having most of the business plan information done at the end, which made the process go smoothly and took away most of the overwhelming feelings and work that come with writing a business plan.
  • It was really important for me having the time set aside to focus on business farming in an organized atmosphere and it was the most helpful to hear from others who are perhaps experiencing the same things I am. That dialog was very important to me.
  • I think this program has provided me with many skills that will help me to be a successful farmer. I intend to start farming next year, which provides me ample time to develop a strong plan from the outset. I think it is wonderful how the whole farm goal is easily expanded to a “whole life goal”, and how aspects of the program are applicable to other parts of my life. My greatest struggle has been deciding how to integrate my farming dreams with the rest of my other life goals, and how to prioritize time and money across these different aspects of my life.
  • Excellent program that all current and prospective farmers/ranchers should attend. As an avid permaculturist, I appreciated the section on permaculture and how well the course fit within the permaculture ethics and principles.
  • I found the program interesting, innovative, and informational. I thought some of the planning aspects, such as the approach to financial planning, were unique but also made a lot of sense. I appreciated those alternative approaches.
  • The most important thing I learned from this program was how to think holistically in a more broad sense of the word, not just in farming/ranching but in everyday life. It also taught me how to look at my goals and purposes.
  • I found the planning aspects particularly helpful, especially bio-monitoring and grazing, which I had no prior experience with. I also found the financial planning was much different than my previous experiences and think it will be highly beneficial.

  2015 Land Planning Maine                                 

Holistic Goal/Whole Farm Plan 100%
Financial Plan 100%
Business Plan 100%
Marketing Plan 100%
Land Plan 100%
Biological Monitoring 75%
Grazing Plan (grazers in group) 100%
Forge Relationships That Positively Impacted You 100%


Key Outcomes as a result of the program % Participants
Increased Satisfaction with Quality of Life 75%
Increased Satisfaction with Communication 75%
Increased Satisfaction with Time Management 75%


Key Post-Session Impacts Percent of Participants
More Efficient Use of Resources 80%
Improved Decision Making 60%
Ability to Identify Business Challenges from Previous Years 60%
Strategies for More Effective Reinvestment in the Business 60%
New or Improved Record Keeping Systems 60%
Enhanced Understanding of Your Farm Finances 80%
Improved Ability to Incorporate Social, Environmental, and Financial into Your Land Plan 60%
Improved Understanding of Your Farm’s Eco-System 60%
Improved Ability to Determine Appropriate Management to Address an Environmental Issue 80%
Improved Understanding of Your Forage Composition 60%
Improved Environmental Conditions on Your Farm 40%
Clearer Sense of How Your Business Is Projected to Grow in Future Years 60%
Improved Ability to Articulate Goals and Objectives of Business to Others 60%
Improved Understanding of your Market and How Your Business Fits In 60%
Improved ability to determine most effective enterprises 60%
Improved ability to discern most appropriate market channels 60%


Knowledge Change Per Course % Participants Experiencing Change
Session One – Goal Setting
Inventory Farm Resources 77%
Develop a Whole Farm Goal 100%
Identify Needed Farm Systems and Protocols 62%
Integrate Social, Economic, and Environmental Factors into Decision-Making 85%
Session Summary 100%
Session Two – Time Management
Ability to Make Complex On-Farm Decisions 75%
Assess How Time is Spent on Farm 75%
Effectively Manage Time on Your Farm 75%
Session Summary 75%
Session Three – Financial Planning I
Attitude Toward Financial Planning 88%
How to Increase Farm Net Worth 88%
Determining Viable Profitable Enterprises for Your Farm 88%
Determining Your Farm’s Projected Revenue 75%
Session Summary 100%
Session Four – Financial Planning II  
Skills in Developing Whole Farm Financial Plan 89%
Getting Profit You Need from Your Farm 89%
Prioritizing and Cutting Farm Expenses to Guide Reinvestment 89%
Assessing Farm Cash Flow 89%
Monitoring Your Financial Plan 100%
Session Summary 100%
Session Five – Marketing  
Using Whole Farm Goal and Financial Plan to Develop Marketing Plan 83%
Profitably Price Products and Services 83%
Effectively Promote Products and Services 83%
How to Develop a Marketing Plan 67%
Session Summary 100%
Session Six – Business Planning
Knowledge of Resources for Developing Strategic Plan for Farm 86%
Ability to Develop a Business Plan for Farm 86%
Ability to Use Holistic Goal to Guide Business Strategic Plan 100%
Session Summary 100%
Session Seven – Leadership and Communication
Effective Communication Tools for Farm 75%
Conflict Resolution Skills for Farm 88%
Understanding Diverse Ways People Seek Recognition and Affirmation 75%
Using Whole Farm Goal to Guide Communication on Farm 75%
Session Summary 100%
Session Eight – Land Planning
Prioritize Land and Infrastructure Development/Investments 75%
Assess Management Considerations to Guide Land Planning 75%
How to Incorporate Natural Resource Issues into Land Planning 75%
How Permaculture Fits into Holistic Land Planning 75%
Session Summary 88%
Session Nine – Grazing
How to Assess Recovery Periods 100%
How to Assess Quantity of Forage in Pasture 100%
How to Improve Land Health with Livestock 100%
How to Determine Number of Animals Your Pasture Can Support 100%
How to Determine the Number of Paddocks 100%
How to Determine Grazing Periods 100%
Session Summary 100%
Session Ten – Soil Fertility
Importance of Improving Soil Fertility Sustainably 86%
Value of Organic Matter in Soils 86%
Benefits of a Covered Soil 86%
Benefits of Biodiversity 86%
Understanding Eco-system Processes on Your Farm 86%
Indicators of a Healthy Farm Eco-System 86%
Ability to Monitor Farm Eco-System Health 71%
Session Summary 86%


Increased Confidence as Result of Training % of participants
Developing Written Whole Farm Goal 92%
Building an Effective Management Team 69%
Manage Your Time on Your Farm 100%
Make Complex Decisions on Your Farm 100%
Using Testing Questions 100%
Determine Your Farm’s Net Worth 75%
Increase Your Farm’s Net Worth 88%
Determine Your Farm’s Projected Revenue 75%
Ability to Identify Logjam/Adverse Factors 75%
Getting Profit You Need From Your Farm 89%
Prioritizing Cutting Farm Expenses to Guide Re-investment 89%
Determining Weak Link in Farm Enterprises 89%
Identifying Cash Flow Issues on Farm 89%
Monitoring Your Farm Financial Plan 100%
Promoting Your Farm Products 83%
Developing a Business/Strategic Plan 100%
Identifying Resources to Assist You in Developing a Business/Strategic Plan 100%
Implementing Important Strategic Systems and Projects 71%
Communicating with Farm Workers 75%
Providing Recognition for Farm Workers 75%
Providing Leadership on Your Farm 75%
Ability to Prioritize Land/Infrastructure Improvements on Farm 75%
Ability to Incorporate Natural Resource Issues into Land Planning 100%
Ability as a Grazer 100%
Assessing Recovery Periods 100%
Assessing Quantity of Forage and Pasture 100%
Determining the Number of Animals Your Land Can Support for Grazing 100%
Calculating the Number of Paddocks for your System 100%
Determining How Long Animals Will Stay in Each Paddock 100%
Monitoring Your Farm’s Eco-System Health 100%
Intended Behavior % of participants
Develop a Whole Farm Goal 83%
Implement Time Management Tools or Processes 75%
Using Testing Questions 100%
Change Enterprise Assessment 88%
Determine Profit Up Front and Cap Expenses 75%
Complete or Modify a Financial Plan 89%
Enter Financial Data Regularly 78%
Strategically Reinvest in Farm 78%
Complete or Modify a Marketing Plan 83%
Change Marketing Practices 83%
Complete or Modify a Business Plan 100%
Complete or Modify Written Land Plan 88%
Complete or Modify Written Grazing Plan 83%
Change Grazing Practices 83%
Conduct Biological Monitoring on Farm 100%
Change Eco-System Health Practices 71%


Session Satisfaction % of participants rating class good or excellent
On-Farm Goalsetting 100%
Time Management 100%
Financial Planning Basics 100%
Enterprise Analysis 100%
Marketing Planning 83%
Business Planning 100%
Leadership & Communication 100%
Land Planning 100%
Grazing Planning 100%
Soil Fertility 100%


New Certified Educator at HMI


TracyLitlefor-webHMI is excited to introduce Tracy Litle as our newest Holistic Management® Certified Educator.  Tracy has been mentoring and team teaching in the Texas Beginning Women Farmer Program for the past 2 years, and recently completed her learning portfolio and exit review with her Certification Team of Ann Adams, HMI Executive Director, Peggy Maddox, Program Mentor, and Judi Earl, HMI Technical Review Committee representative.

Tracy and her husband own and operate a small scale ranch with cattle, goats and horses near Corpus Christi, TX.   They use regenerative agricultural practices like holistic planned grazing and application of compost teas to increase soil organic matter, restore soil health and bring back the native prairie. Tracy has a passion for teaching and holds a BS in Animal Science from Texas A&M University, a Masters of Education from Texas A&M – Kingsville and Montessori certification for 3 levels.  Congratulations Tracy!

All We Need is…. Holistic Land and Water Management


Effective Use of Water Resources

HMI continues its fight against the devastating effects of drought with a new Open Gate event hosted by All We Need Farm. Join us to discuss effective regenerative ranching techniques to improve water-holding capacity, improve soil health and increase forage production. You can also learn about the ecosystem processes plus how to read the land and record its path to greater health and productivity – and make a few new friends to boot!

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!

  • See what fellow land managers are doing to maintain land health and profitability in a changing environment
  • Learn how to aid water and nutrient cycles with sustainable farming practices
  • Explore the connections between soil health and water holding capacities
  • Identify the indicators of good soil health
  • Monitor land health and explore how it can move you toward desired outcomes
  • Hear how Holistic Management enables producers to better manage risk, make better decisions and enjoy the benefits of sustainable agriculture

Open Gate: All We Need Farm Day
Guy, TX
October 9, 2015

For more details and to register, click here.

Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Graze hard, rest long

HMI, Healthy Land, Sustainable Future, Grass Close-UP

Holistic Management practitioners Steve and Charles Fettig, Napoleon, N.D are featured in an article written by Lon Tonneson and published on the Prairie Farmer website.  Here’s an excerpt…

…Justifying the time and labor: In a planned grazing system, you have to check grass and water and move cattle. It’s a daily – and sometimes twice a day — chore. But there is plenty of incentive to do the work. The Fettigs have doubled stocking rates and lengthened the grazing season. They used to run 400 cow-calf pairs on about the same number of acres and have added about a month to their typical grazing year. “It’s our job,” Steve says, of moving cattle. “It’s how we get paid. The longer we are able to keep the cattle out on grass, the more money we make.”…

You can read the entire article on the Prairie Farmer Website.

If you’d like to learn how you can increase your stocking rate with Holistic Management, enroll in one of HMI’s Training Programs.


Soil Carbon Cowboys en español

Gabe Brown, Brown's Ranch, Holistic Management Practitioner

Now in Spanish…


Gabe Brown, Brown's Ranch, Holistic Management PractitionerMeet Holistic Management practitioners Gabe Brown and Neil Dennis – heroes and innovators! These ranchers now know how to regenerate their soils while making their animals healthier and their operations more profitable. They are turning ON their soils, enabling rainwater to sink into the earth rather than run off. And these turned ON soils retain that water, so the ranches are much more resilient in drought. It’s an amazing story that has just begun.

Video: Soil Carbon Cowboys en español from Peter Byck on Vimeo.

New and Old Come Together for Interactive Learning in Kansas

John Sitgge


A notably youthful crowd came out to HMI’s first Open Gate in Kansas on August 5th at Stigge & Sons Ag Day in Washington, KS.


Lush cover crop forage for grazing!

Lush cover crop forage for grazing!

A new location (Kansas) combined with an old building and a significant number of young farmers promised for a fruitful day. In a more than 100-year-old building, which has been renovated into Mayberry’s restaurant, 34 graziers and crop farmers who collectively manage almost 37,000 acres, gathered to learn about innovative practices Stigge Farm has been using to incorporate livestock and graze cover crops.

John Stigge gave an overview of his operation, and how he has used Holistic Management to create the quality of life his family desires while increasing profitability with graze cropping.  Plans to tour Stigge Farm were thwarted by a last-minute rain which made the farm roads impassable, but pictures taken the day before showed the lush forages available for grazing.

Certified Educator Ralph Tate facilitates a discussion on Holistic Management

Certified Educator Ralph Tate facilitates a discussion on Holistic Management

Ralph Tate, Holistic Management Certified Educator, facilitated small-group exercises to introduce Holistic Management practices like “State what you want”.  Participants worked to create their own three-part holistic goal to use as a context for making decisions on their own farms.

The Gross Profit Analysis exercise was especially illustrative when John Stigge shared his personal comparisons of various grain crops versus harvesting the crops by grazing with cattle.   With these great examples, attendees clearly understood that the value of analyzing gross profit is that they could then determine which of their own enterprises are currently profitable, or not.

Don Wirth, CEO of Saddle Butte Ag,  shares his knowledge about cover cropping.

Don Wirth, CEO of Saddle Butte Ag, shares his knowledge about cover cropping.

Don Wirth, CEO of Saddle Butte Ag, shared useful information on cover crop options, optimal planting dates, and how to best plan for effective utilization of the cover crops by livestock.  This sparked a lot of discussion and questions.  Participants were particularly interested in the timing of different cover crop options, what sort of results they might expect, and the benefits of different cover crop mixes.

Many thanks to our sponsor, Saddle Butte Ag, for helping to make this event possible!


This is what some of the participants had to say:

Helpful & educational.
Good event.
Good refresher.
Very good, would recommend to others.
Great event, well done.
Good. Missed the tour.


Here are some outcomes of the day:

Outcome% Participants
Intent to complete or modify a holistic goal as a result of today's event 95%
Intent to complete a gross profit analysis on your operation as a result of today's 90%
Intent to change any management practices/apply ideas learned in this event 90%
Expanded network by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you95%
Increase in understanding of marginal reaction (comparing options) 82%
Increase in understanding of gross profit analysis 77%
More confident in ability to determine appropriate grazing strategies 64%
More confident in ability to determine appropriate cover crops 64%
Overall Satisfaction of the event (rated good to excellent) 86%
Facilitator's Effectiveness (rated good to excellent) 90%
Presenters' Effectiveness (rated good to excellent) 81%
Would recommend this event to others 100%