Carbon Soil Sequestration Discussion

HMI Soil Carbon Sequestration
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View the June 25th Oversight Hearing in the House Committee of Natural Resources on “Increasing Carbon Soil Sequestration on Public Lands.” Witnesses for this hearing were long time Holistic Management practitioners, educators, and researchers: Steve Rich of Utah, Dr. Richard Teague of Texas, Tommie Martin of Arizona, and John Wick of California. Excellent information about how planned grazing can solve multiple natural resource issues on public land, including increasing carbon soil sequestration.

Helping Texans manage the drought

Mesquite Grove Ranch, Texas, Holistic Management practitioners
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Many ranchers in Texas are still trying to manage under lingering drought conditions and helping those folks improve their range land productivity is why we are organizing our next Open Gate learning day.   We’ll be going to the Mesquite Grove Ranch, managed by Holistic Management Certified Educator, Guy Glosson.  If you are thinking about attending, please be sure to register soon as our last Open Gate event in Texas sold out in just a couple of weeks.

Open Gate: Mesquite Grove Ranch DayMesquite Grove Ranch, Texas Holistic managment

Grazing Practices to Mitigate Drought

August 22, 2014
Mesquite Grove Ranch
Jayton, Texas
  • Learn effective ranching techniques to improve rangeland productivity, water holding capacity, soil health, and wildlife habitat
  • Improve forage inventory estimation skills
  • Connect with folks from the local sustainable ag and ranching communities
  • Understand key wildlife habitat health indicators and talk to wildlife biologists with local knowledge
  • Shorten your learning curve by talking to producers who have increased land productivity by practicing  holistic land planning and improving infrastructure (water catchment, fencing and brush clearing)
  • Hear how Holistic Management enables producers to better manage risk, make better decisions and enjoy the benefits of sustainable agriculture

Learn More and Register Soon…

Accepting Applications in the Northeast

Beginning Farmers - Texas Group Photo
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We are very excited to announce that our Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the Northeast and Texas program is now accepting applications for our 2014-2015 season in Grazing-class-2014--2.SMALLthe following Northeast states:

  • New York
  • Connecticut
  • New Hampshire
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts
  • Maine

Funded by the USDA/NIFA /BFRD this program is open to beginning women farmers and ranchers in the states above with less than 10 years of farming and ranching experience. Participants will learn Holistic Management principles and practices in order to build successful — and sustainable agricultural operations.

Our program is in it’s sixth year and we thrilled to be offering it to a new group of women. As we often get more applicants than we have space, be sure to apply early.  You’ll find details and deadlines on our 2014-2015 Season enrollment page.

If you are in Texas, be sure to apply asap, as our application deadline for Texas is July 15.

Owen Hablutzel class coming to Colorado

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Holistic Management Certified Educator, Owen Hablutzel is set to teach a class at the McCauley Family Farm Ranch in Longmont, Colorado, August 16-17, 2014


Keyline Design for Optimal Water Use and Thriving Soils

A two-day HANDS ON experience and exploration of whole farm planning using ecological principles and proven innovative techniques. Together you will learn highly effective ways to plan for and achieve the full power of a Dynamic Design approach for your land, your animals, your profits, your water and soils. Practical principles from Keyline Design, Holistic Management and Resilience Science will be applied. The workshop will include classroom as well as outdoor exercises and practicums–including a demonstration of the Yeomans’ Keyline sub-soiler–for a full learning immersion!

You can get more information about the workshop and register at the McCauley Family Farm website.

Be sure to check out the HMI Calendar for more classes taught by Owen and other Holistic Management Certified Educators.


Open Gate: Tablas Creek Vineyard Day Recap

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Holistic Management practices for wine growers
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HMI Program Manager, Peggy Cole, filed this report on our most recent learning event.

The Tablas Creek Vineyard in California was the venue for HMI’s first Open Gate focused on wine growing. 45 attendees met to engage with each other and learn more about Holistic Management.

Tablas Creek, Sheep Grazing, HMI, Holistic ManagementWe started the day explaining the mission of HMI and then Levi Glenn, the viticulturist at Tablas Creek Vineyard gave a quick overview of the certified organic production process he uses where sheep trim and fertilize between the rows in the non-growing season. Levi said that while the sheep pose some management challenges, the benefits make it well worthwhile.

Rob Rutherford, a sheep specialist, retired professor, and Holistic Management Certified Educator explained the guiding principles of Holistic Management:

  • The living world functions as wholes – not parts.
  • Environments are different – the distinction between brittle and non-brittle environments.
  • Keep a broad perspective on the predator-prey relationship.
  • Plan grazing from the standpoint of a plant. Timing is the critical piece.

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Holistic Management in CaliforniaRob also introduced the ideas of Simon Sinek: Basically that top production comes from deeply understanding why you do what you do, which then gives rise to the how you do it and finally gets to the result of the process and production.

Levi invited a couple of his neighbors, who also use holistic grazing in their vineyards, to join a panel moderated by former Cal Poly lecturer and vineyard manager, Craig Macmillan. Chris Behr of Oso Libre Winery showed a fun set of slides depicting his sustainable practices such as wind and solar power, electric vehicles and the sheep, cattle and chickens that tend his vineyard. Laird Foshay showed slides of his 1500-acre cattle and sheep ranch that surrounds his vineyard and of his partnership with J&R Meats and their mobile harvest unit, a slaughterhouse on wheels.

After the presentations we had a lively panel discussion where our panelist and attendees talked about areas influencing management choices, when to change course if things aren’t working and nuggets of wisdom to share with others who are considering grazing in their vineyard.

Before lunch, Holistic Management Certified Educator, Kelly Mulville shared his experience with extending the grazing period in vineyards in both the US and Australia. His presentation shows impressive data that irrigation use was decreased by 90% and yield increased by 1,245 pounds per acre and the cost-of-farming savings about $400 per acre per year. These studies were done during drought. The grazing animals were trained with electric fencing not to eat the grape vines. The fences were set higher for easier picking and training of the livestock. This training allowed the planned grazing to take place year-round. For a copy of Kelly’s handout,  Click Here.

HMI, Holistic Management, Tablas Creek VineyardRob and Kelly teamed up to illustrate the Holistic Management decision-making process with a dilemma faced by a wine grower: too much vegetation between the rows after bud break. Other participants’ furnished possible solutions like mowing, spraying, tilling, letting it grow. We chose to test tilling by answering the testing questions (for the testing questions and how best to use them go to the free downloads section of our website and download the Introduction to Holistic Management.

During a delicious lunch that included organic lamb and Tablas Creek Vineyards wine, Laird Foshay explained the usefulness of her mobile harvest unit and her experiences with sheep and cattle grazing in the vineyard.

After lunch, we took a tour, passing by the rootstock operation. Levi explained that the vineyard used to do all its own reproduction processes for the rootstock and ship it all over the world. Now they farm that out to specialists so they can concentrate on growing grapes and making wine. We stopped at the shed where compost tea is made in a special vat then transferred to a trailer for spraying on the vineyard.

At the sheep pasture, we observed the guardian alpacas and donkeys as the strolled up to visit. The sheep are dorper crossed on katahdin. They are not too wooly, mild tasting and hardy.

After the tour we divided into three groups in three different areas of the vineyard. Each person was handed an ecosystem evaluation form to grade the effectiveness of each of the 4 basic ecosystem processes:

  • Water cycle
  • Mineral cycle
  • Energy Flow
  • Biological Community

Using the questions on the form, the groups discussed the processes as well as management paradigms, possible innovations and speculated on what would work and not work in viticulture.

Tablas Creek Open Gate Holistic Management, HMIHeading back inside, Rob asked the groups to share their observations on the various spots we looked at. Though it doesn’t carry the burden of having to produce anything for humans, an uncultivated weed patch came out best.

The groups broke out again, this time to come up with some sort of simple monitoring protocol that could be used to keep an eye on a vineyard and be alerted quickly if its ecosystem processes fail to function effectively. Each group listed both simple and complex criteria as they took the time to really think about what information would act as the earliest warning that change needs to happen.

Rob wrapped up the day with a Q&A session and a few minutes spent evaluating the day both on forms and orally.

Here’s a photo essay of the day’s events. Just hover over each picture to see the caption…


  1. The Tablas Creek Vineyard is certified organic
  2. Levi Glenn, Tablas Creek Vineyard viticulturist, already has a lifetime of experience nurturing grapes.
  3. Panel Moderator Craig Macmillam poses questions to panelists Chris Behr, Levi Glenn and Laird Foshay
  4. Kelly Mulville (center) presents research findings on the benefits of grazing the vineyards.
  5. Tablas Creek Lamb is a huge hit at lunch
  6. Laird Foshay talks to the diners about livestock
  7. Levi Glenn leads the walking tour of the vineyard\'s sustainable practices
  8. Explaining compost tea production
  9. Saving sheep forage for lean times
  10. Dividing into small groups
  11. Assessing ecosystem function in an area not producing grapes
  12. Designing monitoring protocols
  13. Levi Glenn and Craig Macmillan lead a small group in monitoring discussion


The evaluations yielded the following results:

Question% Participants
Would you recommend this event to others?100%
Did you expand your learning network of people and resources100%
Do you intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned in this event?94%
Do you intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event? 73%
Are you more confident in your ability to incorporate new management strategies in a vineyard75%
Increased knowledge of Holistic Management principles80%
Increased knowledge of decision making frameworks70%

NH 2013-2014 Season Results are Here

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HMI’s Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the Northeast & Texas Program , funded by the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program has finally wrapped up all course work in New Hampshire.  During the summer months we will be completing our evaluation portion as well as onsite mentor visits. The New Hampshire program coordinated by Kate Kerman of Small and Beginning Farmers of New Hampshire, completed all 10 sessions by the end of April. Lead instructors were Holistic Management Certified Educators Seth Wilner, Phil Metzger, and Calley Hastings. Mentors for the program were Ray Conner and Melissa Blindow. Here’s what we’ve learned from our New Hampshire participants who graduated:

Tuckaway Farm 2Demographics

  • 88% are currently farming
  • The average years of farming was 5 years (range: 1 – 10 years)
  • The average acres under production was 3 acres under production (range: 0 – 5 acres)
  • The average age was 38 years old (range: 26 to 66 years old)
  • The types of farm operations were as follows: Cattle/Cow/Calf (1), Vegetable/Fruit/Produce (6), Poultry (2)
  • The total customers of all participants was 308 with an average of 61 retail customers per participants.

Participant satisfaction level for the program was 100% and 100% of the participants completed or modified a whole farm goal and a grazing plan. 88% of participants completed or modified a financial plan, a business plan, and a marketing plan, with 75% of participants completing or modifying a land plan. 88% of the participants forged relationships that positively impacted them. For more results on other outcomes from the program, please view the tables below.

When participants were asked how the program positively impacted them, they noted that it was a great source of shared information, provided networking connections and an opportunity to engage with supportive fellow farmers, and find new customers.100% of this group intend to keep farming as a result of this training.


Be sure to sign up for the HMI e-newsletter to get announcements on how to apply for our 2014-2015 Season.

Get additional Data>>  Beginning Farmers & Ranchers Women in the NE & TX, 2013-2014 NH Data

Our Next Open Gate is in New Mexico

JX ranch, holistic management in new mexico
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We’ve been so pleased with the attendance at our Open Gate Learning Series events. Farmers and ranchers are really enjoying the casual, out-on-the-land format, where folks can learn from each other and walk away with practical ideas they can use.   As a matter of fact, the most recent event we announced just a few weeks ago is already sold out at the Ross Farm in Texas.

JX Ranch, Turkeys, Holistic Management in New MexicoToday, we are pleased to announce our Open Gate: JX Ranch Day here in New Mexico.

Surviving Drought with Effective Ranch Practices and Profitable Marketing

August 9 , 2014
JX Ranch
Tucumcari, New Mexico

At the Open Gate: JX  Ranch Day, you’ll…

  •  See what fellow land managers are doing to maintain land health and profitability in a changing environment
  • Learn about how to mitigate drought with good ranching practices and infrastructure
  • Learn indicators of good soil health
  • Learn about profitable grassfed beef marketing
  • Discuss practical grazing strategies to improve water use and land production
  • Learn how to improve wildlife habitat with good ranch practices
  • 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….

Book Review of Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country

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More people are learning about the importance of effective agricultural practices to improve land health. But many of those people have yet to make the connection between the vital importance of improving the carbon cycle. There may still be people arguing about the levels of CO2 in the air and what we should do about it, but when you start talking about carbon in the soil, most people are in agreement that increasing soil carbon levels creates a host of benefits.

In Grass, Soil, and Hope, Courtney White looks at the major issues facing humanity, issues like global hunger, water scarcity, environmental stress, economic stability, and climate change in the context of soil health. As agricultural producers we know how important soil health is. This is still a new concept for many folks who see soil as dirt that just needs some chemicals and you are ready to grow plants. What Courtney does in his title, Grass, Soil, and Hope, is make the linkages very clear between the soil (as a living medium teeming with life) and the grass that can bring so many positive ecosystem services that can resolve the intractable issues we face.

You may recognize some of the stories in this book, but there are many you may not have heard before. If you are interested in case studies of producers who are excellent examples of people improving soil health through no-till farming, composting, and livestock practices that improve natural habitat and biodiversity, as well as other practices like induced meandering and creative marketing to take the food produced from these practices to market at a price that pays the producer well, then you will find this book a treasure trove of ideas.

If you are not a fan of climate change arguments, you may want to skip the prologue in which Courtney makes the case for why we should care about CO2 levels. The chapters that follow have information for everyone on either side of the climate change issue. If you care about improved soil function and agricultural practice, that is the heart of this book (and the hope it brings to a burgeoning world population that needs more healthy food).

Stories of holistically managed ranches like the Sidwell’s JX Ranch and the work done by Gregg Simonds and Rick Danvir on the Deseret Ranch gives clear evidence of how improved livestock grazing practices can make a difference. Likewise stories about cover crop, no-till farming, and pasture cropping, as demonstrated by Dorn Cox, Gail Fuller, and Colin Seis, are all examples of how farming and ranching improves soil health and builds resilient landscapes.

What land practices does Courtney hone in on?

1)      Planned grazing

2)      Active restoration of riparian and wetland areas

3)      Removal of woody vegetation

4)      Conservation of open spaces

5)      No-till farming

6)      Building long-term resilience

More data would definitely be helpful to quantify which practices bring which results to encourage more agricultural producers to change practices and reap the benefits. As Courtney points out, no one is “immune” to the carbon cycle. We’d might as well understand it and use it to our advantage.

To purchase this book, visit



Holistic Management Videos

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Here are a few videos we are using in our training programs. We thought it would be great to share with everyone interested in Holistic Management. You can find more videos on the HMI Youtube channel.

Biological Monitoring

For those practitioners who are interested in using the Holistic Management Biological Monitoring process to assess the ecosystem health of your land, this video is a quick explanation of some of the soil health indicators to look for and what they mean.

Plant Litter Explained

When agricultural producers are looking at litter cover on the ground to determine the rate of biological decay and the health of the mineral cycle on their land, they may be confused about the different stages of litter (plant material laying on the ground) and how to classify if on their Holistic Management Biological Monitoring data sheets. This video gives a brief explanation of what to look for and how to analyze litter.

Holistic Cropland Monitoring

Holistic Management Cropland Monitoring can help crop producers easily determine soil health from observing the soil health indicators on their cropland. This can be done in conjunction with soil sampling and testing. Watch this video to learn more about how to observe those indicators in the field.

Join us at the Ross Farm in Texas

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We are excited to announce another day out on the land as part of our Open Gate learning series. This time, we are heading to the Ross Farm in Granger, Texas.

Ross Farm Cows, Holistic Managment in TexasDATE:  July 12, 2014
EVENT: Ross Farm Day
TOPIC:  Managing Land for Drier Times

At the Ross Farm Day, you’ll…

  • See what fellow land managers are doing to maintain land health and profitability in a changing environment
  • Learn how to identify indicators of good soil health and how to harness nature to improve its condition
  • Practice effective land monitoring techniques
  • Discuss practical grazing strategies to improve water use and land production
  • Learn selection criteria for cattle that perform well on grass alone
  • Learn the cuts, processing and packing considerations for grass-fed beef
  • Hear how Holistic Management enables producers to better manage risk, make better decisions and enjoy the benefits of sustainable agriculture

We’d love to see you there!