Canadian Holistic Management Conference Report

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Our friends from Canada just held their annual conference. Here’s from up north….

About 150 people attended our annual conference at Manitou Beach near Watrous, Sask. The HM-Conference-389.smallconference started at 8 am Sunday morning. The first session focused on reviewing the mission statement of Holistic Management Canada. This session was led by David Irvine. We had expected about 20 or 30 people to attend this session. We were pleasantly surprised when we started with over 40 people & ended the session with over 70 people. David did a masterful job of leading the session. A wide diversity of people were present. Some were brand new to Holistic Management others had a 30 year association with H M. There was a lot of excellent input. The end result was that 2 committees were set up. One will review our mission statement. The second one will plan how we can move ahead more effectively. The end result of this session is that H M Canada will have a clearer direction. We will be more focused & effective.

Our evening session was a key note address by David Irvine. David gave us 2 tasks for a successful life. These are individuation (growing up) & connection (having relationships). David spoke of having an integrated life which is having a balance between individuation & connection.

David then described an integrated family business. He gave us 4 main points:

  1. People have their own goals & are supported by each other to achieve those goals.
  2. Caring – without the attempt to save people from their unhappiness.
  3. Concern without worry.
  4. There is a deep respect for the individual journey – without compromising yourself.

HM-Conference-391.small          David’s talk ended with the 4 seasons to life or a family business. These 4 are: dependence, growing up, partnership & letting go. David was well received & gave a very powerful message. This short summary does not do justice to David’s presentation. You needed to be there to get the message.

Following David’s talk there was time to socialize. An enjoyable time was had by all.

Monday morning began with another address from David. He talked about how to improve communication. He also touched on conflict resolution & how to deal with anger. David gave us a definition of maturity:

  1. The ability to do a job whether or not you are supervised.
  2. Finish a job once you start it.
  3. Carry money without spending it.
  4. Be able to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.

David ended his presentation by pointing out that we are all leaders. He then gave some traits of a leader: takes responsibility, contributes, builds up, talks about solutions, shows loyalty, mastery, rights wrongs, courage to let go, discomfort is seen as an opportunity & gratitude.

HM-Conference-398.smallDavid is an excellent speaker. Everyone was touched & learned valuable lessons for life.

Our next session was a producer panel. We had 3 families present: Allen & Arlette Seib, Sam & Janeen Covlin & Richard & Sue DeBruijn. Each couple spoke of their own business. The producer panel is always one of the highlights of our conference. It is real people sharing their journey. Arlette talked about their sheep operation. It was most interesting & informative. Arlette has a web site Sam & Janeen shared their story of direct marketing grass fed beef, pastured pork, pastured chicken, free range turkey, free range duck & goose, pastured free range eggs & grass fed raw pet food. They have their own abattoir. Their web site is Richard & Sue shared their story which included moving form Ponoka, Alta. to Stump Lake, Sask. The move included giving up 2 good off farm jobs. At Stump Lake the main enterprise is custom grazing.

Jodie Griffin was our first speaker after lunch. Jodie gave a very informative presentation on the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program. This is a new program that allows producers to purchase price insurance for a future date. Jodie’s talk was well received. It gave us all something to think about.

Blain Hjertaas followed Jodie. Blain gave an excellent presentation on Regenerative Agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is agriculture that builds. It builds soils by increasing organic matter which sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As organic matter increases so does water retention minimizing run off. As organic matter increases so does biological life which translates into more nutrient dense food being produced. As organic matter increases so do yields making farmers more profitable. In short everyone wins. Blain’s talk was very inspiring. Everyone realized we can make a difference. We can have a better future.

HM-Conference-406.smallOur next speaker was Linda Edgecombe. Linda’s topic was “breaking busy.” Linda suggested that “busy” has become the new norm. This has wound us into the most unproductive, stressed out & basically unhappy demographic in the past 30 years. Linda gave us tools to get back on track.

Monday ended with a lovely roast beef supper. The supper was followed by socializing & dancing. Everyone had a wonderful time.

Tuesday morning started with a talk from Greg Smith. Greg moved from South Africa to Canada a few years ago. Greg & his wife Lisa & their 2 children now ranch at Debden, Sask. Greg gave a heart wrenching account of life in South Africa. We are pleased to have Greg in Canada. I think we all realized how blest we are to live in Canada.

Don Campbell followed Greg & gave a short presentation on the current financial opportunity in the cattle business. Don’s numbers were based on a herd of 200 cows. Income from 2013 to2014 increased by about $110,000 or 75%. This same percentage will hold whether you have 10 cows or 1000 cows. Opportunity is here. Don urged us all to seize the opportunity. He challenged us to invest 90% of our increased income so it becomes profit. This 90% was a $100,000 in 2014. It could be $400,000 to $500,000 in the next few years. This is a sizeable amount of money. Don challenged us to invest this money wisely so that we will be able to look back in 30 years & say “yes, I remember the good times. I can see where I invested my money. I am still enjoying the benefits.”  Don also had us brain storm on ways to invest our money wisely. The results of that brainstorming are attached to this newsletter.

Our final speaker was Linda Edgecombe. Linda explored what it means to be a leader. She showed us how to become change resilient no matter what challenges we face. Linda helped us end on a high note.

Overall the conference was an outstanding success. Thanks to the organizing committee. Thanks to the attendees. Without you there would be no conference. Thanks to those who contributed to our auction & to those who bid. The auction raised $5250. You are all invited to attend next year.

Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning – Colorado Results

Colorado Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning Course
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Colorado Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning CourseFebruary 7th was the start of HMI’s Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning coure in Montrose, Colorado. We held this event with support from the Valley Food Partnership and had another sold out program. This Introduction to Holistic Whole Farm/Ranch Planning was facilitated by Holistic Management Certified Educator Cindy Dvergsten, who taught the class of 30 participants. Those participants manage 1,690 acres and are both large scale livestock producers and small farmers, many with years of experience as well as beginning agricultural producers. Participants learned a great deal from the program as well as from each other, giving the program a 100% satisfaction rating.

Here’s what the participants had to say:

When participants were surveyed about the the most useful things they learned in the session, some of the key take homes they experienced:

I learned how to implement decision making tools.
I intend to set a goal and following through with it, making my life better.
I intend to include my family in decision-making, taking more time to evaluate decisions before implementation.
I’m going to start with writing goals and then see if actions serve that goal.
The most useful thing I learned: Community!
I learned we are not alone.
I learned a new approach to defining goals and pursuing them.
I learned that there is a means that allows me to improve – get smarter. That I can have a successful farm without so much commercial inputs.
I learned how Holistic Management can be applied to all aspects of our lives.
The most valuable thing I learned was how to delineate between different categories to extract more data from the situation.

Evaluations showed the following results:

Outcome% of Participants
intend to complete or modify a written whole farm plan as a result of this course?100%
intend to change management practices as a result of this course?95%
intend to use the testing questions in your farm decision making?97%
Your ability to make complex on-farm decisions100%
Do you feel confident using the testing questions?83%
Ability to integrate social, economic and environmental factors into your decisions90%
Your ability to make complex on-farm/ranch decisions90%


Permaculture Design Course

Richard King
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Richard KingHolistic Management Certified Educator, Richard King is working with Permafunk to facilitate a few days of their upcoming Permaclture Design Certification course. This course brings Butte College faculties, Holistic Management Certified Educators and other community members together in Chico, California.  The first module starts March 5th.

Find Out More and Register >>

Water Follows Carbon Follows Water Video

Carbon Video Still
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Here’s an interesting video about the connection between soil health and land productivity. It features Holistic Management practitioner Alejandro Carrillo from Chihuahua, Mexico. Judith Schwartz will tell stories from around the world about the transformations resulting from different approaches to water management, and the effects on local climate. With the ongoing drought in the US and other parts of the world, people are waking up to concerns about water sources – but while there’s discussion over the effects that climate change can have on water, we’re not looking at the flip side: how restoring the water cycle can have a moderating effect on climate. Schwartz offers examples from the field, while Tom Goreau will comment from a scientist’s perspective.


Whole Farm Planning Training for Ag Educators Report

Rhoby uses portable electro-mesh fencing to manage grazing on her permanent pasture. The flock are Romeldale/CVM, a California heritage breed.
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Mesquite Grove Ranch, Holistic Management, TexasIn 2014, HMI delivered five Whole Farm/Ranch Planning modules online to professionals in our three-year Whole Farm Planning Training for Ag Educators program. Funded by a grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture and Education, we taught 38 participants how to help producers build the farm or ranch of their dreams with Holistic Management.

Participants were not required to take all modules, however our goal — which we achieved — was to have at least 35 participants participate in 3 or more classes.  The breakout of courses people took were as follows:

Course# of Participants
Intro to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning38
Holistic Land Planning29
Holistic Grazing Planning31
Holistic Biological Monitoring29
Holistic Financial Planning21


We used Instructure Canvas as our distance learning platform and made sure that all webinars were interactive and anyone who handed in completed assignments received feedback on their work. We recorded all webinars and archived so those who couldn’t make the sessions could watch and listen to the recordings and email instructors with questions and provide input via the discussion forum.

Overall response to surveys shows that there was high satisfaction rate among participants for these courses ranging from 90-100% satisfaction. Actual behavior change in terms of created plans/drafts varied depending on subject.

Course% Participants /Completing Assignments
Intro to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning97%
Holistic Land Planning79%
Holistic Grazing Planning69%
Holistic Biological Monitoring45%
Holistic Financial Planning52%


However, increased knowledge or confidence in developing plans remained high throughout the program as noted below:

Course% Participants -Increased Knowledge or Confidence
Intro to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning100%
Holistic Land Planning88%
Holistic Grazing Planning92%
Holistic Biological Monitoring100%
Holistic Financial Planning88%


Course% Participants Satisfied (good-excellent)
Intro to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning90%
Holistic Land Planning100%
Holistic Grazing Planning100%
Holistic Biological Monitoring100%
Holistic Financial Planning88%


In 2015, HMI will focus on supporting each participant to work with 2 producers to help them with some aspect of the Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Process. We will also be doing an end of program survey in February to determine the effect of this program.

Featured Participants

Rhoby uses portable electro-mesh fencing to manage grazing on her permanent pasture. The flock are Romeldale/CVM, a California heritage breed.

Rhoby uses portable electro-mesh fencing to manage grazing on her permanent pasture. The flock are Romeldale/CVM, a California heritage breed.

Rhoby Cook
District Coordinator
Klamath Trinity RC&D
Hoopa, California

“Through what I learned in the Grazing Planning course, I was able to manage through last summer’s drought without ruining the pasture. Even though I didn’t irrigate past the end of June for fear of our dual-use well (household & irrigation) running dry, the field stayed green all summer. It didn’t grow very much, but it stayed green until thankfully, rain came at the end of September, and I was able to begin grazing again in the early fall with the rapid re-growth. I used the testing questions to help make the decision to purchase hay rather than reduce the flock, a little pricey, but it was a decision I was comfortable with.

“As for Holistic Management, the first year my husband and I took the financial planning course, we were able to re-purpose about a third of our income and pay off all of our consumer debt. During the years after that we focused on paying off our mortgage five years early and building up a savings account. Holistic Financial Planning made that possible for us to accomplish.”

Linda-MacElweeLinda MacElwee
Mendocino RC&D
Boonville, California

“The HMI training program funded by Western SARE has given me an opportunity to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the complexities found in the natural world and how to effectively work within that context. It has offered me access to a whole new set of tools to work with when assisting landowners in making decisions when it comes to land/ranch/farm planning and management. Planning is not simple, but it can be fun and easy. I love how HMI begins and ends with viewing every situation within a holistic context. It teaches us to ground ourselves in a deeper understanding of our environment, to clearly state what we are managing for, and pursuing a path to wholeness that includes its own checks and balances built in along the way.”

HMI @ SRM in California

Holistic Management practitioners at SRM in Callifornia
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In February the Society for Range Management held their annual conference in Sacramento, California. Holistic Management Certified Educators Richard King and Rob Rutherford moderated a special symposium during the conference titled: Holistic Management: Extraordinary Success Stories, Extraordinary Possibilities.

Holistic Management practitioners at SRM in CalliforniaThe audience greatly enjoyed the stories by Holistic Management practitioners Joe Morris, California; Jerry Doan, North Dakota; Ken Miller, North Dakota; Peggy & Joe Maddox, Texas; Maurice Robinette, Washington; and Cooper Hibbard, Montana.  All are ranchers and farmers scattered throughout the west, and they manage all sorts of environments.  They had fascinating stories about how and why Holistic Management helped them and others become more successful in managing their relationships with land, people, and money.   Cooper Hibbard focused on reporting his observations of two ranches he visited in the desert grasslands of northern Mexico, especially the transformation of land health.

The speaker’s backgrounds, environments, and experiences were diverse, but despite the great variation in the speakers and their stories, a clear take home message seemed to materialize from them all:  managing holistically has an uncanny ability to advance the health of the land, financial security, and quality of life for all of those who practice it.

After the speakers provided brief presentations, the audience engaged in questions and discussion, totaling over an hour in length.  The interaction revealed that some of the people who attended were quite moved by the power of this decision-making framework.  HMI’s Executive Director Bryan Weech was present and encouraged people to contact HMI for more information about Holistic Management.

This symposium was made possible with additional support from the 11th Hour Project, Paicines Ranch, and TomKat Ranch Foundation.

Open Gate: Seco Valley Ranch Day @ TOFGA Recap

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On January 29th HMI collaborated with our friends at TOFGA (Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) as we delivered an Open Gate Ranch Day as part of the TOFGA Annual Conference.

P1290396.smallHMI Program Manager, Peggy Cole, welcomed the group and talked a little about HMI, its mission and its programs. She introduced Debbie and Don Davis.  They’ve  been students of Holistic Management since the early 1990’s when they took classes with Holistic Management Certified Educator, Peggy Sechrist. Their goal is to protect the valuable genetics of the original Texas Longhorns, to live a peaceful and relaxed life in a serene, beautiful and private landscape and to earn enough money from their enterprises to support their lifestyle.

P1290411.smallAfter the Davises gave us a history of their operation, Peggy Sechrist,  gave a short presentation on Holistic Decision Testing which allows folks to test how a proposed action will take them toward their stated goal,On a large, laminated decision testing form, Peggy led the group through a practice decision before giving them an actual Seco Valley Ranch decision to discuss and test in small groups of 4 or 5 people. The groups then reported back to all. A discussion of the whole group wrapped up the morning session.

P1290440.smallA delicious lunch was made from grassfed lamb from Seco Valley Ranch. By the time we finished eating, the sun had come out and the day had warmed. We climbed onto the hay-ride and journeyed through the pastures, stopping to visit with the longhorn herd, where we discovered a newborn calf getting to know her elders.

P1290426.smallThe afternoon discussion was all about marketing. Debbie told how the wild pigs were such a pain in the neck she decided to view them as a resource. She began to offer wild pork on her website. She tamed the pigs with cubes in a trailer and when she was ready to harvest she just loaded them up with cubes in the same trailer and off they went. Many of the questions centered around developing enough clientele to just internet sell; and the idea of selling sides, quarters or eights rather than individual cuts so you don’t have to sell the same animal so many times. The model of producer cooperatives to put the marketing in the hands of those who like to do that was also attractive to this audience. As we filled out the evaluations to adjourn, both Don and Debbie were surrounded with folks who had many more questions to ask.

The 22 participants manage approximately 73,445 acres.

Evaluation Results

Question% Participants
Overall Satisfaction (Rated good to excellent)90%
Would you recommend this event to others100%
Expand your network today be meeting new people or learning about resources available to you?100%
Intend to test decisions for your operation as a result of today's event?.95%
Intend to complete or modify a written marketing plan as a result of today's event?76%
Improved understanding of how Holistic Management helps you determine when marketing is your weak link81%



Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management Program

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Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management Drought Mitigation Workshop, Texas, Biological MonitoringWe are excited to announce another new training program for farmers, ranchers, and land stewards.  Our Whole Farm/Ranch Land Management program is taught by Holistic Management Certified Educators and experienced agricultural producers, wildlife biologists and other facilitators. Participants should be  prepared to get your boots dirty because we  teach this course on holistically managed ranches and farms.  We’ll be covering Holistic Decision-Making, Grazing Planning, Biological Monitoring and Land Planning. (This program compliments our , Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning that focuses  on Financial, Marketing, and Business Planning.)

The first workshop series under this program  is Mitigating Drought with Holistic Management.

Register Button Green LargeKerr Wildlife Management Area
Hunt, Texas
March 27-28
April 24-25
May 29-30

Due to grant funding the cost for this program (valued at $800) is being offered at $100 per person. A limited number of full scholarships funded by the HMI Terry Gompert Memorial Scholarship are available,  bringing the registration cost down to zero.

Please keep in mind that space is limited and due to scholarship funding, this workshop series may fill up quickly.

Get the full scoop on what you’ll learn, location, presenters, scholarships and registration details >>>

Award Winning Practitioners

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Another Winner!

Tom Wahl and Kathy Dice of the Red Fern Farm in Wapello, Iowa are the  recipients of the 2015 Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award, granted annually by Practical Farmers of Iowa.  It’s great see Holistic Management practitioners recognized for the their stewardship of the land.   Here’s an excerpt from an article published in

Many years later Wahl and Dice were attending a Practical Farmers’ Shared Visions event where a call for integrated cropping systems using perennial plants really resonated with them. That was an “Aha! moment” for them, and Wahl realized chestnuts and other trees could be the perennial crops. Farm conversion to agroforestry began shortly thereafter.

Wahl said PFI and Holistic Management have been important as they developed their farm and thoughts about sustainability.

Read the entire article >>>

Profit versus production in the cattle business

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Holistic Management Certified Educator, Don Campbell

Holistic Management Certified Educator, Don Campbell

Holistic Management Certified Educator, Don Campbell just wrote an article in the Canadian Cattlemen, It includes some good charts. Here’s an excerpt…


“There is a tendency in the cow-calf business to put production before profit. I don’t understand this tendency and certainly don’t agree with it. Profit is essential if you want to stay in business. It is important to analyze our individual businesses and structure them for profit. Some of the areas we might analyze are: cow size, time of calving and cow-calf versus cow-long yearling. A business structured for profit in these three areas is likely to produce a profit in the short term and sustainability in the long term.”

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