Colorado Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Course a Success

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 Colorado Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning Course


The Colorado Whole/Farm Ranch Business Planning course in Montrose, Colorado wrapped up on March 7th. 30 participants completed this program taught by Holistic Management Certified Educator Cindy Dvergsten. The Financial Planning sessions resulted in a lot of learning as participants filled out worksheets as well as HMI’s Financial Planning Electronic Spreadsheet. Likewise, during the Marketing class, participants appreciated the many examples and exercises. Lastly, in the Business Planning class, participants were particularly excited to learn practical skills like break even analysis. Participants gave the program a 100% satisfaction rating (good or excellent rating). There was a lot of talk about a management club and subsequent trips to producers’ operations with a Google group in the works.

Thanks to the Valley Food Partnership for all their help and support with this program!

Here’s what our participants had to say about key take homes from these classes:

Great financial planning tools, and I like that there is not 1 tool. There are a lot.
I learned how to evaluate new enterprises and the importance of cash forecast.
The most useful things I learned were evaluating ROI, how to break down components of cash forecast, how to determine top priorities, income-profit=expenses.
I learned how to take the time to plan, test & record – easier than I thought – especially with these great forms & worksheets.
The most useful thing I learned was the financial planning and asset management.
Lots! Good job. Thank you!
I got the encouragement to get the family talking – that was great!
I learned how to get and remain inspired to engage in this process.
I learned new perspectives on expenses.
I learned to use what the farm has for resources to diversify, so it may not necessary to add new programs.
I was excited about the excel workbook!
I’m furthering my knowledge to improve planning, income, quality of life, etc. I will be taking more of these classes!
Too much to list!

I’m not alone. How to manage my “team”. How to make decisions proactively as a group.
Knowing your customer/pricing.
How to find break even point. Determining what the “unit” is in production. Strategies for pricing, production, marketing.
Tools to be able to better market products.
The market stuff I had a few years ago – the difference was the context of ag & holistic farming. It was great stuff.
I have a better knowledge on how to help my husband manage the farm & reduce his stress level.
Great job – liked balance of large & small group work.
Integrating the whole farm planning with the financial & business planning parts to a holistic goal.
Put yourself first on your to do list. Clutter control/time mgmt practices.
Crafting a position statement for marketing.
Getting a better understanding of building a business plan, its importance, and as it relates to agricultural success.

Results from our evaluations showed the following outcomes:

Outcome % of Participants
How to increase net worth 90%
Determining your farm’s projected revenue 90%
Getting the profit you need from your farm 86%
Assessing the cash flow of your plan 86%
Do you intend to change any practices as a result of this course? 100%
Intend to complete or modify a financial plan for your farm 100%
Prioritizing and cutting farm expenses to guide reinvestment in your farm 81%
How to use your financial plan to profitably price your products/services 95%
More confident in promoting your farm products 100%
More confident in developing a marketing plan that meets your farm needs and goals 95%
Increased knowledge of how to create a marketing plan 100%
Increased knowledge of how to create a business plan 100%
Increased ability to implement systems and projects to move you toward your whole farm goal 100%
More confident in implementing important strategic systems and projects on your farm 100%
More confident in developing a business/strategic plan 100%
Do you intend to complete or modify a marketing plan as a result of today’s session? 95%
Do you intend to complete or modify a business plan as a result of today’s session? 100%


Getting Started Holistic Land Planning Course Results

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HMI’s Getting Started Holistic Land Planning online course began in January 2015 with 21 participants from all around the world. The course was co-taught by Certified Educators Roland Kroos and Ann Adams. This course focused on the key holistic land planning design principles and practices to allow participants to more effectively manage all their resources.

This simple approach to land planning helped the participants explore key infrastructure/land improvement projects in the context of their whole farm/ranch goal to better analyze design possibilities for improved return on investment. Participants developed management consideration lists, land plan options and explored tool options and the return on investment of the different land planning options using the Holistic Management decision making framework and considering how such options will affect land productivity.

70% of the participants are currently farming and were eager to explore numerous land planning principles and practices, giving feedback to each other through the discussion forum.

Participants noted increased knowledge, behavior and confidence with the following topics:

  • How to prioritize land/infrastructure development/investments
  • Design strategies that can build resilient, diversified farms
  • How to assess management considerations to guide land planning
  • How to incorporate natural resources issues on your farm into land planning
  • How to incorporate social/legal/contractual considerations into land planning
  • How permaculture methods fit into Holistic Land Planning
  • The ability to prioritize land or infrastructure improvements on a farm/ranch
  • The ability to incorporate farm natural resources issues into land planning
  • The ability to incorporate social/legal considerations into land planning

Here’s what the participants had to say about the course and what they learned and explored:

“Definitely learning to use Google Earth for this course will be a huge asset for my farm planning in the future.”

“[The most useful thing I learned was] using computer programs and physical maps for planning.”

“I like the permaculture idea of designing to the desired condition, not fighting against the existing one.”

“I relate really well to the Zone idea. I practice that at home and it is really effective in making decisions that ease management of the spaces and makes life much more enjoyable.”

“The financial weak link seems like an outstanding way to prioritize projects and enterprises and to enable one to address all the important factors.”

“Learning about SMART goals is very helpful.  I will keep a notebook and use the formats presented in the week’s lessons.”

“Prioritization makes implementation of land/infrastructure easier because it gives a plan of attack and what to hit first.”

Featured Participant:

Untitled Chantal Gagnon

“HMI’s Getting Started Holistic Land Planning Course helped me turn  my future goals for my property into a working plan. The course  allowed me to prioritize projects based on return on investments and  how they addressed my holistic goal. I like the ‘go slow to go fast’  ideology that was introduced to me in this course. I will definitely be  using this advice as I start to implement changes on my land to suit its future purpose.”

California Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning Series Provides Learning & Networking

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At the beginning of March, HMI completed our Whole Farm/ Ranch Business Planning Series in Willits, California, with 32 participants involved in the financial, marketing, and business planning courses. Lead instructor for this program was Certified Educator Richard King. As has been the case in previous courses, participants enjoyed the small group work and learning from each other.

Marketing planning included focusing on developing an elevator speech for each farming operation and honing in on the best marketing channels for each operation. Using this information participants had the opportunity to map out their marketing plan for the year and get feedback. This plan looks at both strategy and implementation.

After the marketing plan work, the group turned to business planning and looking at different business plans as well as the key sections of a business plan and how this document must be developed to clearly articulate an operations strategy and tactics for success. Again working in small groups helped participants learn from each other’s operations and determine what they needed to work on when they got home.

Our thanks to the California Farm Grange School for hosting this series and providing a great meeting place as well as all their gracious support and outreach for the series. Thanks also to the Christano Family Fund for their support of this program and for providing scholarships.

Here’s what the participants had to say about key take homes from the courses:

Really enjoyed working through real life examples with the other farmers.

The program got better each session.

How to work these spreadsheets into my financial plan.
Creating an effective system of monitoring my weak link.
Everything is so helpful.
The framework and how-to of building blocks.
How to breakdown the complexity of financial planning into digestible parts.
Clarity on the spreadsheet – leading backwards to revising goal statement and rephrasing test questions.
Financial planning can be fun!
The framework/spreadsheet! Love!!
That you need to revisit the plan every month!
Framework of financial planning.
Brainstorming, planning, creative financial sheets, practical/actual.More confident in elevator pitch

More confident in executing any plan.
More confident in matching mktg/biz planning to Holistic Goals.
I intend to refine & practice my “elevator speech” to describe the product/service being offered.Good ideas for using webpage to showcase.
In intend to create promotional materials and change the way I explain what I am doing.
I intend to take more time to plan and assess doing more market surveys.
Elevator pitch and simplicity.
Assessing competition.
Pricing – margin vs. markup. Great handout!
You are always marketing! Margin vs. markup.
I liked the customer questionnaire.

Walking/talking thru marketing & business planning together, critiquing a business plan.
Utilizing others to critique your biz plan.
Follow your passion, build relationships.
Networking & clarifying weak spots in management & biz plan & development.
How to structure a business plan & derive digestible action plans from it.

Evaluations showed the following results:

Increased knowledge in determining viable profitable enterprises 91%
More confident in getting the profit you need from your farm 83%
More confident in determining net worth 78%
 Improved ability in projecting income  91%
Improved knowledge in prioritizing and cutting farm expenses to guide reinvestment in your farm
Do you intend to complete or modify a financial plan as a result of these sessions 100%
 Do you intend to complete or modify a marketing plan as a result of today’s session?  95%
How to use your financial plan to profitably price your products/services 86%
Ability to use your financial plan to determine viable products 85%
More confident in promoting your farm products 82%
More confident in implementing important strategic systems and projects on your farm 90%
More confident in developing a business/strategic plan 90%
Do you intend to complete or modify a business plan as a result of today’s session? 100%
Overall satisfaction for course (averaged over last 4 classes) 90%


Making a Difference?

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Most of us would like to believe that our actions are making a difference. That we are making the world a better place. That as land and resource managers we’re contributing to a world of happy families and a healthy planet. This is a worthy goal, and is at the core of sustainability efforts, but how is that achieved? What does that look like? What are our responsibility toward sustainability? And how do we contribute to that objective?

holistic management decision making, sustainable agriculture027.smallAlthough the answer to these questions can be complex, I believe it starts with individuals making good decisions and implementing principles of Holistic Management that provide the framework for sustainable decision making. Holistic Management really is about managing for sustainability (healthy land, animals and people). As resource stewards our decisions matter.

The mission of Holistic Management International is to “educate people to manage land for a sustainable future.” This is something we take serious and strive every day to do our duty to meet this mandate, including how we allocate resources and where we place our support.

Recently a new organization was formed named the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.  The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB) claims to be a multi-stakeholder initiative developed to advance, support and communicate continuous improvement in sustainability of the U.S. beef value chain. The USRSB says it will achieve this through leadership, innovation, multi-stakeholder engagement, and collaboration and aims for the U.S. beef value chain to be the trusted global leader in environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable beef.

Southworth-cattle-on-crested-wheat.smallIt will be interesting to see what this new organization, USRSB will achieve. Talking about sustainability for the sake of talking about sustainability doesn’t accomplish anything, and may even distract from doing the important on-the-ground work where everyday farmers and ranchers are making decisions that impact sustainability. However, the opportunity to influence the discussion and encourage Holistic Management based solutions is too important of an opportunity, and so HMI has decided to join USRSB.

HMI has also joined the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which recently published these Principles and Criteria for Defining Global Sustainable Beef.

I encourage all Holistic Management supporters, and practitioners to become aware of the various sustainability initiatives, make your voice heard and help others become aware of Holistic Managements ability to make the world a better, more sustainable place. As the world looks for solutions to make agriculture more sustainable we need to make sure they know that Holistic Management is a sustainability framework that is already showing the way.

FREE 2013 IN PRACTICE Journal Archives Updated

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We’ve just added all the 2013 back issues of In Practice, the journal for Holistic Management practitioners to our free archive.

In Practice Hi Res Color_Page_01In Practice is published by HMI and will keep you in touch with the progress, innovations, and excitement generated by those practicing Holistic Management. You can purchase a subscription for yourself or as a gift for a friend in the HMI store. If you’ve never received In Practice before, you can contact us and request a FREE electronic introductory one year subscription.

And of course you can check out older back issues in our FREE archive.


Holistic Management is for Lovers

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From February 13th to 15th, 2015 (over Valentine’s Day), 14 people gathered at Fiddlehead Farm in Ontario, Canada for a Holistic Management Marriage Enrichment session. Several members of the Kingston CRAFT network and beyond had come out, as couples, to learn from Holistic Management educators Tony and Fran McQuail of Meeting Place Organic Farm. While many of the participants had completed the Holistic Management program in the past, the McQuails had a new offering for farmers.

Not so many years ago Fran & Tony led couples enrichment weekend workshops within the Quaker community. They alluded to the workshops during their Holistic Management class, and three years later Heather and Steve of Fiddlehead Farm found themselves wondering what that would involve. Could the couples enrichment weekend be equally appreciated by the farmers in their area? Many producers have built businesses together as couples, and talk often turns to relationships.

Here’s what Heather and Steve had to say about the experience:

“Holistic Management is an important process for balancing our business and personal lives in the context of farming. It is all too easy for the business to dominate our personal lives. Keeping the two in balance is a constant process of self-monitoring and self-assessment. Part of that assessment often came back to the unique tensions that sharing a business with a romantic partner create. Living and working with the same person all the time can be a lovers’ dream, but it can just as easily be the fomenting grounds for conflict and frustration.

“Given that many of our professional lives depend on the success of our personal relationships it seemed natural to turn to people who had been through the challenges of farming and who understood the importance of taking a holistic approach to that challenge. Tony and Fran were the perfect choice; they pulled out their old files and refocused their couples enrichment program with farmers in mind. The structure and wealth of personal experience they brought made the weekend a life-enriching event.

“We found ourselves surrounded by friends over the Valentine’s Day weekend. Communication was the focus of the workshop. From group and couple based discussions through to exercises in communication and effective dialoging we worked at identifying the “ruts” in our relationships and how to get out of them. We learnt to express our point of view by identifying our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, wants and behaviours. We used a relationship inventory to highlight our diverging views on where we rocked as a couple and where we could be doing better.

“No relationship is perfect and no relationship works without maintenance. Through sharing our feelings, reflective listening, dialoguing and writing love letters we set a foundation for future maintenance. Talking through points of conflict and frustration has given us a sense of how to work constructively on our relationship. The tools gained from Tony and Fran will help us in the continual process of appreciating each other while working to resolve, heal, and grow from our differences.”

Book Review of Defending Beef

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Defending Beef—The Case for Sustainable Meat Production

The Manifesto of an Environmental Lawyer and Vegetarian Turned Cattle Rancher

By Nicolette Hahn Niman

Chelsea Green Publishing


For those of you who have made a conscious decision to eat or raise sustainably produced grassfed beef, Defending Beef is a book that you can use to help educate others as to why that decision is good for the planet. I’ve read numerous articles and books about the impact of raising beef on the planet or on human health, but this book brings all the critical information into one place. Additionally, this book explains how the negative attitudes towards beef as a food and on cattle as a livestock came to pass. In turn, those stories make you realize just how much journalism, pseudo-science, political agendas, and corporate lobbying can influence such critical areas of our lives like our food system. The book is filled with surprising statistics that refute just about every negative statistic you have heard about the cattle industry at large.

For me, the interesting part of Niman’s story is how she served as senior attorney for the Waterkeeper Alliance, running their campaign to reform concentrated production of livestock and poultry, so she’s done some due diligence on the negative impact that kind of production can cause. She then married Bill Niman, a rancher, and began to explore the value and importance of grassfed livestock. While this may seem like old news to some of us, there are still lots of people out there arguing that concentrated livestock production is the better route to go to make the most of agricultural lands and therefore we should be eating more pork and chicken.

Niman takes this argument to task and she points out how cattle can be used to improve soil health, sequestering carbon and methane so that more climate changing gases are stored in the soil. Likewise, grassfed beef can improve the land base that could not be farmed/cropped and can increase biodiversity, wildlife habitat, and restore grasslands that have been taken over by invasive weeds and shrubs.

While reading Defending Beef can be frustrating at times because the focus is only on cattle, the benefits of all grassfed livestock for both the planet and human health are transferable. Perhaps one of the most interesting statistics for me was how little beef is actually imported into the US from other countries (16%). This was good news for me in that we are actually raising most of our own beef. That means there is more opportunity to create change within this system domestically. As always, the key to that change is an informed consumer base who is actually choosing healthy beef instead of heavily processed food that are being sold as healthy because they are vegetable-based food.

If we ultimately want our food choices to help us be healthy, regenerate the landscape, and provide economic opportunity for those involved in the raising of those animals, then we need to know the truth about that food and the difference that management can make. Defending Beef gives you the full story behind sustainably raised beef and allows the reader to not be pulled off course by the sound bites we are surrounded with in the mainstream media.



Sheep Used on “Green” Golf Course

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Dairy Creek Golf Course in San Luis Obispo, California is using sheep to help landscape the rough on their golf course. Holistic Management Certified Educator Rob Rutherford has worked with the golf course management to develop this pilot project which has promising results of reduced costs for the golf course and improved soils and plant community in the rough. The added benefit is the social enjoyment that the golfers get as they watch the sheep and lambs and learn about the environment around the golf course. To view a video clip about this project, click here.

Why we do what we do

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Aggie-Doue.smallOne of the great joys in working in a non-profit organization is being part of at team that really makes a positive impact on peoples lives. Aggie Doue, owner of Aggie’s Farm in Texas just graduated from HMI’s Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in Texas program and posted a blog about her experience learning Holistic Management.

I came to the Beginning Women Farmers program a new landowner, having read and learned just enough to know that I didn’t know where to begin. Through this course, I have learned how to pull myself up by the bootstraps, create a viable farm plan, and implement it. I know others who have succeeded, and who are willing to help me.

The pleasure of working with this group of capable, knowledgeable, and motivated women, and the easy flowing communication, made for an outstanding learning experience. The relationships birthed in this crucible will be critical to my success as I go forward to create an economically and ecologically healthy farm.


Read the rest of the blog on Aggie’s website >>

We are so proud of Aggie and all the other women that have graduated from the 6th year of this program which was partially funded by USDA NIFA

If you would like to be part of the team that supports beginning farmers and ranchers like Aggie and her fellow classmates, please consider making a donation today.

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.