Greenhorn Radio recently interviewed Holistic Management Certified Educator, Erica Frenay from Shelterbelt Farms in New York. Erica talks about how the Holistic Management decision making process and her Holistic Goal guides all her decisions on her farm and helped her transition from a hobby into a commercial farming business. Erica participated in HMI’s Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in the Northeast program. You can read more about Erica and the development of her farm in this article from In Practice, HMI’s journal. Afterwards, be sure to listen to the radio interview.
At HMI, we are continuously improving our educational materials and teaching methods to make it easier than ever for farmers and ranchers to reap the benefits of practicing Holistic Management. In February of 2011 we started our enormously popular free downloads program. Since that time, almost 2000 people have benefited from these materials. We are pleased to announce that we have recently updated the materials — making them even easier to use.
Our new free downloads include the recently updated framework for greater ease in learning and practice! HMI’s free downloads include:
- Introduction to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning
- Holistic Financial Planning
- Holistic Grazing Planning
These manuals and support materials give you the tools to develop a holistic goal, analyze decisions easily and effectively, develop a value-based financial annual cash flow, analyze enterprises, and develop a holistic grazing plan.
Help Us Grow
While we offer these valuable materials for free, please remember that HMI is a non-profit organization. The only way we can continue to offer these materials, and our other educational programs is through your support. We hope that you will consider making a small donation to help offset our costs.
The Canadian Holistic Management group is an active team of people. Their statement of purpose is to provide knowledge, motivation & networking opportunities to Holistic Management practitioners. In their most recent newsletter, they discuss planned grazing for 2012 and the advantages of maintaining full recovery. A short read, but well worth it.
Our own Peggy Maddox, Holistic Management Certified Educator and Peggy Cole, Project Manager recently hosted a kick off meeting for the 2012/2013 our Future Farms & Ranches: Upper Piedmont program. They filed this report…
Thirty-eight enthusiastic participants gathered in Sperryville, Virginia, recently for their first workshop in Holistic Management principles. This group grew out of a very successful HMI program requested by Cliff Miller two years ago. Cliff wanted his community and his county to learn to make wise decisions that would preserve the rural beauty of this gateway to the Shenandoah area of Virginia. If farmers could look toward a future of sustainable practices that would help them ecologically improve the land and succeed financially, while contributing to the quality of life that brought these folks here, they could keep the land in agriculture and resist the demand to subdivide and sell, as many other areas close to Washington DC are doing. He asked HMI to help.
Cliff’s vision resulted in a pilot class in 2011 with 9 farms /12 individuals. The class was a success and this year has grown to 26 farms / 50 individuals. These producers from farms in Rappahannock County and the entire Upper Piedmont region hope this whole farm planning training will help them all become more sustainable, so they can remain on the land and their communities can remain rural.
Since too much information is sometimes a problem in delivering this complex material, Peggy Maddox honed it down to the essence for this 5-hour class. Working through the day, the individual farm management teams were able to define their whole, create a beginning holistic goal, and start testing actions. Peggy pulled out some fun tricks from her many years as a schoolteacher and director of Kids on the Land program. The class had the visual of her slides, the warmth of her personal stories, the aural of her hotel bell at the “remember this” statements and the kinesthetics of role-playing a case study. They were tossed a treat when they contributed well to the dialog and had a chance for a bigger prize when they handed in their evaluation. And those evaluations indicated they really liked her style.
They left looking forward to their next sessions, which includes webinars and on site class training. The class self-selected into learning pods to gather at sites near their farms for the webinars in order to learn better in small groups and to begin a permanent network of peer support. Here results from the participant survey:
96% Rated the Session as Good or Excellent
58% Increase in Knowledge of Goal Setting
115% Increase in Knowledge of Decision Making
HMI and the Oklahoma Land Steward Alliance are sponsoring a workshop in Oklahoma on August 9-10, 2012. It’s part of the Summer Training Fest. This is a fantastic opportunity to improve your decision making skills through Holistic Management.
This two day workshop will help farmers, ranchers and land stewards better manage agricultural resources in order to reap sustainable environmental, economic, and social benefits. Participants will learn how this “triple bottom line” of benefits can be achieved by maximizing the management of current resources. Click here for the full agenda, instructors, and information on how to register.
A few of our Future Farms: Rappahannock County program participants talk about their involvement in the HMI program, as well as the experiences and results they have achieved in their first year of practicing Holistic Management. They are a pretty impressive group. If you’d like to see more farmers and ranchers practicing Holistic Management, please consider a donation to HMI. We are a non-profit organization, and need your support to continue our mission to educate people to manage land for a sustainable future.All videos by Steven Schwartz, www.localflavor.tv
Today’s economic climate is full of uncertainty and apprehension. Media stories fuel our concerns. Those of us in agriculture really feel a pinch from sky rocketing input costs, impact from climate change, and always-changing government regulations and policy. I’ve spent the last few weeks visiting with women producers located in Central Texas; and hear recurring comments about not making enough income. In the small poultry and grass-fed beef business my husband and I have, poultry feed increased by 59% last year; fuel costs continues to inch up; and we experienced the worst drought in Texas’ recorded history. Now isn’t that enough to get you down.
So I’m reminded to shift my thinking from cash to wealth – generating wealth the holistic way. Holistic Management has shown us how to integrate our most desired quality of life values into our goal and to make decisions that keep us moving toward that goal. Having followed the process with my husband now for almost 20 years, we enjoy all our deepest core values even in a cash-strapped year. The land responds quickly and robustly even with a modest amount of rainfall. With all the meat we raise going to local customers, they are patient and loyal waiting for our production to return and then buy everything we can produce.
Using our holistic goal, guided by our future resource base description, and utilizing the tools holistically for ecosystem health, we couldn’t be in a better position. Cash is simply one relatively small component of a wealthy operation. As long as we continue to build our biological and social wealth and use our decision-making skills holistically, the financial wealth will soon improve. We’re already looking into a new winter enterprise of cool season veggies under high tunnels. Next step, Gross Profit Analysis!
To learn more information on generating wealth, download a free document on Holistic Financial Planning from the website.
Holistic Management offers a perspective to resource management that might be considered an alternative to conventional approaches. Based on the science of ecology and holism, the Holistic Management process guides planning and decision making to account for the patterns of inter-relationships that exist between all forms of life, including humans. Following this path, one discovers the thread of common needs and values that connect humans to each other. When management takes this connection into account right from the beginning, finding and agreeing on a strategy to meet all needs seems to be relatively easy. While the Holistic Management approach seems logical to many when first learning it, it’s not entirely natural to us humans after centuries of operating under the win/lose paradigm. Thus facilitation is often required to achieve the feeling of win/win.
The 1990’s in Texas were a time of great unrest in the land management community. The Endangered Species Act had landowners up in arms reacting to the rumors that they would not be allowed to cut any of the troublesome “Cedar” (ashe juniper) trees because they contribute to ideal habitat for a couple of endangered song birds. Environmentalists were the enemy to landowners, along with state and federal agencies, as property rights were loudly defended at landowner rallies called “Golden Cheeked Warbler BBQ’s.”
Whoa, pardner – this will never do. Texans are NOT still lawless and gun-slinging, or at least most are not. So HMI (then the Texas branch known as Holistic Resource Management of Texas) invited the warring parties to a conference panel to air their views—only with a twist.
Leaders of 8 organizations—4 representing the landowner point of view and 4 representing the environmental perspective—gathered in San Angelo, Texas in January, 1992. With the stated purpose of finding common ground, the panel was asked to pretend they were a management team brought together to create a management plan for a specific 5,000-acre tract of land.
The twist was that each one was assigned a role opposite from his actual position. The Sierra Club representative was asked to play the role of a real estate developer, while the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) representative pretended to be a biologist from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the representative of US Fish & Wildlife became a private landowner, and so on.
As the facilitator proceeded with the standard questions of best land use, the participants hurled both soft and sharp barbs at their opponents. When the Sierra Club rep, acting as developer stated the best use of the land was to be leased as a toxic waste site, the TSCRA rep, now acting as TPWD biologist, responded that his department would find an endangered species on the property in order to prevent such action. Though the panelists agreed the process reflected real-life planning processes they also agreed an effective management plan would never be reached under this approach. They agreed to try the Holistic Management approach.
Switching back to their genuine roles, the members of this “management team” began by stating their core values, as they related to the quality of life each panelist wanted for himself and his family. The list began to grow as the panelists spoke with increasing conviction and heartfelt emotion about their desire for personal freedom to make decisions; their desire for economic, educational and cultural opportunities; financial and personal security; a healthy environment; and a thriving community. All the panel members shared these core values.
Equally important, panel members could see that their adversaries wanted the same future that they did; that they had a great deal in common; that they were fighting over how to make that desired future a reality; that maybe the holistic management framework for planning and management could facilitate a different outcome than the war that was underway. The doorway was open for a new approach and at the end of the meeting, a majority of the panel members agreed to meet again and further explore this holistic management process.
They formed the PlanIt Texas Coalition to work together as a management team to discover whether or not they could manage a rural property with endangered species in a way that satisfied all environmental concerns, met all governmental regulations and still made a profit for the landowner. To explore that adventure, you can download a pdf of the The PlanIt Texas Story Booklet.
So, gathering what we learned from PlanIt Texas and from using Holistic Management in many family situations where conflict is the limiting factor, here are a few tips to help you bridge the gap.
Tips for turning conflict into consensus
• Conflict arises from differences. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences look trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is at the core of the problem, such as a need to feel safe and secure, a need to feel respected and valued, or a need for greater closeness and intimacy.
• Holistic Management is a value-based goal setting, decision-making, planning and monitoring process designed to take the practitioner team toward a stated goal by looking at each prospective action’s affect on the whole being managed. Creating each part of the goal as a team is crucial—Quality of Life or values, actions that might produce that QOL, and future resource base that can sustain the actions and QOL.
• Use an impartial facilitator if possible. This person will make sure each team member feels heard by the others in expressing their values and needs. He/she will keep the discussion on track and ease the stress with diffusing remarks when necessary.
• Have your facilitator act as scribe on a flipchart and accurately capture each quality of life statement as it is voiced by a team member, checking with that member to be sure it is correct. Continue to work in this manner through ideas expressed as actions toward the goal and what the landscape will look like in its ideal state for sustainability. Do not edit or censor at this stage.
• Focus on common ground. What values does the whole team agree on? Is there consensus on what forms production might take? Does the team agree on the landscape they want to work toward? How can the team feel this is a win/win in the making?
• Take a break! Relax, Refresh and Recreate together. Nothing reduces stress like laughing together and beginning to see each other as friends rather than enemies. Compassion begins when we begin to care about the needs of others on our team. Let individuals tell stories about why they feel the way they do. Respect for all on the team needs time to build. Sitting around a table eating and joking together helps. If you have chosen to go away together on a retreat, the bonding opportunities are even greater.
• Trade places. Listen with empathy and see the conflict from the other person’s point of view. Understand what each person sees as the problem that needs resolving – it may not be the same thing. Work toward a common perception.
• Brainstorm possible solutions, and be open to all ideas, including ones you never considered before. Brainstorming rules include “there are so stupid answers.” Everyone on the team needs buy-in to the solution by offering comments during this phase.
• Sincerely work toward a win-win by considering each team member’s values, needs, feelings and position toward the common goal as well as the “problem.” Be sure each member gets their most important needs met.
• Repeat as often as necessary.
In an ever-changing world full of trials and tribulations, the James Ranch continues to provide an exceptional example of a truly holistic operation. There are many challenges that are inherent within a multi-generation operation, and the James family seems to have addressed many of these challenges with ease. They realize that if they didn’t make a continual effort to foster healthy relationships with each other, the rest of their operation would crumble.
Situated in the beautiful Animas River Valley just outside Durango Colorado, the James family has already begun incorporating the third generation into ranch operations. Welcoming children back to the ranch began fifteen years ago, and was not without its conditions. As Dave James said in a recent interview, “We told each of the children that they could come back to the ranch, but only if they could create their own sustainable enterprise.” Most of the children chose to leave high-paying corporate jobs in order to help achieve what was once a dream, and is now their reality.
The James Ranch is much diversified in their enterprises. Not only do they raise grass-fed beef but they will also serve you’re a James Ranch burger at their Harvest Grill. At the James Ranch Market you will find their beef, jerky, eggs, almond milk, artisan cheeses, vegetables, flowers and more. They use the whey from the cheese making process to soak grains that are then fed to their pigs – thus the creation of their “Whey-Good Pork”.
Although the diversity within their enterprises complements each other nicely, they felt there was still something missing. They felt that people wanted more than just a local place to stop and buy their groceries; they wanted to experience the James Ranch. The James Family then began taking customers out on Farm-Tours. They found that this was a way for those buying their products to see the pastures, and hear about how they rotated cattle and why. It was also a way for the kids to witness how bugs contribute to the big picture, and the role that water plays. In addition to all this, witnessing the wildlife that thrives on and around the 400-acre ranch is testament to their holistic land stewardship.
Overall, the James Ranch is a prime example of an incredibly successful and highly sustainable operation. When I complimented Kay James on how well she and Dave had done, she said, “Oh no it is not just us, it’s a family effort!” This is a perfect illustration of why they have been so successful. To recognize the power and importance of healthy relationships is one thing; to foster their health to the extent that the James Ranch has, that is the epitome of Holistic Management.
HMI Collaborator, Emily Brooks of the Edible Alliance has published an interesting white paper on the False Security of Farm Markets. She writes,
Small and Medium sized farms are BUSINESSES and must be run as a business. With the plethora of fantastically fun farmers’ markets springing up like wildfire, there is a sense of false security that direct retail sales, by being a vendor at a farmers’ market, is the best and most valuable avenue for generating business profit from your farm.
Smart farm businesses diversify their sales mix to add on other forms of profit generation to minimize the high risk of vending at farmers’ markets while still enjoying all the positive benefits that farm markets bring – direct consumer interaction, community involvement, business and branding exposure, and much, MUCH more!
If you are currently marketing your products in farmers markets, or thinking of doing so, be sure to check it out.