Getting Started Introduction to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Course Results

Curriculum Cover

HMI’s Online Learning Series Getting Started Introduction to Holistic Management course began in August 2015 with 29 participants from five different countries around the world. This course focused on key Holistic Management planning concepts and principles to help participants manage their farm/ranch for the triple bottom line (social, environmental, and financial sustainability) and more effectively manage resources. Participants were excited to learn how to improve their ability to observe, understand, and make decisions based on what they can control. Through these new skills participants now have the knowledge and tools to improve their ability to work with nature and to increase productivity. Based on the survey responses, here are the changes that occurred:

Getting Started Introduction to Holistic Management Planning Survey Results% Participants -Increased Knowledge or Confidence
Ability to define your management team 100%
Ability to inventory your farms resources100%
Ability to develop a whole farm goal 100%
Ability to identify needed systems and protocols to create a successful farm 100%
Ability to integrate social, economic, and environmental factors into your decisions 100%
Ability to make complex on-farm or ranch decisions100%
Ability to assess ecosystem health100%

Here’s what the participants had to say:

“[Most useful thing was] writing the holistic goal, and thinking how to achieve that.”

“I thoroughly enjoyed the course.”

“The briefs on ecosystem processes and recognizing their health practically and quickly in the field was by far the most valuable.”

“Very informative given the scope of information covered and limited time.”

“Very good, excellent.”

“[I have a] better understanding of aspects involved in planning and needed for success.”

“Everything we learned was and will be useful moving forward.”

“Overall impression was very good. Learned quite a bit but we have a long way to go. This class gave us the confidence to continue learning HM and taught us not to get stuck on the details. Keep an open mind.”

“Overall, I thought it was a good introduction and helped me get started on using Holistic Management.”

“[Most useful thing was] how to define a holistic goal and the systems and procedures that need to be in place to achieve it.”


Getting Started Introduction to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Results

Click here to find out more about this program and register for our upcoming course.

HMI’s Online Learning Series Getting Started Introduction to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning course began in March 2014 with 37 participants from all around the world. This course focused on key Holistic Management planning concepts and principles to help participants manage their farm/ranch for the triple bottom line (social, environmental, and financial sustainability) and more effectively manage resources. The participants were excited to improve their ability to observe, understand, and make decisions, based on what they can control. Through these new skills the participants are eager to improve their ability to work with nature and to increase their productivity.

After surveying the participants who completed the Getting Started Introduction to Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning course, a high number of participants experienced knowledge and behavior changes with:


Getting Started Introduction to Whole Farm Planning Evaluation Results
Knowledge/Behavior and Confidence Increase % Increase
Ability to develop a whole farm goal 100%
Ability to define a management team 93%
Understand how to inventory farm resources 93%
Ability to make complex on-farm decisions 93%
Ability to assess ecosystem health 93%
Ability to identify needed systems and protocols to create a successful farm 87%
Ability to integrate social, economic and environmental factors into decisions 80%
Ability to understand ecosystem health 80%
% of Participants
Overall Satisfaction of the course 93%


“I really enjoyed the module on observing the ecosystem and learning about the different ways to have an impact on the environment.”

“I learned how to integrate different factors into my overall decision making process.”

“Stop and think, run through the list, don’t just go with the emotional decisions.”

“At this point for me, the process of looking at holistic goals — vision statements – and all were really helpful.”

“I learned so much! I think the process itself was incredibly valuable-starting from creating the goal and vision to and through the processes for evaluating what is there, what should be there-and figuring out how to get ‘there.’”

“I enjoyed learning about how to make a holistic goal as well as learning more about the biological processes and how to identify a healthy environment based on my specific area on the brittleness scale.”

“Goal setting was a real eye-opener for me. My parents were always content to do the same things every year with no real plan for anything more. Learning about the testing questions, especially in the context of working toward my goals, will be very useful. “


Featured Participant

 Johnnie Balfour 1-JB14

“I found the course to be a great introduction to Holistic Management.  I have realized that holistic planned grazing is not as big a step as I had  first feared and should not cost anything other than brain power to  implement.”

Holistic Management Certified Educator on the Radio

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.

We’ve Updated our FREE downloads

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.

HMI Sheep Llama GrazingOur 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.

Canadian Newsletter

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.


Future Farms 2012-13 Program Kicks Off

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…

HMI, Holistic Management International, Upper Piedmont Study GroupThirty-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.

HMI, Holistic Management Interantional, Future FarmsSince 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 Announces Dollars & Sense Workshop in Oklahoma

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.

Video Profiles of Rappahannock Farmers

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,

Generating Wealth – A Holistic Perspective

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.

HMI, Healthy Land, Sustainable Future, HorseSo 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.





Consensus from Conflict using Holistic Management

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.


Case Study – The PlanIt Texas Story  

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.