Getting Started Holistic Grazing Planning Course Results

HMI’s Online Learning Series Getting Started Holistic Grazing Planning course began in March 2016 with 33 participants from the United States, Canada, Iceland, Belgium, Ireland, Chile and New Zealand. This course focused on the key grazing planning principles and practices. Participants practiced the tools to hone in on such as critical grazing considerations, determining forage inventory, animal needs, and grazing and recovery periods before putting all these calculations into a written grazing plan.

Featured Participant:

Randy PistacchioRandy Pistacchio

“Holistic Grazing Planning was an excellent stepping stone off of the Whole Farm/Ranch Planning course I recently completed. The challenges of grazing on a small urban property are unique and the tools I gained will allow me to maximize the output of our land while increasing soil health and maintaining a happy healthy herd.  Also, as if I needed another excuse, monitoring paddock quality throughout the season will get me out on the land with my hands to the earth.”

Here’s the best things participant’s learned/experienced:

“I’m glad that the course explained the grazing chart to me. I’d tackled it a few years in a row, not knowing what parts of it meant.”

“I learned how to use the grazing planning sheets, how to plan for a time based drought reserve, how to plan based on most limiting and latest constraints and plan in time backwards.”

“The best things I learned were how to move the animals and not over work the land, to not create bare spots and keep the grasses at least 3 inches long, then 3 new leaves before returning.

“I learned about competitive grazing and leaving litter on the ground, I used to try to get rid of all of it and now I’m trying to save it.”

“The calculations were very helpful. Switching focus from grazing to recovery is very useful as well.”

“The most useful thing I learned was calculating and using ADA.”

“I learned to increase stocking density and utilize bale grazing more.”

Based on the survey responses, here are the changes that occurred:

Getting Started Holistic Grazing Planning Survey Results

Knowledge/Behavior and Confidence Increase            % Increase
Ability as a grazier 91%
Assessing recovery periods 97%
Assessing quantity of forage in a pasture 93%
Determining the number of animals your land can support for grazing 100%
Calculating the number of paddocks for your system 93%
Determining how long animals will stay in each paddock (residency rates/grazing periods) 89%
Intend to complete or modify a written grazing plan as a result of this course 100%

Getting Started Holistic Land Planning Course Results

HMI’s Online Learning Series Getting Started Holistic Land Planning course began in March 2016 with 14 participants from the United States, Guatemala, Ireland, Belgium, Finland and Iceland. 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.

Featured Participant:

Holly DolderHolly Dolder

“The Holistic Management International Courses have opened my eyes to a new world of animal, land and business management.  Before HMI, I was a total novice to farming, farm animals and land management.  The once thought of short golf course beautiful pastures now bring a totally different feeling.  No longer is overworked, undernourished lands my envy.  Transforming our own little 10-acre paradise into a healthy well managed and planned out piece of heaven on earth has been made so much easier by the knowledge we have gained from these courses.  The instructors are fantastic and so helpful with excellent advice for each person either in class or one on one.  I believe anyone who wants to find a different way to see the business of farming, novice or expert, will find HMI is well worth the time spent to participate.”

Here’s the best things participant’s learned/experienced:

“I feel more confident evaluating animal rotational structures and their frequencies, as well as charging the land prior to planting. I plan to teach others the benefits, and aside from my own small demo plot, assist others in developing project proposals.”

“We now have a better understanding of the land and how to manage it.”

“The most useful thing I learned was communications with the planning team’s, alternative fencing and water layouts.”

“I would like to continue working with the processes for introducing HMI practices to the country in which I live.”

“The most useful thing I learned was looking at the land on map, then in written diagram then with overlays for changes.”

“I liked the holistic design principles and land testing exercises. Those will certainly be part of our planning system / thinking, because provide a very practical analysis.”

“The most useful thing I learned was concrete numbers and vocabulary for project proposals.”

Based on the survey responses, here are the changes that occurred:

Getting Started Holistic Land Planning Survey Results

Knowledge/Behavior and Confidence Increase            % Increase
Prioritizing land/infrastructure development/investments 91%
Assessing management considerations to guide land planning 97%
Incorporating natural resources issues on your farm into land planning 93%
How permaculture methods fit into Holistic Land Planning 100%
Complete or modify a written land plan as a result of the course 93%
To change management practices as a result of this course 100%




Beginning Farmers and Ranchers in Texas – Class of 2016

A young couple living a primitive lifestyle while working to heal the land.

A couple of military men ready for a new career.

A graduate student in wildlife research.grouptwo (2)

A veterinarian hoping to enhance his goat farm retirement business.

Sisters learning to manage the family farm together.

These are just a few of the people that applied for the 2015-2016 Beginning Farmers and Ranchers in Texas program, which began in October 2015, and wrapped up in February 2016.  In February, 29 of the 30 participants graduated from the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program.  Each completed at least 70% of their 10-part Whole Farm/Ranch Plan and attended at least 70% of the 10 class days over five months.

Divided into five 2-day sessions, the first session took place at Green Fields Farm, near Temple, Texas.  On Day 1, participants were introduced to the principles and practices of Holistic Management and set to work creating their Whole Farm/Ranch Plan – which included the creation of their Holistic Goal, an inventory of all of their resources, and were introduced to the Holistic Management Decision-Making framework that will guide them toward their Holistic Goal.  On Day 2, participants were introduced to ecosystem health and biomonitoring.

In November, 2015, participants headed to Montesino Ranch, in Wimberley, TX for Session Two, which included Grazing and Decision Making and Time Management.  On Day 1, participants learned the value of grazing planning, including appropriate recovery periods, assessing forage quantity, and how to determine the number of animals a farm/ranch can support.  Day 2 talked about topics such as how to make complex on-farm/ranch decisions, learning to understand seasonal time demands, and how to effectively manage time on a farm or ranch.

Session three took place in December, 2015, at Kerr Wildlife Management Area, in Hunt, Texas.  Both sessions focused on FinanfinancialplanningatKerrwildlifemanagementcial Planning, beginning with topics such as how to develop a balance sheet, how to determine a farm/ranch’s projected revenue, how to identify logjams and adverse factors on the farm/ranch, and how to increase farm/ranch net worth.  Day 2 focused on topics such as how to assess cash flow, how to get the desired profit from a farm or ranch, prioritizing and cutting expenses to guide reinvestment, and how to develop and monitor a financial plan for the farm or ranch.

Session four took place in January, 2016, where participants headed back to Wimberley, Texas to Red Corral Ranch, to focus on Marketing and Business Planning.  Day 1 of the session concentrated on key marketing topics such as how to profitably price products and services, how to develop a farm/ranch business plan, and why it’s important to understand the competition.  Day 2 focused on business planning topics such as how to effectively promote products and services, how to develop a marketing plan, and how to use a Holistic Goal to guide a business strategic plan.

The last 2-day session took place in February, 2016 at Bamberger Ranch, in Johnson City, Texas.  These last sessions focused on Land Planning, and Leadership and Communication.  Land planning topics included how to design strategies to build resilient, diversified farms and ranches, how to incorporate natural resource issues when land planning, and how permaculture fits into Holistic Land Planning.  The second day of the session focused on leadership and communications issues such as how to be aware of communication patterns on farm or ranch, effective communication tools, and conflict resolution skills.

In February this class graduated 29 of the participants, with make-up work available to graduate all of them. HMI heartily congratulates these 29 students. Each completed at least 70% of their 10-part Whole Farm/Ranch Plan and attended at least 70% of the 10 class days over 5 months. Most had perfect attendance. All loved the training.

Here are some of the results:

Intended Behavior Change                                                              2015-2016


Implement Time Management Tools or Processes 100%
Using Testing Questions 100%
Change Enterprise Assessment 100%
Determine Profit Up Front and Cap Expenses 100%
Complete or Modify a Financial Plan 100%
Change Record-Keeping   95%
Develop a Whole Farm Goal   91%
Change Management Practices   90%
Involve Decision-Makers in Financial Planning   90%
Enter Financial Data Regularly   83%
Monitor Financial Plan   83%
Complete or Modify Written Land Plan 100%
Conduct Biological Monitoring on Farm 100%
Complete or Modify a Marketing Plan   96%
Complete or Modify Written Grazing Plan   96%
Change Grazing Practices   96%
Change Leadership Practices   95%
Prioritize and Cut Expenses   88%
Complete or Modify a Business Plan   85%
Change Marketing Practices   73%
Change Eco-System Health Practices   73%
Change Business Planning Practices   67%


Read what program participants had to say about the training:

“This training has inspired me to lead with a new outlook and goal in mind. I see value in things I have not considered before. The processes I have learned and tools I have received will help me reach succession in all aspects of my life.”

 “It has given me hope and inspiration when thinking about the future. It has given me the power to go out into the world and be the change that I want to see.”

 “The synergy of this group is amazing – I am energized and focused because I know I’m not alone on this quest. I have not only my management team, but a team of “consultants” to help my farm.”

 “This course has jump started/pushed me to move from research phase to “do” phase. Has also really illuminated the “Big Picture” of my whole operation. Invaluable!”

 “This training has provided our management team the ability to better communicate. We also received a set of tools and the training required to use the tools not only on the farm but in our lives.”

 “A lifetime of wisdom packed into an intensive 10 day workshop full of friendships and community.”

 “Highly committed session trainers teaching methods that they deeply believe are effective and valuable it’s a great program.”

 “It is a way to be a better farmer & also be a better person. It feels like a real force for good in the world.”


USDA Revokes Grassfed Label Standard

Happy cows moving into new cover crop salad bar at SG&R Farms.

The USDA’s  Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) revoked the labeling standard for grassfed meat that many organizations have been working on developing the last 4 years. It had been finalized in 2006, and was supported by many national farm and consumer organizations.

AMS cited the key reason for this revoking based on potential confusion between  the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), which must approve meat labels and the AMS labeling grassfed standards which might not be approved the food inspectors.

The Federal Register notice on January 12th does give producers using the grassfed label 30 days to either change their current label into a private standard or develop a new grassfed standard of their own. For example there are other grassfed labels such as the American Grassfed Association standard that grassfed producers can still use if they want to have a national labeling.

The grass fed label claim standard now being revoked originally focused on such criteria as grass, forbs, and forage needed to be 99 percent or more of the feed during the lifetime of the grassfed livestock after weaning.

To read more about this issue, click here.

To read about the benefits of how properly managed grassfed animals help improve soil health and mitigate climate change, visit HMI’s webpage about soil health.

The Ten Main Threats to Soil Health

Gail Fuller shows the biomass he can grow with his cover crop seeding.

Gail Fuller shows the biomass he can grow with his cover crop seeding.

Here’s a great little infographic from the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)about soil health and the need for good soil management. According to FAO to achieve healthy soil, we need to focus on the 10 main threats to soil functions: soil erosion, soil organic carbon loss, nutrient imbalance, soil acidification, soil contamination, waterlogging, soil compaction, soil sealing, salinization and loss of soil biodiversity. Holistic Management has been used by farmers and ranchers to address all of these issues. You can learn more about how they’ve done that on our soil health page.

Mexican Holistic Management Workshop January 15-16, 2016

Gerardo Bezanilla

Gerardo Bezanilla

Environmental Services on Holistically Managed Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands
January 15-16, 2016

Ascension, Chihuahua, Mexico

Local Livestock Association Ascension Building

10 am- 5pm

HMI is excited about partnering with Border 2020 Project to help deliver and support this workshop and training in Chihuahua, Mexico. This workshop will demonstrate how Holistic Planned Grazing can restore the health of the natural processes of pastures even in arid areas.

During the workshop, presenters will include livestock specialists dealing with different environmental variables who manage more than 65,000 hectares, including 9 cattle ranches in grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert (8 in Mexico and 1 in USA). These environmental variables are a) concentration and carbon change on the ground, b) fluctuating groundwater levels, c) air pollution by dust particles of wind erosion, and d) ground cover.


January 15th
10:00 Gerardo Bezanilla, Border 2020 Project, Holistic Management
11:00 Dr. David DuBois, New Mexico State University, The Effects of Dust
1:00 Lunch on your Own
2:00 Peter Donovan, Carbon Coalition, Carbon Monitoring
4:00 Dr. Carlos Ochoa, Oregon State University, Watershed Management and Riparian Hydrology in Arid Lands

January 16th
This field day will be held from 8:00 am on Rancho Las Lilas, located 25 minutes from Ascension City to Ciudad Juarez, where attendees can see in practice, some of the activities to be undertaken in the project ranches and learn how they can adopt new management practices to restore grasslands.
This workshop is free and the doors are open to anyone who wants to learn. For more information please contact Gerardo Bezanilla, gbezanilla(AT)hotmail(DOT)com, Cel. Mexico (614) 184-1853, Cel. USA (361) 460-8266

Increase in Urban Female Farmers

bwf ny (1)There was an interesting article in Modern Farmer about the increasing numbers of women are getting into farming in North America through urban farming. However only 27 percent of farms in Canada are owned by women and 14 percent in the US. If you don’t inherit land then the cost for land is a huge hurdle for anyone to get into farming. In Canada, land value has increased by 113% from 2000-2012 and Iowa farmland cost increased by 31% in one year. US. Average real estate value is approximately $3000/acre. Given those costs women are using urban landscapes or growing crops like microgreens indoor. As we say in our training programs, you don’t need to own land or animals to farm or grow food. If you want to farm or ranch, develop your holistic goal first to articulate your key values and create your vision for the future. Holistic Management helps you test your decisions toward that holistic goal to more effectively help you achieve your farming and ranching objectives sustainably. HMI has also been training many beginning women farmers. Click here, to learn more about HMI’s Beginning Farmer/Rancher Program for both men and women.

Climate Talks Missing Soil’s Carbon Sequestration Potential

Lush cover crop forage for grazing!

Here’s a great op ed in the Washington Post by Michael Pollan and Debbie Barker about how the climate talks are missing the fact that soil plays a critical part in sequestrating carbon or releasing carbon. A third of the carbon in the atmosphere used to be in the soil. Ag practices are the key to putting it back into the soil or keeping it in there or releasing even more carbon into the atmosphere. HMI knows more carbon in the soil means more resilience, productivity, and profit as well as a great list of attendant ecosystem benefits important for everyone. See our soils page for more information.

HMI Joins 4 per 1000 Initiative: Soil for Food Security and Climate

DSC_0420.smallA new 4 per 1000 initiative has been started by the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood, and Forestry as the Lima-Paris climate change talks begin. This initiative is focused on getting all the countries involved in the talks to commit to increasing the organic matter on their agricultural lands by .04% to halt climate change. This is the first time there has been an international call and awareness of the importance of soils to sequester carbon.

HMI has joined this initiative formally and will continue our work to help more land stewards improve their soil health through using Holistic Management in managing their lands, finances, and families, and communities. We are proud of our network who is on the front line of this work.

Read the full article at:  The Conversation

To learn about the initiative, click here.

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.”