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.”


Passionate Presentations Warm Up a Cold Day in Coolatai, Australia

Judi leads a discussion on forage assessment, utilization and grazing planning

Holistic Management Certified Educator Judi Earl, owner/operator of Glen Orton, leads a discussion on forage assessment, utilization and grazing planning

A tour of Glen Orton

A tour of Glen Orton

Sixty four hardy souls braved the coldest day in Coolatai, New South Wales in many years to attend HMI’s Australian Open Gate held at Glen Orton on July 17th.  Although some registrants weren’t able to attend because they were unexpectedly ‘snowed in’, many people traveled long distances from Queensland, the northern rivers and New England tablelands regions, and the diversity of the audience was a feature of the day.  The presentations, open fires and great food provided the catalyst for the start of many interesting conversations.

Glenn Morris shares about livestock management at Fig Trees Organics

Glenn Morris shares about livestock management at Fig Trees Organics

Judi Earl, Holistic Management Certified Educator and Glen Orton owner/operator shared how she has applied the principles of Holistic Management to regenerate the land and ultimately improve pasture and livestock production.  Since 2011, Judi has been using cattle at Glen Orton to manage Coolatai grass, the dominant low-quality forage in the area.  There was a lively discussion about how she has increased the productivity of her land in spite of 4 years of drought, and how her holistic goal has impacted decisions about health care for her livestock.


Other highlights of the day included:

Organic beef pies, compliments of Glenn Morris and Fig Trees Organics

Organic beef pies, compliments of Glenn Morris and Fig Trees Organics

  • Glenn Morris, manager of Fig Trees Organic Farms, passionately presenting on creating a culture of honesty and respect for the land and society in our food production systems.  He shared how they use Holistic Management and organic farming to regenerate ecosystem processes, enhance health and stimulate the economy, and how this creates strength in their marketing.

    A great lineup of presenters:  Phillipa Morris, Judi Earl, Glenn Morris, and Alex Dudley

    A great lineup of presenters: Phillipa Morris, Judi Earl, Glenn Morris, and Alex Dudley

  • Philippa Morris of Peach Trees, discussing how micro-producers can use good environmental management and good livestock handling practices to help market their animals.
  • A delicious lunch featuring Glenn Morris’ organic meat pies.

    Alex Dudley, the biodiversity ‘bug man’ is also a wildlife photographer

    Alex Dudley, the biodiversity ‘bug man’ is also a wildlife photographer

  • Zoologist Alex Dudley inspiring and entertaining with his passionate discussion of biodiversity, and how we are all part of the ecosystem and dependent on biodiversity.

    Warm fires and great discussion

    Warm fires and great discussion

  • A tour of Glen Orton looking at residual herbage and soil surface condition of a number of paddocks recently grazed as well as ones the animals were about to enter.
  • Judi leading an exercise and discussion to assess available feed, plan grazing days, and determine and increase stock density.
  • Gathering around campfires for tea and more discussions
  • Alex pointing out important features of biodiversity in the landscape, and what can be done to retain and create habitat for diverse creatures
  • A good group of participants staying afterwards for a BBQ, drinks and more conversation which eventually wound up around 9pm

Here are some of the comments from participants:


It was a good day despite the cold. Loved Alex the bug man and his knowledge.

Very social, very  informative, very helpful to me personally, and the food was GREAT! Please thank the food providers for me. The pies were delicious, and the salads very special.

Very worthwhile

Thank you for an excellent day at your lovely property on Friday. I’m so glad I ignored every obstacle and  continued on my mission to attend.(Everything was leaning against me!!!!!)

Well put together, very informative, thanks for sharing your knowledge

Very interesting

Lots of interesting talk among people

Very good!

Both of us really appreciate how generous you are with your knowledge and the networking with other producers implementing sustainable and planned grazing and farming practices was encouraging and useful.   Higher stock density and more water to our “POMP = paddock of much potential” are priorities.

Thanks for an interesting and worthwhile open day at Glen Orton. The good food and fires were a bonus.

 Networking – very good

It was great to see your comprehensive plant list.  It is always amazing to see how widespread a lot of species are.

Well done (great food)


Here’s what the evaluations showed:

Outcome% Participants
Overall Satisfaction of this event (rated good to excellent):97%
Facilitator's Effectiveness (rated good to excellent):97%
Venue (rated good to excellent):84%
Intent to change management practices/apply ideas you learned in this event? 70%
Intent to complete biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event? 60%
Expanded network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you? 97%
Would recommend this event to others:100%



Getting Started Holistic Financial Planning Course Results

HMI’s Online Learning Series Getting Started Holistic Financial Planning course began in May 2015 with 25 participants from all around the world. This course focused on key financial principles that helped participants learn how to work on their business, not just in their business. This simple approach to financial planning assisted participants to understand the big picture view as well as make critical production decisions based on a clear sense of cost of production for different enterprises. Participants were able to develop a financial plan and identify ways to implement and monitor that plan. The participants were very excited to learn the key economic analysis tools for improved financial decisions for both annual budgets and for long-term investment.

Getting Started Holistic Financial Planning Course Survey Results% Participants -Increased Knowledge or Confidence
Determining your farm’s/ranch’s net worth 87%
Determining your farm’s/ranch’s projected revenue 88%
Determining the weak link in your farm’s/ranch’s enterprises 88%
Identifying log jam and adverse factors 88%
Getting the profit you need from your farm/ranch after the course 88%
Prioritizing and cutting farm/ranch expenses to guide reinvestment in your farm/ranch after the course 88%
Your attitude towards financial planning after the course 100%
Your ability to determine your farm’s/ranch’s rough net worth (balance sheet) after the course 100%
How to increase your farm’s/ranch’s net worth after the course 100%
Determining viable profitable enterprises for your farm/ranch after the course100%
Determining your farm’s/ranch’s projected revenue after the course 100%
Your skills in developing a whole farm/ranch financial plan after the course 100%
Assessing the cash flow of your plan after the course 100%
Overall satisfaction with the course100%

Here’s what the participants had to say:

“It helped me work towards better decision making and planning for profit, as well as being able to play devil’s advocate on potential new enterprises.”

“The content and ideas are very strong.”


“Excellent value and presented so a true beginner is able to begin to grasp the content and immediately start to apply the concepts in a practical – we-can-make-a-profit-this-year sort of way.”

“We learned a lot of valuable information regarding our financial plan. Your time and knowledge is so appreciated.”

“I was handed the tools I need to build my plan.”

Most Useful things I learned:

“The 7 tests on decision making, the overall idea that profit can be planned for, monitoring and that community, financial and environmental aspects actually can happen as a whole.”

“Having a structured and rather straightforward system for monitoring and planning out farm enterprises. Also how this has overlap for other enterprise planning beyond farming such as consulting and other business management.”

“Identifying logjams and weak links. I struggle feeling confident that I have accurately identified the ranch’s problems but at least I am now aware of the importance of viewing the ranch through a lens that’s targeting obstacles and seeking solutions.”

“To identify log jams, to determine net worth and the importance of a financial plan and monitoring it..”

“We have the ability to plot our course, not just respond to circumstances as they arise.”

“How to do the monthly monitoring of expenses and income.”

Featured Participant:

Patricia Maas

Patricia Maas

”The Holistic Management Financial Planning program is one I am very glad to have taken. It’s helped me develop a workable plan for varied enterprises involving ranching and farming.  It’s something that am implementing now and making progress.

This progress is because of learning the varied steps, and tests involved in making sound Holistic Financial decisions. I often work alone and being able to assess situations using the tools learned during this coursework is instrumental in moving forward toward my Holistic Goal. “