Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands of Mexico Video

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Recently the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory created an 8-minute video about the great work being done by Holistic Management ranchers in the Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands. Ranchers such as Jesus Alemeida and Alejandro Carrillo are using Holistic Management to help improve the grassland health which in turn improves bird habitat. The video is in Spanish with English subtitles and the ranchers do a great job explaining why they changed management practices and the results they have gotten because of those changes.

 

Restoring Texas Grasslands with Planned Grazing and Keyline Plowing

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There’s a great video just released by Holistic Management practitioners Chris and Laura Gill of the Circle Ranch in Texas. Learn how they’ve been restoring their desert grasslands using Holistic Planned Grazing and Keyline plowing. The video of fenceline contrasts and before and after pictures are pretty remarkable. Congratulations to Chris and Laura for demonstrating what good ranch management can achieve and for taking the time to share their videos with the Holistic Management community.

 

National Young Farmers Coalition Water Conservation Tour

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Dan James explaining James Ranch vegetable CSA enterprise.

Dan James explaining James Ranch vegetable CSA enterprise.

 

 

The National Young Farmers Coalition and the Family Farm Alliance organized a Water Conservation Farm Tour up in the Durango, Colorado area on Oct 27-29th. We spent the first day at the James Ranch, a great example of a holistically managed operation.

 

 

cynthia2

 

Dave and Kay James and their adult children with their families are all working on this 400-acre ranch outside of Durango.

Enterprises include a raw milk dairy with herdshares and cheese, pastured pigs, laying hens, vegetable CSA, beef herd, native tree nursery, and an on-farm grill/farm market.

 

James Ranch dairy cattle are Jersey/Normande crosses

James Ranch dairy cattle are Jersey/Normande crosses

Dan James showed us his Jersey/Normande cross dairy cattle and explained how he grazed them. He also showed us his New Zealand style dairy parlor.

 

Dan James explains about the New Zealand style dairy they installed.

Dan James explains about the New Zealand style dairy they installed.

After the tour we heard from Paul Kaiser of Singing Frog Farms in Sonoma, California about his no-till operation with 125 CSA member program being fed year round from 2.5 acres. Excellent soil fertility practices!

The next day there was a tour of the Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch where the tour participants learned about how the 3500 acres of cropland was irrigated with an efficient irrigation system to reduce water use.

 

 

Pat Kaiser of Singing Frog Farm outside the James Ranch Market

Pat Kaiser of Singing Frog Farm outside the James Ranch Market

In the afternoon we had 4 concurrent collaborative workshops that participants selected from to help create a roadmap for western agriculture at the crossroads of productivity and conservation. Topics included: soil health and diversified vegetable production (led by Mike Jensen), grazing croplands (led by George Whitten), irrigation efficiency and land stewardship (led by Pat O’Toole), and farm and ranch planning for drought resilience (led by Ann Adams).

 

George Whitten and Pat O'Toole discussing sustainable ranching at the video premier.

George Whitten and Pat O’Toole discussing sustainable ranching at the video premier.

 

That evening we viewed the National Young Farmers Coalition’s premier of: “RESILIENT: Soil, Water and the New Stewards of the American West.” Over 60 people attended the premier and stayed to ask questions of the panel who included Mike Nolan, Travis Custer, Brendon Rockey, George Whitten, and Ann Adams.

 

Harrison Topp of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

Harrison Topp of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union

The final day of the conference included presentations from Eric Kuhn on the Colorado River Basin, Michael Melendrez on the science of soil health, Harrison Topp on incentives for microhydro, and case studies of conservation in action by Pat O’Toole and Brendon Rockey.

Thanks to Kate Greenberg and Daniel Fullmer of the National Young Farmers Coalition for organizing this educational and inspiring event and the Walton Family Foundation for their support of the program.

 

Kentucky State Holistic Grazing Planning Course

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Joshua Dukart at KYSU

Joshua Dukart at KYSU

 

 

On October 16th, Kentucky State University (KYSU) Research and Demonstration Farm in Frankfort, Kentucky offered a Holistic Management® Grazing Planning course taught by Holistic Management Certified Educator Joshua Dukart, Ken Andries of KYSU contracted with HMI to deliver this programming as part of KYSU’s “Third Thursday Thing” series. This event drew 68 participants who learned about Holistic Planned Grazing. In addition KYSU shared some of the grazing trials they are experimenting with at the Demonstration Farm. Several participants mentioned they hope that a longer program is offered at a later date to allow more intensive training in this subject.

Weaned goat kids on grazing demonstration plot.

Weaned goat kids on grazing demonstration plot.

The day focused predominantly on grazing principles, although participants were given the HMI Grazing Planning Manual and both paper and electronic grazing planning forms to help them in their grazing planning. Joshua shared his experience with these grazing principles and there was opportunity for others in the group to share their experiences and knowledge to further the networking portion of this event.

 

Evaluations from the day showed the following knowledge and confidence change:

 

Question% of Participants
The value of grazing planning 100%
How to assess quantity of forage in a pasture85%
How to improve land health with livestock85%
How to determine the number of animals your pasture can support100%
How to determine the number of paddocks100%
How to determine grazing periods92%
Calculating the number of paddocks for your system 85%
Determining how long animals will stay in each paddock (residency rates/grazing periods)85%
Assessing recovery periods77%
Ability as a grazier69%

 

What the Participants Had to Say

Have been putting together plans for pasture renovation, attending workshops, meetings with County Extension etc. This course has been excellent to help put it all together. Thank you for a great course!

I have a better understanding of overgrazing and rest periods.

I know how to assess available forage now.

I now know how to plan my kidding season to correspond with optimal grazing times. (seasonal grazing)

Holistic Grazing Tour for Organic Denmark

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Dr. Susan Beal (closest to camera) was the tour guide for this 5-day tour of 11 holistically managed, organic dairies in the Northeast.

Dr. Susan Beal (closest to camera) was the tour guide for this 5-day tour of 11 holistically managed, organic dairies in the Northeast.

 

In collaboration with Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA), HMI provided a tour of holistically-managed organic dairies in the Northeast for Organic Denmark, a non-profit association which has taken the lead within the European organic movement to bring together the entire organic sector in Denmark comprising of more than 145 companies.

The idea for this tour originated from HMI’s Getting Started Online Grazing Planning course. Two participants from that course, Carsten Markussen and Thorkild Nissen, who are members of Organic Denmark, requested a tour of holistically-managed, organic dairies in the northeast U.S. because the landscape was similar to Denmark.

HMI contacted Pam Moore, a Holistic Management practitioner and member of NODPA, to get her help in organizing the tour. Dr. Susan Beal was selected as tour guide for this 5-day tour. Dr. Beal is an Agricultural Science Advisor for PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture). She has studied veterinary acupuncture, animal chiropractic, and is well-versed in a variety of alternative health treatments and Holistic Management.

The tour was from September 8-12th and the 5 participants visited 11 different dairies in New York and Pennsylvania including Bendy Brook Farm, Springwood Farm, Hamilton Heights Dairy, Emerald Valley Dairy, Spring Creek Farm, Moore Farms, Brothers Ridge Farm, Bloodnick Family Farm, Engelbert Farms, Raindance Farm, and Dharma Lea Farm. All parties agreed the tour was a great success in exchanging ideas about holistic planned grazing, organic production, animal performance, and a host of other topics.

After the tour, Carsten wrote: “I want to express my deep joy and satisfaction about the trip that Ann, Pam, Susan, and Maggie [tour organizers and guides], and all the other farmers we met made for us. The enthusiasm and knowledge that came flooding towards us was amazing.” HMI would also like to thank Pam, Susan, Maggie, and the host farmers for their efforts in making this tour a success.

Oklahoma Holistic Planned Grazing Course Results

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pasture walksmHMI partnered with Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Association to put on a 2-day Holistic Planned Grazing course near Hulbert, Oklahoma on August 22-23rd. The class included a pasture walk on Spring Forest Farm managed by Julie Gahn. The course was taught by HMI Certified Educator Peggy Sechrist. A diverse group of approximately 24 participants learned how and why to form a holistic goal, how ecosystem processes function and provide biological wealth, and specifically the tools of animal grazing and animal impact before diving into the grazing planning process.

The group was fortunate to have in attendance, Dr. Ann Wells, DVM and Dr. Ron Morrow, recently retired from NRCS as state grazing lands specialist. As working partners, Ann and Ron have been teaching a holistic approach to livestock grazing and management for many years. Their knowledge of the local forage species and growing conditions was invaluable to the group’s learning in an environment where the average annual rainfall is 48 inches.

As a result of this training and participant interest, the Oklahoma Farmers and Ranchers Association expressed an interest in sponsoring more Holistic Management training in the near future. This training was made possible by funding from the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer/Rancher Development Program and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Based on surveys participants were influenced the following ways by this event.

What the Participants Had to Say

“Learning the benefits of the soil food web and how to maximize the recovery period was very valuable.”

“I learned how to assess the health of a pasture and listen to my land.”

“The problems and challenges of every farm are distinct. Plans and observations are idiosyncratic. It’s important to be flexible but still make a plan.”

 

Question % Participants
Do you intend to develop or modify a grazing plan as a result of today’s event? 93%
Do you intend to change management practices as a result of this training 86%
Overall satisfaction with course (good or better) 93%

 

 Increased Knowledge Experienced  
The value of grazing planning 93%
How to assess recovery periods 100%
How to assess quantity of forage in a pasture 87%
How to improve land health with livestock 87%
How to determine the number of animals your pasture can support 93%
How to determine grazing periods 100%

 

 Increased Confidence Experienced  
Determining the number of animals your land can support for grazing 93%
Assessing recovery periods 87%
Determining how long animals will stay in each paddock (residency rates/grazing periods) 87%
Ability as a grazier 80%
Assessing quantity of forage in a pasture 80%
Calculating the number of paddocks for your system 80%
Ability to analyze ecosystem health 67%

 

 

 

Book Review of Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country

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More people are learning about the importance of effective agricultural practices to improve land health. But many of those people have yet to make the connection between the vital importance of improving the carbon cycle. There may still be people arguing about the levels of CO2 in the air and what we should do about it, but when you start talking about carbon in the soil, most people are in agreement that increasing soil carbon levels creates a host of benefits.

In Grass, Soil, and Hope, Courtney White looks at the major issues facing humanity, issues like global hunger, water scarcity, environmental stress, economic stability, and climate change in the context of soil health. As agricultural producers we know how important soil health is. This is still a new concept for many folks who see soil as dirt that just needs some chemicals and you are ready to grow plants. What Courtney does in his title, Grass, Soil, and Hope, is make the linkages very clear between the soil (as a living medium teeming with life) and the grass that can bring so many positive ecosystem services that can resolve the intractable issues we face.

You may recognize some of the stories in this book, but there are many you may not have heard before. If you are interested in case studies of producers who are excellent examples of people improving soil health through no-till farming, composting, and livestock practices that improve natural habitat and biodiversity, as well as other practices like induced meandering and creative marketing to take the food produced from these practices to market at a price that pays the producer well, then you will find this book a treasure trove of ideas.

If you are not a fan of climate change arguments, you may want to skip the prologue in which Courtney makes the case for why we should care about CO2 levels. The chapters that follow have information for everyone on either side of the climate change issue. If you care about improved soil function and agricultural practice, that is the heart of this book (and the hope it brings to a burgeoning world population that needs more healthy food).

Stories of holistically managed ranches like the Sidwell’s JX Ranch and the work done by Gregg Simonds and Rick Danvir on the Deseret Ranch gives clear evidence of how improved livestock grazing practices can make a difference. Likewise stories about cover crop, no-till farming, and pasture cropping, as demonstrated by Dorn Cox, Gail Fuller, and Colin Seis, are all examples of how farming and ranching improves soil health and builds resilient landscapes.

What land practices does Courtney hone in on?

1)      Planned grazing

2)      Active restoration of riparian and wetland areas

3)      Removal of woody vegetation

4)      Conservation of open spaces

5)      No-till farming

6)      Building long-term resilience

More data would definitely be helpful to quantify which practices bring which results to encourage more agricultural producers to change practices and reap the benefits. As Courtney points out, no one is “immune” to the carbon cycle. We’d might as well understand it and use it to our advantage.

To purchase this book, visit http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/grass_soil_hope:paperback

 

 

Book Review of Healthy Land, Happy Families and Profitable Businesses

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Cover with Sky added 1200x864Healthy Land, Happy Families, and Profitable Businesses: Essays to Improve Your Land, Your Life and Your Bottom Line
By David Pratt

The focus of Healthy Land, Happy Families, and Profitable Businesses can be distilled down to the one sentence that is on the back jacket cover: “It doesn’t matter if you hit the bull’s eye if you’re aiming at the wrong target!” That sentiment may sound familiar to holistic managers, which isn’t surprising given that Dave Pratt runs Ranching for Profit, the school started by Stan Parson, one-time business partner of Allan Savory, founder of Holistic Management. There are many principle and curriculum similarities between Ranching for Profit and Holistic Management which is why many holistic managers have also taken a Ranching for Profit course as well. So it was with great interest that I read Dave’s new book to see what he would focus on.

This book is actually a compilation of Dave’s ProfitTips which is a newsletter he sends out to Ranching for Profit alumni. These 2-4 page essays are great because they articulate the key principle or concept succinctly. This book is chockfull of great information for the beginning or experienced rancher.

As noted in the title, the book touches on land, families, and finances. The first section on “Healthy Land” is all about grazing planning, animal performance, considerations of production systems (such as ranching with nature, and why you need to really keep healthy land in the forefront of your operation.

The next section is about “Happy Families.” In this section he focuses a lot on how the business can influence family life and how to work effectively with employees. Some of the later essays are particularly helpful regarding succession planning and helping the older generation really understand what they must do to begin transferring a healthy business.

The last section, “Profitable Businesses,” focuses on the critical issues of how to generate profit from a ranching business. Dave explores a variety of issues including diversification and opportunities, and a lot about how to maximize the resources you already have so you can get more profit per unit on the current resource base rather than expanding that resource base and losing margin. There’s even a great glossary at the end of the book that helps define any terms that aren’t familiar to the reader.

If you already know these principles, this is a great review. If you are trying to get these key concepts across to an intern or employee, this is a quick and easy way to start the conversation so you can delve deeper into how to more effectively graze your animals, define job responsibilities and outcomes, plan for profit, or any number of key management conversations that need to happen on pretty much any ranch. If you are looking for a book that will help you work on your business, commit to knowing your production finances, work on your relationships, and structure your operation effectively, Healthy Land, Happy Families, and Profitable Businesses will get you started on the basics and inspired to create healthy land, happy families, and profitable businesses.

To order this book, go to: www.ranchingforprofit.com

KTS Farm and NODPA Field Days

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KTS Farm Day participants exploring forage management options

 

 Open Gate Farm Day Report

When the heavy fog burned off by 9 am on September 26th at KTS Farm in Mansfield, PA a crowd of almost 40 participants had the opportunity to hear about how Kress Simpson and Mike Geiser now divide management and assets on KTS Farm, an organic dairy. After an introduction about how Holistic Management has influenced Kress’ decision on KTS the group headed out to the field to see the result of the grazing planning and implementation. Jim Weaver from Tioga County Planning and Troy Bishopp from Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District helped with the forage assessment activity which prompted a great conversation about forage quality and management.

Jim Weaver, Kress Simpson, and Dave Johnson sharing forage management goals and principles.

The group then moved to the New Zealand swing style parlor to learn how that has made a major difference in labor needs and quality of life on the farm.  In the afternoon, the conversations continued at the Mansfield Hose Company Hall as Kress shared how he developed the management transfer of his farm to Mike Geiser as well as some of the asset transfer while also supporting his son, Alec, in beginning his own dairy. This presentation was followed by a grain crop enterprise analysis presentation by Dave Johnson of NODPA. The last part of the afternoon was a whole farm goalsetting presentation with exercises by Ann Adams, HMI’s Director of Community Services.

KTS milking parlor

Evaluations of the event showed that 75% of participants intend to complete a whole farm goal and 80% intend to change management practices. 85% of participants expanded their network and 90% would recommend program to others. In total 3,820 acres will be influenced by this program.

 

Topic Covered Percent Change in Knowledge/Confidence
How to use Holistic Management to   help with succession planning

55%

How to use goal setting and testing   questions to determine priorities

34%

Ability to create a grazing plan

55%

Ability to determine plant recovery

50%

Ability to determine forage inventory

50%

Ability to increase forage productivity

50%

Ability to create a whole farm goal

65%

Ability to test decisions

50%

Intend to create or modify grazing plan

45%

 

Troy Bishopp discussing management of Queen Anne’s lace

Thanks to Kress and Tammy Simpson and Mike Geiser of KTS Farm for hosting the farm day and to our grantors CHS Foundation and Simply Organic Fund for their generous support and to NODPA for this opportunity for collaboration. Thanks also to Doug Wright of Dairymaster Parlors for supplying the morning refreshments for the day.

Testimonials

“Well done in a short amount of time.”

“Rewarding. Time well spent.”

 

Open Gate: Creekside Meadows Farm Day

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Some of the participants of the Creekside Meadow Farm Open Gate

 

 

It was a cold, overcast September day in Deruyter, New York at Creekside Meadow Farm, but that didn’t keep over 50 people from attending HMI’s Open Gate On-Farm Day.

 

 

Trica, Matt, and Cameron Park

After introductions at the farm store by HMI’s Director of Community Services, Ann Adams, New York Beginning Farmer and Holistic Management  Certified Educator, Erica Frenay talked about how Holistic Management had helped her family grow their farm. Tricia Park then told the story of Creekside Meadow Farm’s growth and how Holistic Management had helped the Park family when she was trained in HMI’s Beginning Women Farmer Training Program which was funded by the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Beginning Women Farmer Erica Frenay

After those case studies most of the crowd headed out on hay wagons to do a reading the land exercise with Holistic Management Certified Educator Phil Metzger and grazing specialist Troy Bishopp of Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District. Ann Adams led a value-based goal-setting exercise for other participants. In the afternoon she led an enterprise analysis exercise while some participants went back out into the field to do a forage assessment and crop problem-solving exercise. Everyone reconvened at the store for a Q&A about marketing and then broke into small groups to do some peer problem-solving for each participant.

 

 

Chickens are a part of the multi-species grazing at Creekside Meadow Farm

Evaluations from the event showed that 100% of the participants who completed the evaluation expanded their network and 95% of them will change management practices as a result of the program. Also, 95% of the participants would recommend this program to others. 66% of the participants intend to modify or develop a grazing plan and 57% will modify or develop a whole farm goal. These participants manage 1,279 acres of land that will be influenced by this program.

Topic Covered Percent Change in Knowledge
The value of grazing planning

21%

How to assess forage

38%

How to complete an enterprise analysis

35%

How to integrate livestock and cropping

29%

How to improve grazing practices

31%

 

Thanks to our host farmers Tricia, Matt, and Cameron Park, and to our co-organizer NY NOFA, and to our grantor CHS Foundation, and all our supporters: NY GLCI, Madison Soil and Water Conservation District, DeRuyter Farm and Garden Co-operative, Fertrell, Cornell University Cooperative Extension Madison County, Central New York RC&D, Kelley Meats, Wholeshare.com, and Devine Gardens Vermicompost, for making this event possible.

Testimonials

“Excellent hosts and a detailed tour of their farm and marketing.”

“Very informative and well thought out program.”