Faith Hollow Ranch was the site of the November 14th HMI Open Gate near Corpus Christi, Texas. 23 participants joined owners Tracy and Bill Litle, HMI Program Manager Peggy Cole, Dr. Wayne Hanselka, Jose de la Luz “Pepe” Martinez, and Aislynn Campbell to hear about the restoration process, management techniques and considerations for assessing forage, and the lack of supply of locally grown food.
The morning began with Tracy Litle sharing the story of Faith Hollow Ranch and how she and her husband, Bill, were using animal impact to bring back the grasses in both the bare, cleared pastures and highly dense brush pastures. Through the use of Holistic Management planned grazing, the application of compost teas and the management and monitoring techniques they have learned through HMI, they have improved the soil health, enhancing the ecosystem processes that are critical to sustainable grasslands in the 3 years of practicing holistic management.
Tracy then gave a brief overview of the monitoring process and explained that they were currently using 2 methods to monitor the pastures and brush land. She taught the group one of the land monitoring methods and sent them out into the field to practice. A brief discussion followed regarding the observations and improvements seen.
The morning finished on a pasture walk with Betsy Ross, of Sustainable Growth Texas and Betsy Ross Grass Fed Beef, where she shared the why’s of what was growing in regards to the soil health and the soil biology. She explained the soil food web, the relationship between the fungal and bacterial organisms and how we, as land owners, can readily manage the soil web to produce the desired landscape we want.
After a delicious, gluten-free lunch of brisket, homemade gluten-free bread, potato salad and macaroons, Aislynn Campbell of Grow Local South Texas, spoke to the need of growing the local food system and improving the access to nutritious food. She shared her concern over the lack of producers in the area, in spite of the ever increasing demand she experiences at the farmers’ markets. One of the goals of Grow Local South Texas is to grow the number of local producers through involvement in the Learning Garden which allows for hands on experience and ongoing educational programs for vegetable and fruit growers.
Pepe Martinez of The National Grazinglands Coalition and NRCS gave a short presentation on available forage for livestock and wildlife noting the diet composition by percent of grass, forbs and browse each species requires. Availability and seasonal differences were identified as well.
Following Pepe, Dr. Wayne Hanselka, a Certified Professional in Rangeland Management, spoke to assessing forage in regard to determining stocking densities and stocking rates, the management factors to consider, wildlife needs, and the changing forage requirements for the cow at different stages. He and Pepe then led the group in two exercises to determine the amount of grazeable forage.
Bill Litle ended the day with a show and tell in compost tea brewing. He explained the brewer, spraying equipment and compost requirements, answering questions as they surfaced.
Thanks to the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation for their support of this program, and to our collaborators: Sustainable Growth Texas, NRCS, Grow Local STX, TRM International, National Grazing Lands Coalition, and the Corpus Christi Downtown Farmers Market.
The 23 participants filling out an evaluation represented 17,746 acres with a variety of enterprises including cattle, pigs, goats, poultry, hay and vegetables.
Here what some of the participants said:
- Very informative & I liked the passion that was portrayed by each speaker.
- Good qualified educators who respectfully worked together with different perspectives.
- Very good. Brought to my attention the biology of the soil.
- Very informative. Able to ask a lot of questions.
- I intend to include cattle & goats in my grazing plan.
- I intend to learn more about the biology of the soil.
- I intend to start a book of pictures representing different pastures for “before” examples & soil examples.
- I intend to look at root systems more closely, push to keep from using herbicides.
- I intend to learn more about forage assessment & Holistic Management.
Here’s what the evaluations showed:
|Outcome||% of respondents|
|Better understand how grazing can influence soil health||74%|
|Feel more confident in their ability to see indicators of soil health||83%|
|Feel more confident in their ability to assess forage quantity and quality||74%|
|Intend to change any management practices/apply ideas they learned as a result of this event?||88%|
|Intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of this event?
Would recommend this event to others
|Increased knowledge of critical monitoring criteria to increase land health||65%|
|Expanded their network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to them?||100%|