On July 13th a small but engaged group of 13 producers and educators met to learn about Holistic Management and the Avila Valley Barn business. The weather was perfect and the setting was excellent. The Smith family, owners/proprietors of this unique establishment, was there to host the group and provide for any needs.
The day started with a brief overview of how the business got to its current status. Debbie Smith shared a very interesting progression from a simple roadside farm stand to a business today that not only sells the produce from the ranch, but has a deli, further processed foods, hay rides, pony rides, various farm animals for young visitors to enjoy, wedding venue, and more. It has become quite complex and therefore, Holistic Management offers some great help in making decisions.
Raven and Jake Lukehart-Smith (Jake is Debbie’s son) then explained how Holistic Management was changing the way that decisions were being made on the place. Both Raven and Jake are about to enter training to become Holistic Management Certified Educators. Jake does the farming. Raven handles a lot of the animal related agro-tourism business. Together, they are coordinating with neighboring ranches who supply some of the produce (mostly apples) that are then sold in raw or further processed form (think pies!!). Both Raven and Jake pointed out that having a way to sit down with the family to make decisions for this complex operation is a real powerful tool. Raven took the Holistic Management class taught by Rob Rutherford when she was an undergrad – which provided the impetus to pursue the Certified Educator program. She is currently teaching classes at Cal Poly as a lecturer in the Horticulture and Crop Science department and pursuing her Master’s degree.
Rob Rutherford then gave a brief overview of Holistic Management followed by Craig McMillan who lectures in the Viticulture and Horticulture departments at Cal Poly. He gave a brief overview of systems thinking.
After a wonderful lunch prepared by the deli there at the Avila Valley Barn, the group proceeded to look at ecosystem process function at three different sites. One was an area that had been cover-cropped and then grazed by cattle. The second was in the apple and peach orchard where drip irrigation was being used to water the trees. The inter-rows had been grazed by Raven’s horses. It looked great! Finally, we looked at an irrigated pasture that was being grazed by the horses using portable fence to regulate stock density. At each site, participants “graded” the four ecosystem processes from “A” to “F” and then shared results and discussed the potential at each site.
Finally, to conclude the day, a decision-making exercise was conducted. Jake and Raven distributed their holistic goal and then an example of a decision that they had previously made (whether to graze the horses on irrigated pasture). Following that, a current issue was being considered (whether to add hard cider to the mix of products to be sold) by Avila Valley Barn. Groups of two each went through the decision tests to come up with a response—it passed!
On-site feedback for the event was very good. A hearty “Thank You!” goes to our hosts Avila Valley Farm and to our sponsor, Sallie Calhoun – The Christiano Family Fund, an advised fund of the Community Foundation for Benito County.
The 13 participants represent just over 200 acres under management. Here is what they had to say:
“I liked ability to ask questions & hands on experience.”
“Very positive. Well run and informative.”
“Very good lecturers! Loved Jake & Raven’s case study examples.”
“Excellent coverage of material and practical examples.”
“Loved the venue & the people were outstanding.”
|Overall Satisfaction of this event (Rated good to excellent)||100%|
|Confidence in ability to make decisions holistically||92%|
|Confidence in ability to assess ecosystem process effectiveness||85%|
|Increased knowledge of How to use Holistic Management to grow a business||100%|
|intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned as a result of this event||85%|
|Expand your network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you||100%|
|Recommend this event to others||100%|