Socially Engaged with the Biological – Learning and Networking at Barking Cat
A nice little cool front set the stage for a most delightful outside day at Barking Cat Farm. About 46 interested folks gathered September 12, 2015 at Barking Cat Farm in West Tawakoni, TX to learn how the farm is evolving since beginning the practice of Holistic Management in 2012. Proprietors Kim Martin and Laurie Bostic were students in HMI’s first class of Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas. There they learned to discover their goal and make every decision count toward that goal. It started out simple: We want the farm to make a profit and we want to have fun. Their journey has been about careful planning to manage their time and enterprises for a more efficient operation…and it’s working!
The day began with an introduction to Holistic Management International by Program Manager Peggy Cole. She described HMI’s various programs in service to its mission “to educate people to manage land for a sustainable future.” Holistic Management Certified Educators in Training, Lauren Bradbury and Lauri Celella, walked the group through the principles and practices of Holistic Management, then spent some time on each of the 4 ecosystem processes (water cycle, mineral cycle, biological community and energy flow) that comprise the whole of any ecosystem.
They divided the participants into small groups of 2 to 6 people and gave each group a monitoring form with which to find and examine a bit of land on the farm, then return to report on what they saw.
Kim Martin’s talk on the experience with Holistic Management and how it changed the farm was excellent. From discovering the goal to the recent decision to close the farm for a year and transition into enterprises that are more perennial, every step has been about creating healthier land while creating a healthier business that allows more fun and free time for Kim & Laurie.
One of the treasured outcomes from the beginning women farmers course is the wonderful network of other women who share a passion for the land. Many of those other women were present at this open gate. One mentor who changes lives consistently is Betsy Ross. Betsy talked to this group about the soil food web. Kim and Laurie set up microscopes so the participants could see the amazing life in compost tea, projected onto the screen. Betsy explained how each of the odd shapes on the screen functions in the soil food web. A former teacher, Betsy held the audience spellbound as she brought the world of microbes into their awareness. The Q&A session was fascinating as practical application of these concepts was realized.
Lunch included food from the farm and some especially nice pies, so all were ready for a tour of Barking Cat. We began with a look at the making of compost tea. CD Pounds brought a home-made brewer to show. Kim showed their larger scale brewer and described the modifications they had made. Laurie showed the tractor sprayer and the modifications they made to that – the primary concern being that nozzles are large enough not to damage the delicate life you are spraying onto the land and leaves.
We followed Betsy through the woods and into the fields, stopping to learn what is growing and why. We looked at sites for the fabulous forest dinners Kim & Laurie plan to serve and the permaculture features that will be producing when we return next year.
The 19 participants filling out an evaluation represented 1405 acres with a variety of enterprises including cattle, sheep poultry, bees, vegetables and fruit.
Here is what they had to say about the day:
“It was good value. I took 4 pages of notes, which means I was learning. I want my wife to attend if this is done again.”
“Excellent presenters & information shared.”
“Very good – this was more than I anticipated. Overwhelmed by what I didn’t know.”
“Very informative, lots of new information. I liked all of the speakers & the pie!”
“I really liked getting to walk through the land to identify grasses.”
“Time to start learning more about HMI.”
|Confident in your ability to incorporate new management strategies to build resilience in soils plants & animals||84%|
|Confident in your ability to improve land health||79%|
|Increased knowledge of how to observe and assess ecosystem processes||79%|
|Intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned as a result of this event||83%|
|intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event||89%|
|Increased knowledge of critical monitoring criteria to build biological wealth||79%|
|Increased knowledge of understanding the role of soil biology in the water cycle||68%|
|Did you expand your network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you?||100%|
|Overall Satisfaction of the event (rated good to excellent)||100%|
|Would recommend this event to others||100%|
This Open Gate Farm day is partially funded by a grant from The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.