The American West has a rich history of cattle ranching thanks to wide, open spaces and a love for the land that still plays a large role in the culture today. Before the cattle came, the land was grazed by roaming herds of bison, naturally moving together to protect themselves against predators and contributing to the balanced ecosystems of the native grasslands. In this two-day workshop, we’ll learn from successful Colorado ranchers who have continued the practice of livestock grazing in an intentional way that mimics nature.
The result is improved soil, better water infiltration, increased biodiversity, fewer inputs, and a highly desirable product for consumers – nutrient-dense, grass-fed beef.
If you want to learn more about grass-fed ranching, discover how to overcome brittle environment and financial challenges, and improve the quality of all life on your ranch, please join us at the San Juan Ranch. You will take home Holistic Management tools that can improve your profits, water usage, land health, and more. You will be able to share ideas, ask questions, connect with like-minded peers, and learn from grazing experts.
Date: June 15 – 16, 2023
Time: 9:00AM – 4:00PM MDT
Cost: $350 (includes lunch both days) Walk-in price will be $400 if space is available.
Location: San Juan Ranch of Saguache, CO
Registration Deadline: June 8, 2023
Scholarship Application Deadline: June 1, 2023
Full and partial scholarships are available for a limited time.
Topics will include:
- How to create a grazing plan that works with nature
- How to increase forage with less water – even in a drought
- How to improve degraded soil in a brittle environment
- How to get on financial track and start planning for profits
- How to determine if cover crops are appropriate and cost effective for your grazing operation
- How to mitigate risk and sharpen your eye for necessary improvements before they become problems
- How to identify, manage, and monitor key indicators – ecosystem, livestock production, soil health, water infiltration, and more
- How to examine risk, stress, and quality of life in production decisions
- How to consider the roles of wildlife, birds, and pollinators on your land
- How to determine next steps given your unique resource mix
- How to set the next generation up for success financially, socially, and environmentally
About the San Juan Ranch
52501 County Road U Saguache, CO
San Juan Ranch is a certified organic, grass-fed beef ranch located in the San Luis Valley near Saguache, Colorado, owned and operated by seasoned Holistic Management practitioners, George Whitten and Julie Sullivan.
The ranch runs on both private and public land. This includes the home ranch and farm, their Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allotment, leased ranch land, and farmland with organic cover crops for grazing.
Ranching in the Intermountain West needs to adapt to changing environmental conditions, such as precipitation patterns, range biota, and unpredictable weather patterns, as well as recurring drought and the long-term impacts of climate change. With this in mind, George and Julie closely monitor the various land under their management to determine which areas to graze in any year.
On the home ranch, George and Julie have reduced water usage while increasing the diversity and vigor of their irrigated meadows and uplands. This land has held onto its productivity in the worst of the drought, due to decades of attention to soil porosity, plant density, and soil cover. They manage their BLM grazing permit proactively by alternating timing of grazing, monitoring utilization, and species diversity to ensure range health.
George and Julie work closely with local soil scientists and range ecologists to continue learning and refining management practices. Past partnerships include working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the U.S.F.W.S. Baca National Wildlife Refuge to improve wildlife habitat and maintain water flows in wetlands. They also work on a restoration project with Holistic Management International and the New Mexico State Land Office using cattle to restart biological processes at a former test site of Kirtland Air Force Base. For the past fifteen years they have partnered with organic farmers who raise green cover crops as grazing forage on farmland. Grazing cattle on these fields increases soil carbon, improves soil structure, and provides high-quality finishing forage for their cattle. San Juan Ranch is certified by the National Audubon Society Conservation Ranch Certified Bird-Friendly Habitat program.
Julie Sullivan & George Whitten
Owners/Managers, San Juan Ranch
For George Whitten and Julie Sullivan, every day is a chance to bridge the gap between environmentalism and agriculture. Personally and professionally, they work to dissolve the perceived differences between ranchers and environmentalists, urban and rural people, and to build bridges between them. They strive to find real solutions to heal the planet and keep family agriculture alive in the U.S.
George’s grandfather homesteaded in the San Luis Valley in the 1890s and the family has been ranching either sheep or cattle in the valley since that time. As an active member of the ranching community since the 1970s, George has worked towards collaborative forward-thinking management of resources in the San Luis Valley. A practitioner of Holistic Management since the 1980s, George uses this as a lens and adapts management practices to fit the land and operation under his management. The symbiotic relationship between cattle, grasslands, humans, and the capacity of intact grasslands to store carbon are central to George’s vision and practice as a rancher. George has been deeply involved in sustainable water management for over 30 years and currently serves on the Colorado Agriculture Commission, focusing on soil health initiatives, livelihood issues for all producers, and supporting regenerative practices that build bridges between producers.
Julie was born and raised in California. After working as an actor, arts administrator, and starting a private progressive preschool in Seattle, she earned her Master’s in Environmental Education and subsequently taught interdisciplinary environmental education at both undergraduate and graduate levels for the Audubon Expedition Institute. She spent those years challenging students to look beyond surface conflicts between environmentalism and agriculture and to see the common values and goals shared by both points of view. After over a decade living outside teaching for the Expedition, Julie joined George at the ranch in 2001. Julie works with Quivira Coalition New Agrarian Program (NAP) as mentor support as well as offering mentor training workshops to other programs in North America.
Sam Schmidt and Noelle McDonough
Assistant Ranch Managers, San Juan Ranch
Sam Schmidt and Noelle McDonough are New York City-area natives who came to the NAP program and the San Luis Valley through a deep desire to participate in and learn about regenerative ranching in the arid West. Sam began his agricultural career as a whole animal butcher in New York City and worked at multi-species and grass-fed beef finishing operations before his NAP apprenticeship. Noelle came from a culinary background with a deep interest in food and environmental justice. Her career has involved work on permaculture farms in Hawaii, goat dairies in Wisconsin, and as a whole-animal butcher in New York. As full-time staff, Sam and Noelle continue to build their skills, particularly in stockmanship, pasture management in drought, and climate change restraints. They work on revisioning the ranch business structure and enterprises, collaborating with Rocky Mountain Farmers Union on national ag policy work, and developing skills for managing a ranch business.
Rancher, Interim Executive Director & Certified Educator, Holistic Management International
With 27 years of ranching experience using Holistic Management, Wayne has had an identity crisis. When he joined the 11,000-acre family ranching business he called himself a cattle rancher. He changed to calling himself a grass farmer. Later still, he called himself a soil-microbe farmer, though he has always marketed beef. Privileged to work with his father, Tom Knight, who was an early adopter of Holistic Management under Allan Savory – Stan Parsons consulting, Wayne enthusiastically increased and intensified the practices HMI teaches. He became a Certified Educator in 2006 and was actively involved with the Southern African Certified Educator community organization, Community Dynamics. He has spoken at numerous conferences in Southern Africa, trained and mentored farmers, hosted open days on his property, and has written about his positive results using Holistic Management. Before joining the team at HMI Wayne served as a board member of the organization for 8 years. Through his enthusiasm for Holistic Management, he has traveled widely visiting farmers who practice high-density, long recovery grazing practices in Southern Africa, Australia, and the US. As a young graduate with a Science degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of Natal, South Africa, he traveled across the American West working on ranches in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, California, and New Mexico. When not involved in Holistic Management you will find him fishing, birding, hiking, or exploring wild spaces and places with his family. An enthusiastic traveler, hunter, and photographer, he loves discovering new places and making new friends.
Thank You to Our Funders
Martha Records and Richard Rainaldi
Thank You to Our Collaborators
Scholarship funding support comes from the L&L Nippert Charitable Foundation.
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