A beautiful morning and Sue Price’s breakfast table greeted 45 guests for the Open Gate at the 77 Ranch in Blooming Grove, TX on October 21, 2017. In the shelter and shade of a tent, participants learned from a variety of experts involved in the ongoing research on the 77. After a welcoming talk about Holistic Management by Peggy Cole, ranch owners Sue and Gary Price related the story of the last 31 years collecting adjacent pieces of land as they came up for sale. To date, the ranch includes 2500 acres – mostly old cotton farming land, as Ellis and Navarro counties were once the top cotton producing counties in Texas.
The Price’s holistic goal focuses first on the financial – they must make the land payments for the ranch to exist. To help them do that and to regenerate that old worn out cotton land, they chose a cow-calf cattle operation as their primary enterprise. They sell all their production, targeting the all-natural markets.
Next up, a panel of professionals took turns explaining how they are involved with the ranch and how their group can help other producers. Bill Fox presented research by TX AgriLife Research on precipitation infiltration in well-managed grasslands. Jay Whiteside described quail research and release programs on the ranch, Jenny Pluhar outlined TXGLC (Texas GrazingLands Coalition) support for grasslands management and Larry Eubanks explained that FSA (Farm Services Administration is way more then low-interest loans. Matt Machacek, NRCS, is a frequent visitor to the ranch and encouraged all to use NRCS in their decision-making toward their own ranch goals.
Holistic Management Certified Educator Peggy Sechrist presented a talk on the role of soil health in the water cycle (and beyond). As the BBQ lunch was being prepared, Tina Hendon of the Tarrant Regional Water District introduced that organization, then during the lunch break Morgan & Michelle, also from Tarrant Regional Water District explained the amazing stream demonstration happening on their trailer. Designed to mimic the action of stream flows on riparian banks with deep rooted grasses vs bare ground, the demonstration showed clearly how erosion destroys the natural meander of streams.
After lunch was a field tour, with the first stop one of Gary & Sue’s original parcels which had great biodiversity and tall thick bunches of little bluestem on a high hill with great views. Everyone talked a bit about the grazing management, then Robert Perez talked more about the quail release program. Lairy Johnson followed, discussing Miller-Coors dedication to land stewardship that helps produce great tasting water for great tasting beer.
Peggy Sechrist conducted the small group exercise with a monitoring sheet. All the groups reported back and seemed to enjoy looking closely at the land. After moving to yet another location, Bill Fox described the water infiltration studies, Gary Price described aspects of his management and Matt Machacek dug up the grass roots that indicate thriving grasslands.
Though some headed on home, many returned to the tent site for wrap-up and socializing, helping to clean up with that satisfied air of a day well spent.
Here are some of the results from the day:
- Expanded Network – 100%
- Would recommend event to others – 100%
- Overall event satisfaction – 100%
- Intention to change management practices – 93%
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