HMI’s 2016 Gathering Recap
Land, Food, Health
Paicines Ranch of Paicines, CA
October 14-16, 2016
Cultivating Community: Land, Food, Health proved to be no ordinary conference! On the first day, HMI and Paicines Ranch welcomed 121 people to the sold out Paicines Ranch Open Gate. The focus of the day was exploring grazing innovations that improved soil health, but other major parts of the program included what bird populations could tell land managers about how their land is doing, and how Paicines Ranch is encouraging a new generation of young, creative land managers through their apprenticeships.
After a short introduction to Holistic Management by Kathy Harris, the day started out with a walk down to the pond to see and listen for birds while the day was still young. Mel Preston of Point Blue Conservation Science did a short demonstration of how she does a “point count” of birds and talked about the research they are doing on Paicines Ranch to determine the number of birds and bird species and how that correlates to soil health and land management practices. Sallie Calhoun shared the history of the ranch and what she and her ranch team have been working on since 2001, when Sallie and her husband, Matt, bought the ranch. Most participants were surprised to hear that the area where they were standing was once a wetland, and that there were 5 springs in the area. Joe Morris of Morris Grassfed Beef then led the group to the shade of some giant oaks where he shared how he and his ranch apprentices are using holistic planned grazing on the ranch.
Apprentices Isaac and Michelle shared their grazing charts and how integral the planned grazing is to their management. With 3 people working together to manage 3000 cattle across 3 different properties, a planned grazing chart is the only way they can keep track of all that complexity. Participants were able to see how the grazing management and stock density is helping move Paicines Ranch toward their holistic goal, which includes more biodiversity, including more perennial grasses and oak seedlings becoming established. Sallie shared that when she first bought the ranch, she “KNEW” that cattle were bad. But when she discovered Holistic Management and learned how cattle could be used as a tool, she really caught the passion for regenerating the land and restoring the native prairie grasses and oak savannahs.
Michelle shared an example of how she introduced cattle to milk thistle and taught them to eat it. Then, participants split up into small groups with educators to practice Bullseye biological monitoring.
After a great lunch of Paicines Ranch grassfed beef burgers, participants learned about how sheep and grapes go together and how when you design cropping systems to integrate livestock you increase production and decrease inputs, even reducing water use by 85-90%! Kelly Mulville, Paicines Ranch Manager, shared his thoughts of how to design all cropping systems, and particularly vineyards, so you can easily integrate livestock into them so they can do more work for you like pruning and fertilizing and give you a second crop from that area. Ellen Kerschner also provided more explanation of how to attract pollinators and how doing so can greatly increase the main “cash crop” income. The day concluded with an enthusiastic discussion on how to provide opportunities for more young people in farming, and take these ideas and spread them to more farms and ranches.
The field day itself was the start of that ripple effect as participants for this event influence 340,632 acres.
Some of the key learnings they took away from this event were:
1) How sheep and grapes go hand in hand when you take a holistic design focus on vineyards, 2) How weeds like milk thistle can actually be a good habitat and feed for birds who provide other ecosystem benefits to support a farm or ranch, 3) The diversity of pollinators and the services they provide, 4) Thinking differently about land management and ownership, and 5) Water can be conserved with better land management.
The evening ended with a Wine and Cheese Fundraiser Launch Party in the saloon-setting of Club 25, one of the many buildings on the ranch, where people had a chance to unwind, enjoy a variety of “from-scratch” hor d’oeuvres and local, sustainable wine. Doniga Markegaard, a scholarship recipient for Holistic Management’s Certified Educator training program, spoke of the impact HMI’s training has made on her family’s life and business. We also had a “giving tree” where folks could pick a leaf and pledge to give toward HMI training sponsorships or programs that interest them. Spirits were high and everyone was ready for a fun, informative and meaningful weekend ahead!
Our Cultivating Community: Land, Food, Health conference kicked off on Saturday morning with 230 eager people, ready to hear keynote speaker Joel Salatin, who set the tone with his usual charm and candor. He spoke on “Building Community through Farm Clusters & the Apprenticeship Program” as he is hailed an expert on these subjects, as evidenced by his sustainable and wildly successful Polyface Farms.
Breakout sessions commenced and lots of terrific dialogue began. Saturday brought a vast array of sustainability topics like soil health for thriving bee populations by Dr. Jonathan Lundgren, the low-down on kombucha and its many benefits from Hannah Crum, the fibershed movement from Rebecca Burgess, the social and cultural aspects of land management discussion led by Nikki Silvestri that literally brought people to tears and so many more. (To see a complete list of conference topics and speakers, click here.)
And as always, our meals and evening festivities didn’t disappoint! Lunch included Paicines Ranch grass-fed beef enchiladas, rice and spicy vegetables. On Saturday night, we enjoyed Paicines Ranch grass-fed beef bourguignon, free-range chicken, farm-fresh vegetables and decadent desserts by Fisher Catering of Hollister, CA.
Joel Salatin gave a special dinner speech, expressing the ever-important message to sustainable farmers, ranchers and consumers that “we’re all in this together”. The crowd reciprocated with cheers and a standing ovation. We opened the bar and the Shawn Clark Family Band blew us away with both their vibrant, original songs and spot-on Johnny Cash covers! People let their hair down and kicked up their heels into the night. In the background, we had items for our silent auction displayed and the fun, competitive bidding natures came out.
Bright and early, Sunday came forth with another full day of conference sessions. Brock Dolman spoke about the issue on everyone’s mind – water. Jack Varian presented on agri-tourism and multiple generation family ranch succession while Paul & Elizabeth Kaiser impressed their engaged audience with their profitable and intensive, no-till, vegetable production talk. Our hungry crowd fed on you guessed it – Paicines Ranch grass-fed beef – this time, a delicious meatloaf that could rival Mom’s!
Following the Gathering, Holistic Management Certified Educator Dr. Judi Earl, along with an expert panel of graziers, led a sold out 2-day workshop on Advanced Holistic Grazing. 32 livestock manager participants were engaged in presentations and discussions on a wide range of advanced grazing topics:
- problems and solutions for managing grazing in vineyards and other perennial crops
- specific permaculture ideas you can apply to your ranching operation to make grazing planning more effective
- case study examples showing 664% increase in forage production in 3 years and how to turn cropland into pasture for finishing grassfed beef
- new research on soil microbiology — how healthy soil microbes create soil fertility with only solar power and how planned grazing can greatly improve soil health
- specific details of managing diverse herds of multiple species
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and actively participate in the thought-provoking breakout sessions, field day and grazing workshop. We at HMI feel truly humbled by the caliber of speakers and their amazing presentations and discussions they brought forth. We are so grateful to our Paicines Ranch hosts – Sallie Calhoun and Matt Christiano, the Paicines Ranch staff, HMI’s Board of Directors and Certified Educators, our generous sponsors, our hard-working volunteers and every soul that attended this special event. From the bottom of our happy hearts, thank you!
-The HMI Staff
What Some of Our Participants Had to Say
“Very inspiring, invigorating and encouraging. Joel Salatin brought much needed humor and the barn dance really helped with unwinding/socializing after a long intensive day of learning.””Wonderful location, knowledgeable presenters, friendly and helpful staff, great food, wonderful group of attendees. Well done all the way around!”
“Great community and very supportive. Had a great time.”
“Homey, supportive, integrated, questioning…”
“Fantastic, relaxed, inviting atmosphere. Great people, good selection of talks/topics.”
“Great ranch, a lot of fun, clean nice operation.”
“Great, positive, charged.”
“Very good. Food was excellent.”
“Great networking opportunity, great community.”
“Wonderful. Great folks, tasty food, love the music.”
“Liked the diversity of people and presenters.”
“I thought it was really great, and having it at a ranch is way better than a hotel.”
“Awesome, so much info, inspiring, overwhelming.”
“Loved the ranch setting.”
“Well done. We are appreciative of all the hard work that went into putting this together. Thank you team HMI!!”
“Awesome! And the food was excellent.”
100% say they expanded their network and were satisfied with the event.
78% said they would change management practices as a result of the program.
Conference Session Videos
Here are a few videos of the conference sessions were we able to capture. You may have to adjust your volume of some of the videos.
Social Aspects of Agriculture
Kombucha Kamp 101
Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser
No-Till Vegetable Production
Seeding and Wildlife
HMI’s International Panel
Holistic Management® in the World
Dr. Thomas Cowan, MD
Health and Diet
Charlotte Smith Interviews Joel Salatin on Farm Marketing
Click on any image below to open the slideshow.
This event is made possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors.