Forrest Armke & Sons
Forrest was raised in an agricultural family. His dad was a farmer; his uncle, a rancher. Unfortunately, while farming in the mid 1960’s, Forrest was poisoned by DDT and stopped farming– fearing further chemical exposure. But he missed the agricultural life and eventually turned to ranching, working at several ranches through the years, practicing conventional ranching techniques. “Back then, you could park a truck and never cover a blade of grass,” says Forrest.
In the late 1980’s, Forrest began working at the Ford Ranch, which is managed under a charity trust. By law, the ranch must produce profits or risk being sold off. But the Ford Ranch was struggling “There wasn’t enough forage to create the income we needed. We had to do something,” says Forrest. It was around that time that Forrest heard of Holistic Management, but he was skeptical. “There’s no way that’s going to work here,” he thought to himself. But after seeing how well it worked on the land, he began Holistic Management training. “I was hungry and my mind was wide open.” From that point forward, Forrest and his family have been avid Holistic Management practitioners.
“If we hadn’t started practicing Holistic Management, we would probably have sold the land at fire sale prices.”
Forrest practices Holistic Grazing, which has brought enormous benefits for his herd, the land, and the bottom line. “Before practicing Holistic Management, our calves were about 350 pounds and now they are routinely 700 pounds.” The increased forage on his land has been a contributing factor to their growth. “Our land is so much healthier now. We are seeing plants growing that haven’t been seen since the 1930’s. Our water stock ponds aren’t as full after a rain because more moisture is being held in the soil, close to the roots and not running off.”
The ability to retain more moisture in the soil has really benefited Forrest recently, as his region has been seriously affected by drought. “While I did have to move about half of my herd out of state, I had enough forage to keep half the heard here on the ranch. Many of my neighbors sold every head they had, supplemented heavily with hay or moved the entire herd out of state.”
Forrest has also seen a tremendous growth in wildlife on the ranch. The hoof action and the fertilizer from the cattle help to restore the land for wildlife. When the cattle are rotated out, they leave nesting grounds and habitat for doves, quail, and white tail deer, among other species.
“What Holistic Management has done for the country is amazing.”
“Holistic Management is about getting nature to do the work for you,” says Forrest. This understanding has allowed him to cut back on farm expenses. It used to take 12 men on horseback to move 500 cows and now it takes two men on 4-wheelers. Understanding how nature works has also allowed him to reduce field flies and ticks by adding sulfur to the cow’s mineral diets and by not allowing hunters to field dress outdoors. Years of holistic grazing has increased beneficial bugs to his land as well, with dung beetles making quick work of cow patties – driving the nutrients into the soil while Coachella bugs are reducing prickly pears.
Forrest, his wife, and two sons work the ranch as a team, following the Holistic Management framework. Everyone has input into plans, they know what their goal is, what they need to do, and together they plan and replan for the future. “What Holistic Management has done for the country is amazing,” says Forrest.