Although Joe Morris’s ancestors have been in the ranching business in California since the 1860’s, Joe grew up in San Francisco. While in college he worked summers at various ranches. “I had a great affinity for the rangeland, the animals and the culture,” says Joe. While teaching back east, he discovered the works of Wendell Berry. “They helped me connect my love of ranching with my desire to contribute to the common good,” says Joe. So, despite being told he couldn’t make money in the cattle business, Joe decided to pursue ranching. As Joe puts it, “If this is what the best ranchers around me were saying, I either had to give up my dreams or change the rules or pursue them in a different way. Holistic Management was my way to change the rules.”
“I went back to California, got married and took over management of a 200 acre ranch that had been in the family for years. I started reading about Holistic Management and that sealed the deal for me,” says Joe. He started simply, implementing planned grazing, but he was still making most of his decisions using gut instincts. Eventually, Joe took a course from Holistic Management Certified Educator, Naseem Rakha, which introduced him to the Holistic Management decision making framework. “The framework directs your work towards what you want and helps you create consistent progress towards that goal,” says Joe. It’s useful for making decisions together, as it’s healthier and easier to have a conversation when your goal is written down. We look at our goal whenever we are making important financial or family decisions. Most of the people I know that use the Holistic Management decision making framework in their lives are profitable and happy people.”
“I either had to give up my dreams or change the rules or pursue them in a different way. Holistic Management was my way to change the rules. Most people I know that use the Holistic Management decision making framework in their lives are profitable and happy people.”
As a result of practicing Holistic Management, Joe’s operation has grown. He now directly manages 5000 acres and has expanded his enterprises to include a direct marketing grassfed beef operation, contract grazing, and ag tourism. He also sees changes in his land. “Our land is different. Our creeks and riparian areas have more vegetation, we are seeing more native and non-native grasses, and healthier tree populations,” says Joe. This improved land is paying off financially as well. “We are able to make more profit on a per acre basis than neighboring ranches that also run stockers.”
Joe meets many young people that are excited about opportunities in ranching and when asked why young ranchers should consider practicing Holistic Management, Joe says, “Not only is the land healthier, but you will make more consistent progress towards the life you want.”
Today, Joe continues to work on this own path toward the greater good. “There is a lot of value in the training HMI provides, but people also need the fellowship and support of experienced practitioners to help them stay focused.“ That’s why he spends so much time with young people.