Art McElroy of Saskatchewan was born into farming, working on both his parent’s and uncle’s farms. At the age of 44, he began a grain farm, traditional feed lot and a cow-calf operation. Art, who has always loved farming, worked hard to make the operation successful. While farm revenues were adequate, he struggled with financial ups and downs, and frequently felt that he wasn’t creating the life he wanted. “Everything took so much effort, but we weren’t getting where we wanted to be.”
Over the next few years, Art took several courses that opened up his thinking to different ways of working with the land. He began rotational grazing while phasing out continuous cropping. As he learned more, he began to focus on soil health – realizing that the ½ % of organic matter he had in his soil when he bought his farm was not sufficient. In 2006, Art and several family members took a course from Holistic Management Certified Educator, Don Campbell. In Art’s case, he decided to seed his place back to grass and that decision has paid off in more ways than he could ever have imagined.
“My land is in great shape and I have more grass than I know what to do with.”
Through practicing Holistic Planned Grazing, Art has not only increased the amount of organic matter in his soil, but he has also increased his stock rate to 1,200 head by increasing his stock density per acre. Through it all, Art still focuses on soil health. “Biological life can’t exist without organic matter and I try to keep living green plants on my land as much as possible each season. That increased biological life, in turn, increases the productivity of my land. My land is in great shape and I have more grass than I know what to do with. My water infiltration rate is even better than some of the organic farmers around me.”
“We’re not hanging by a string anymore.”
Holistic Financial Planning and the holistic decision making process has also benefited Art economically as well. “We’re not hanging by a string anymore,” says Art. “We just paid off our mortgage, so now my biggest expense is buying animals and that’s an asset that increases over time.” By decreasing his input costs, Art now has the flexibility of stacking operations and exploring other enterprises. He can also start thinking about the future. “Succession planning is something I’m working on. Now my kids have a choice – there is a debt free farm here, if they choose to work it.”
When asked about why folks not farming or ranching should care about Holistic Management, Art says, “Holistic Management is a very effective way to remove carbon from the atmosphere; storing it in the soil, where plants benefit from it. Training in Holistic Management also teaches producers to be more self-reliant, no longer needing expensive in-puts like fertilizers and herbicides. And farmers practicing Holistic Management produce higher quality foods, ” Art adds.
“If I had not learned Holistic Management, I would have been burnt out. I would have put the ‘For Sale’ sign up.”
Using Holistic Management has allowed Art to go with nature instead of against it. “Man is pretty smart, but he’s no match for Mother Nature. If I had not learned Holistic Management, I would have been burnt out. I would have put the ‘For Sale’ sign up.”