by Kathy Harris
Open Gate: T.O. Cattle Co Day
It was a beautiful April day in Watsonville, California where a diverse group of 52 gathered at Circle P Ranch for HMI’s Open Gate: T.O. Cattle Co Day. A good group of students from a California Polytechnic State University brought youth and vigor to the event, along with the experience from land owners and ranch managers.
HMI Certified Educator Rob Rutherford facilitated the day, which focused on the large scale ranching practices of Joe Morris, owner of T.O. Cattle Company and Morris Grassfed Beef. After the introductory session where participants got to know each other better and stated their expectations for the day, Joe succinctly and passionately began sharing his experiences and stories from years of Holistic Management practice. He explained the value of a personal or ranch holistic goal and explained that there is no ‘recipe’ but encouraged all to just start with a goal, then plan and adapt.
Joe gave an example of using the Holistic Management framework to test a decision within the context of his goal. Participants got a chance to try the process themselves by working in small groups to test whether Joe should split his cow herds or keep them in one group. While this process often brings up more questions than it answers, some participants reported that even though they’d studied Holistic Management in the past, this process helped them gain new understanding of the usefulness of using the decision testing questions, and renewed interest in reviewing and updating their own holistic goal.
Val Davis, Farm Program Manager of California Certified Organic Farmers, gave a brief but fact-filled presentation on the pros and cons of organic certification. Diane Cooley, owner of Circle P, shared her perspectives before the delicious and nutritious lunch of grassfed beef burgers provided by Morris Grassfed.
The afternoon was spent out on the land, seeing the effects of a previous cattle graze, and “hands-on” work in small groups to estimate forage quantity by figuring Animal Days per Acres (ADAs) and biological monitoring to determine the health of the soil and land. Joe helped the group understand the concept of a water cycle as an ecosytem process with the key take away that if the site has effective water cycle, the other ecosystem processes are likewise in good shape. Joe and Rob helped make the connection from the soil to our food, and that soil health and forage diversity not only improves effective use of water, but also creates nutrient dense beef (like the burgers enjoyed at lunch!).
While the day ended with many feeling like the time was too short, survey results showed:
|Intent to change management practices – 100%|
|Intent to use testing questions — 89%|
|Intent to manage grazing differently – 91%|
|Expanded network – 92%|
|Would recommend this event to others – 100%|
|Overall satisfaction with the day – 97-100%|
|Respondents with knowledge increase in this area:|
|How TO Cattle Co benefits from practicing Holistic Management – 93%|
|Value of a Holistic Goal/Context for making better decisions – 75%|
|How to integrate social, economic, and environmental factors in to your decisions – 83%|
|Ability to make complex on-farm decisions – 83%|
|How to assess quantity of forage in a pasture – 74%|
|Respondents more confident in these areas as a result of today’s event:|
|Ability to develop a holistic goal/context – 83%|
|Ability to make better on-farm decisions – 78%|
|Assessing recovery periods for your land – 75%|
|Ability to manage grazing animals more effectively – 78%|
|Understanding the pros and cons of organic certification – 85%|
Some of the most useful things people learned at the day:
There are no right answers when it comes to making decisions.”
“Rewrite my goals, post it, refer to it”
“Holistic decision making and benefits of creating a holistic business model”
“Finding the weakest link to make decisions”
“How to develop a holistic context and what to include”
“Review of Holistic Management concepts I’ve learned previously”
“Balancing grazing periods and grazing space”
“How to make a better decision”
“Grazing period effects”
Very good and useful event”
“The event was great – well balanced with introductory info and advanced”
“It was great”
Many thanks to our funders who made this day possible: Simply Organic, Cristiano Family Fund, Regenerative Agriculture Foundation, and to these people and organizations which generously gave their time and resources to make this event a success: Joe and Julie Morris from T.O. Cattle Company and Morris Grassfed, Diane Cooley from Circle P Ranch, Raven Lukeheart from California Polytechnic State University, Val Davis from California Certified Organic Farmers, and Karminder Brown of San Benito Working Landscapes Group.
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Holistic Management International’s mission is to educate people in regenerative agriculture for healthy land and thriving communities.
We have helped farmers and ranchers in 130 countries learn and practice Holistic Management for the past 3 decades. You can read some of their Success Stories to learn how Holistic Management has changed their lives and impacted their land.
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