The 2017-2018 Beginning Farmers and Ranchers in Texas and Oklahoma offered exposure to the full spectrum of integrated trainings in Holistic Management. The first class began with an overview of principles and practices to help students understand why classes are taught the way they are. Afterwards, the students began to form what would become their comprehensive Whole Farm/Ranch Plan.
HMI Certified Educator and award-winning rancher Deborah Clark did a great job teaching the first class, while also hosting the class, which took place at the Birdwell and Clark Ranch, which Deborah owns and operates with her husband Emry Birdwell. Deborah helped the group understand how to make a whole farm/ranch inventory of physical, financial and intellectual assets.
The next step was to envision the set of guiding values, principles, landscapes and other desires that is the cornerstone of Holistic Management; the Holistic Goal, with the class able to practice a set of decision-making guidelines that helped assure each decision would take the operation a little closer to their stated goal.
Students were also able to go out on the 14,200 acre-ranch to see how a giant herd of stocker cattle is rotated and nurtured as they work to improve forage and wildlife habitat.
Day 2 of the first session brought Dr. Lisa Bellows in from North Central Texas College to facilitate the understanding of the ecosystem processes, assessing land health and the practice of biological monitoring. The class enjoyed Lisa’s fast moving and humorous teaching style. Though the date said November 5, the day was hot for an afternoon of monitoring practice, but interest was high for this valuable skill. HMI Certified Educator Tracy Litle assisted both days and shared her extensive training in the soil food web.
The second session was held in December at HMI Certified Educator C.D. Pounds’ Triple Cross Farm in Fruitvale, Texas. Certified Educator trainee Lauri Celella taught time management. Though this is a popular topic in lots of management techniques, Holistic Management’s edge is that it recognizes the value of planning the time and seasonal flow required for each of several enterprises likely to be included in a successful agricultural operation.
The next session, Grazing Planning, was taught by Tracy Litle, which provided students with an overview of soil health and the importance of aiming for healthy soil. Students were provided with instructions on how to use all available tools and the importance of using the testing framework to evaluate the management decision considered. Key principles were discussed next, with students learning how to subdivide pasture for more flexibility, recovery and utilization of pastures.
Students broke into small groups and assessed the size of an area necessary to feed 1 cow for 1 day to determine ADA and how that correlates into the stocking rate for the land. Finally, instructors walked students through the necessary steps to create a Holistic Grazing Plan, with students able to finally began working on individual plans.
The third session, Financial Pl
anning was held at the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Kim Barker did a great job making the planning process meaningful and interesting by forming groups to create an operation for which they must plan.
The fourth and fifth sessions were held at North Central Texas College in Gainesville, TX, with field work with Dr. Lisa Bellows completed as several area ranches including the Dixon Water Foundation ranches. Business Planning, Marketing Planning, Land Planning and leadership modules were presented by Deborah Clark, C.D. Pounds and Lauri Celella.
When the classes were completed, students presented their Whole Farm/Ranch plans and participated in a graduation ceremony.