All We Need Farm’s beautiful little goat dairy was the site of the October 9th HMI Open Gate near Needmore, TX. Fifteen participants gathered with dairy-maid Stacey Roussel, HMI folks and Agrilife Extension representatives. Stacey was a vegetable farmer with a local CSA when she went through HMI’s Beginning Women Farmers and Ranchers training in 2012-2013. Just this year she decided to follow her heart and concentrate on a goat dairy and pork operation.
After introductions and a brief description of HMI’s mission and programs by Peggy Cole, HM Certified Educator Tracy Litle described the basic components of HMI’s Whole Farm/Ranch Planning process.
The real fun began when Tracy led the group through a decision-testing exercise with a big decision Stacey was considering—whether or not to buy a milk pasteurizer. This was a unique way to introduce Stacey, the dairy, the background and the enterprises that may (or may not) produce income. The group enjoyed gathering the information they would need to get the whole picture around the pasteurizer and how it fit into Stacey’s Holistic Goal, so that they could help her test the decision. They appreciated learning how the testing guidelines shed light not only on the financial part of the decision, but the social and ecological aspects as well. (In case you’re curious, it appears Stacey is not likely to have a pasteurizer in her near future.)
Tracy then presented a very informative piece on soil health and how it affects the water cycle. After a delightful lunch, each participant got one of the fast-becoming-famous goat milk gelato pops we had been studying during the decision testing. They are amazing.
The afternoon session began with learning a great deal about dairy goats as Stacey took us on a tour of her well-researched and planned operation. We saw the spotless milking room, the does’ overnight accommodations and finally got to visit with the 17 does. Mostly Nubian and Nubian crosses, these sweet pets yield up to a gallon and a half daily. Their grazing is carefully planned to enhance the soil health while keeping the goats fat and sleek with milk delicious enough for the pops we just ate. To learn more about Stacey’s little dairy, pick up the latest copy of Acres USA Magazine.
Back in the barn, Tracy led us through an introduction to how monitoring land health is part of successful and sustainable land management. We went into the field to practice in small groups, then discussed our findings.
Agrilife horticulturist Boone Holladay talked about rainwater harvesting for home, garden and livestock production. He offered the Texas A&M University website as an excellent resource: https://Rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu
His colleague John Goody talked about water quality and urged well owners to get the water in their wells checked yearly.
The 15 participants in this group represent 1690.5 acres in a variety of production enterprises including cattle, sheep, goats, horses, chickens, hay, vegetables and fruits. 100% ranked the event excellent or good and all said they would recommend it to a friend.
Here’s what they had to say about the day:
“Great! Always good to relearn, always new info or ah-ha moments – making connects of learned info/experiences.”
“Relaxed, pleasant, interesting and informative.”
“Overall helpful and healthy.”
“We got good, useful info and some hands/minds-on practice.”
“I intend to rewrite/revisit goals – inventory – management team & identify who is on team – match team member desires/experience to management duties.”
“I intend to start a notebook w/copies of the decision-testing form to check off, keep in records.”
“I intend to begin biological monitoring by doing analysis of forage layers.”
“I intend to use the form given for biological monitoring.”
|Feel more confident in their ability to test important decisions||93%|
|Feel more confident in their ability to see indicators of soil health||100%|
|Feel more confident in their ability to do biological monitoring||86&|
|Intend to change any management practices/apply ideas they learned as a result of this event||100%|
|Intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of this event||100%|
|Intend to test decisions as a result of this event||100%|
|Increased knowledge of critical monitoring criteria to increase land health||79%|
|Increased knowledge of understanding the role of soil biology in the water cycle||71%|
|Expanded their network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to them||100%|
This Open Gate Farm day is partially funded by a grant from The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.