Markegard Family and POST Host HMI Open Gate
By Richard King, Holistic Management Certified Educator
Was it the beautiful weather not far from the coast in Pescadero, California? Was it seeing productive grasslands despite California’s severe drought? Was it getting close to the herd of Dutch belted beef cattle that were in great condition? Was it just a chance to visit and learn from the Markegard family about this new kind of decision-making framework, its planning processes, and how whether or not it was working for them?
I think every one of the 32 participants would agree that Doniga and Erik Markegard provided an excellent opportunity for other ranchers and the public to learn from them how managing holistically can grow a more productive and vibrant life support system while making a living in the process. It was my pleasure to help oversee the day’s program designed to help others learn more about Holistic Management—what it is and how it works.
The Markegards gave an overview of the various resources they manage and the livestock products they market directly to consumers. It was fun meeting a couple of their customers at the Open Gate, too—great fans of what the Markegards produce and how they produce it—wanting to learn more about how they manage the land in a way that is so different than mainstream agriculture.
Some of the properties Doniga & Erik manage for their livestock are on land owned by other organizations, including where the Open Gate gathering was held. Laura O’Leary of the Peninsula Open Space District described how the District strives to help preserve open space in the area. Then the Markegards shared with everyone their holistic goal—the kind of lives they want to live.
When looking at the land itself, a few of the topics shared with the group included how grass grows from the plant’s point of view, how soil grows or dies depending on our management, the importance of herding animals to build healthy grasslands, how the Markegards are learning to plan grazing on their properties, and how the ripple effects of their work provide healthy landscapes, wildlife, and the nutritious food they sell to generate income.
Everyone present enjoyed learning a few tricks of the trade used by ranchers practicing Holistic Management. Small groups learned how to quickly assess available forage in any pasture at any time of the year from the animal’s point of view while still leaving great soil cover. They looked at various monitoring techniques to see what it is that land managers carefully monitor to ensure that their plans and objectives for the land are being achieved.
In addition, visitors learned how ‘PastureMap’ is a new app being designed in the Bay Area to help ranchers & farmers more easily make & use maps on their land. It will also function as a tool to link any notes and photo records with GPS coordinates. The Markegards are one of the ranches helping this start-up company identify what it is that ranchers need that will be of great help when they are out on the land and need to record or access information quickly.
At the end of the day after the crowd had left, Doniga Markegard offered to help me with the upcoming series of Whole Farm Land Management workshops HMI has planned in Pescadero in September and October at the TomKat Ranch. She is excited about Holistic Management and wants to help others learn how to manage holistically. This will be a great opportunity for ranchers/farmers who want to learn more about how to manage their resources more successfully. Hope to see you there!
This event was made possible by a generous contribution from Sallie Calhoun – The Christiano Family Fund, an advised fund of the Community Foundation for Benito County. A big Thank you to Sallie Calhoun and to Peninsula Open Space Trust for your sponsorship and to the Markegard Family for hosting the Open Gate. Feedback was great! Here is what the participants, 32 people representing 275 acres currently under production, said about the event:
Here is what participants had to say:
“Fantastic information, you guys know your stuff.”
“I loved it! I want to learn more.”
“Well-planned, good speakers.”
“Well worth the time & money.”
“I will attend another workshop.”
“Very good! Glad I came.”
Here are some of the specific results we collected from our post-program evaluations.
|Are you more confident in your ability to incorporate new management strategies to build resilience in soils plants & animals?||60%|
|Are you more confident in your ability to improve land health?||60%|
|Increased knowledge of how to observe and assess ecosystem processes:||80%|
|Do you intend to change any management practices/apply ideas you learned as a result of this event?||88%|
|Do you intend to pursue biological monitoring on your land as a result of today's event?||71%|
|Increased knowledge of critical monitoring criteria to build biological wealth:||70%|
|Did you expand your network today by meeting new people or learning about resources available to you?||89%|
|Richard King’s effectiveness was excellent:||100%|
|Doniga Markegard’s effectiveness was excellent:||100%|
|Overall Satisfaction of this event (Rated good to excellent):||90%|
|Would recommend this event to others:||90%|