On May 16, 2018, eleven participants from varied backgrounds and experience levels finished up their Holistic Management Beginning Farmer/Rancher training in New York. Seven of the participants were Pro Farmers from the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, the organization that co-sponsored this training. The diversity brought by other students in the class made for fruitful discussions and learning, including sheep enterprises, grazing public lands, identifying best use of newly purchased lands, and identifying property to buy.
The first seven sessions met at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub for the classroom portion of the training. There students created a Whole Farm Inventory and a Holistic Goal to guide their future decisions. They studied time management and decision testing while creating a Time Management Plan to ensure all the tasks for every enterprise could happen without crowding or overlap. They created a Holistic Financial plan and learned how to plan for profit. The last classroom session focused on marketing and business planning where students learned about different marketing strategies while creating Business and Marketing plans. The students also learned about communication methods and effective management and leadership behaviors.
The first on-the-land learning day was held at Sapbush Hollow Farm where participants learned how to create landscapes and infrastructure for maximum ease and productivity. They created a Holistic Land Plan and learned how to implement it in conjunction with the financial plan.
The Holistic Grazing session was held at Heather Ridge Farm. Students toured the property and saw first hand how animals impact the land and explored grazing implementation as well as learned how to create a Holistic Grazing Plan.
The final session, on soil health, was held at Clove Valley CSA. Students learned about ecosystem processes and the effect different tools have depending on the climate. They were taught to read the land and create a Biological Monitoring Plan that will provide information for better decision making.
Many people who are drawn to this program find themselves in a place of transition and find the planning processes extremely helpful, especially the Holistic Management principles and practices, the Holistic Goal and the decision making/testing processes.
The course was a great success with productive conversation shared by the diverse group and everyone in the course earned their certificate!
The Beginning Farmer / Rancher course with HMI was transformative for me. I’m blessed with visions for the world around me, but had no previous training in creating goals and processes to realize those visions. The holistic goal and the decision making processes are tools that have changed how I work. I especially enjoyed learning alongside peers who were likewise empowered to bring their visions to life. Many fond memories from the field days!
I have applied my training to manage a community farm in Albany, NY. The farm is a steward of over 80 acres of greenspace situated in an urban environment. There, intensive rotational grazing is utilized to restore plant diversity and soil health. The training has also driven me take the first steps towards my personal goal of privately owning land in Upstate New York for the purposes of farming and land conservation.
-Melissa Parade, BFR Student 2018
Results (percentage of participants experienced):
Overall satisfaction with the course …91%
More confident in your ability to develop a Whole Farm/Ranch Goal…89%
More confident in your ability to identify logjams, adverse, and weak links factors on your farm …73%
What were some of the most important things you learned?
- Developing a written whole farm/ranch goal
- Developing a business/strategic plan
- Record keeping
- Determining profit upfront and capping expenses
- Effective communication with farm workers and management team
- Determining the number of animals my land can support for grazing
- How to improve the ecosystem health of my farm
- Going with my “Gut check!”