During the week of March 28 – April 1, 2022, Holistic Management International partnered with NCAT to host the first NCAT Armed to Farm program in New Mexico. A long time in the making, having started the planning process back in February of 2020, it was wonderful to finally convene 27 veterans and their spouses or family farm partners in Albuquerque.
The week was jam packed with information, resources and on-the-ground learning opportunities. Speakers presented on funding programs from the Farm Credit of New Mexico, where they have special funds for veteran-owned businesses, the numerous USDA assistance, conservation and loan programs through the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resource Conservation Service, bee keeping with with NCAT Sustainable Agriculture Specialist, Justin Duncan, presentations on record keeping and farm branding with NCAT’s Southwest Regional Director, Margo Hale, and our Education Director and long-time Holistic Management Certified Educator, Dr. Ann Adams, shared an overview of Holistic Management Whole Farm/Ranch Planning.
Dr. Adam’s presentation touched on the importance of setting a Holistic Goal and learning how to make sound decisions that bring you towards that goal. She led the group through the Management Inventory worksheet and parts of the Holistic Goal: Quality of Life Statements, Behaviors and Systems, and the Value Statement. Participants began creating their own goals and will hopefully continue the process by participating in one of our upcoming Interactive Online Courses, for which we have scholarship funds available. I attended Dr. Adam’s training and watched as the light bulbs turned on for folx as they began to assess their own values and think about the quality of life they would like to have in the future. Through our evaluation we learned that participants most appreciated the focus on the interconnectedness of land health, profit, and quality of life and the importance of getting input from all stakeholders and including them in the decision making process.
I was charged with figuring out the on-the-ground learning sites and was excited to bring in local HMI collaborators and friends to host the group at their various operations. On Monday we visited the Trilogy Beef Community and heard from the Encinas family. They emphasized the increase in profitability that came with changing their operation to marketing beef directly to consumers. On Tuesday we visited Polk’s Folly Farm where the Withers Family run a pork operation feeding their pigs with food waste from Albuquerque food banks and restaurants. They focus on soil heath and have been experimenting with various composting methods to reintegrate the waste from the pigs into the soil. We also visited their farm store where the group bought locally produced goods and watched a butcher demonstration from Ethan Withers. On Wednesday we visited Chispas Farm, owned and operated by the legendary Casey Holland. They have hosted a couple field days with HMI in the past and participants benefited from Casey’s experience in no till vegetable production, integration of animals and focus on soil health principles (keeping the soil covered; minimizing external inputs and minimizing soil disturbance on cropland; maximizing biodiversity; maintaining a living root; and integrating animals into land management). Thursday was our final farm/ranch tour out in Corrales at Silver Leaf Farms. Elan Silverblatt-Buser, one of the co-owners of Silver Leaf Farms, shared his story of how international travel led to a love for food which then led back to their hometown of Corrales where, along with his brother, Aaron, they started growing their own food. We toured their hydroponics operation and talked about water scarcity in the Rio Grande Valley before lending a hand sorting chiles for spice mixes.
I am excited to see where this group goes with the information gained during this training and am hopeful to reconnect with participants through our Interactive Online Learning series as they further their education in Holistic Management.
Thanks to all the farms/ranches that hosted the group and a HUGE thank you to NCAT for putting this all together! Margo & Robyn, y’all are stellar!