healthy land. sustainable future. MARCH / APRIL 201 2
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE
My Jumpstart in Holistic Management
by Amy Wright
y first introduction to Holistic Management was almost a year ago in Pueblo, Colorado when I attended one of Kirk Gadzia’s “Introduction to Holistic Management” classes. I had just started a year-long ranch manager apprenticeship at the San Juan Ranch, owned by George Whitten and Julie Sullivan, who have been practicing Holistic Management on their ranch for over 25 years. The class was to give me a “jumpstart” of knowledge for the framework that George and Julie use to aid in managing the ranch. My first impression of Holistic Management was that it was largely a way to look at your environment, understand the ecosystem processes, and effectively manage land. Upon my arrival to the San Juan Ranch, and at Kirk’s class, I was intrigued to find that the framework included a whole lot more. A few months prior to accepting the apprenticeship, I had arrived back in the United States from Australia where I had been working and traveling for the past year. I remember in Kirk’s class, while learning about the decision-making process, I had this feeling of “Wow! I wish I had known about this practice earlier.” While I was traveling, I felt completely overwhelmed on many occasions with the enormous realm of possibilities available. I had no plan, no previous arrangements, and I did not know anyone. I could choose to go in any direction and do anything I wanted to. Yet I distinctly remember arriving at crossroads and feeling completely helpless about what to do, or how to decide what the best choice would be. I would sit for hours and make lists about the advantages and disadvantages of a certain decision—at the end, feeling no more confident with one choice than with another. While learning about the holistic goal setting and decision-making process, I kept reflecting on how beneficial this knowledge would have been during my travels. I have never been a “goal oriented” person. The questions “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “What do you want out of life?” always intimidate me. But I find that the Holistic Management process helps break these overwhelming questions down into more manageable inquiries that collectively answer the difficult questions. Equally important, it asks, “How will you get there?” I like the way the process accounts for the triple bottom line and leads you to answer meaningful questions to arrive at the best possible choice, and to think of other solutions that normally would not occur to you. I find now when I sit down to make decisions, and by having a goal in place, I have less anxiety and more confidence in the choices I am making, because I know whether or not they are taking me in the direction I want to be headed. Now, looking back at the past year I realize that Holistic Management has been one of the factors that played a significant role in the success of my apprenticeship. When I first started at the San Juan Ranch, I was a person who observed first and spoke later, usually never offering an opinion unless I was directly asked. My participation in management conversations was minimal and I rarely felt comfortable with contributing my ideas and viewpoints. Part of this, of course, was being new on the job and taking the time to become familiar without jumping in blindly. But the larger part was my personality—being a somewhat shy and quiet observer, and incredibly uncomfortable with venturing out of my comfort zone. The holistic decision-making process gave me the opportunity to have a voice, even as a newcomer. Although I did not have something to say about every one of the questions the process led CONTINUED ON PAGE 2
Amy Wright has completed a year-long apprentice program with George Whitten and Julie Sullivan at the San Juan Ranch. Learn more about Amy’s story on this page and what other Young Agrarians (young agricultural producers) are learning and doing on pages four and six.
FEATURE STORIES Data Mine: Using Meta-Analysis to Validate Grazing Optimization FRANK ARAGONA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
State of the State of Young Farmers SEVERINE T. FLEMING . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Learned Optimism and Finding Our Feelings TONY MCQUAIL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
In Practice—Holistic Management Through Osmosis PAUL SCHWENNESEN
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Walking the Talk of Ecosystem Services—JX Ranch COURTNEY WHITE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
LAND and LIVESTOCK Drought Mitigation—Addressing Social, Biological, and Economic Issues PEGGY COLE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Integrating Diversified Strategies—From Renewable Energy and Multiple Breeds to Conservation Easements on a Single Ranch DENNIS MORONEY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
NEWS and NETWORK From the Board Chair . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Development Corner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 Grapevine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18 Certified Educators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Book Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20 Marketplace . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
healthy land. sustainable future.
My Jumpstart in Holistic Management
continued from page one
Holistic Management International exists to educate people to manage land for a sustainable future.
STAFF Peter Holter . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chief Executive Officer Tracy Favre. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chief Operating Officer Kelly King . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chief Financial Officer Ann Adams . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Managing Editor, IN PRACTICE and
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Amy’s year long apprenticeship at the San Juan Ranch has led to a host of new skills including how to earmark a calf.
Land Program Donna Torrez . . . . . . . . . . . Manager: Administration
& Executive Support Peggy Cole . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Project Manager, Texas Mary Girsch-Bock . . . . . Grants Manager Brady Gibbons . . . . . . . . . . Field Advisor Valerie Grubbs . . . . . . . . . Controller Carrie Nelson . . . . . . . . . . . Education Associate
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HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT IN PRACTICE (ISSN: 1098-8157) is published six times a year by: Holistic Management International 5941 Jefferson St. NE, Suite B Albuquerque, NM 87109 505/842-5252, fax: 505/843-7900; email: email@example.com.; website: www.holisticmanagement.org
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us through, I had something to say about at least one, and it was a start. I also found that the questions de-personalized the process, allowing me the room to feel more comfortable with asking questions and not having to worry about sounding judgmental or hurting anyone’s feelings when I disagreed with an idea. This in turn encouraged me to participate even more, and I started to feel like I was becoming a part of the team. I began to realize how the collaborative decision-making process helps create a teamoriented environment, engendering participation from every member. It is amazing the results a group can achieve and the resources they discover when they access all the individual and varied talents of everyone in the group. It is easy to get stuck when attempting to answer these questions by yourself; but a group can get you out of your own logjams, help brainstorm solutions to problems, look at new ways of conducting a business, and help you stay motivated with the constant flux of new ideas. Although George, Julie and I may not sit down and use the testing questions for every decision we make, the framework of working together and actively participating has been established, the habits have been set, so we all play our part even in the smaller everyday decisions—whether it is taking the lead on a project or how to efficiently strategize our day. The results from this level of participation have been gradual, but now as I near the end of my apprenticeship, and compare where I am now to
March / April 2012
where I was a year ago, the results are evident. I am no longer the quiet observer. I have the confidence and the ability to articulate my viewpoint. Not only have I become more adept at participating in management conversations and contributing my ideas when it comes to making decisions; but I am actively involved in every aspect of running the ranch, from pasture management and cattle care to financial planning and even the annual re-visiting of the ranch’s holistic goal. I find when you are involved to this extent, and engaged with creating a shared goal, it also creates a sense of responsibility and ownership. This has helped me to know the ins and outs—the full picture—of the business, and what it takes to plan months and years down the road. It has allowed me to develop my own decisionmaking, critical thinking, and judgment skills, my own knowledge behind sustainable management practices—all crucial skills to becoming a ranch manager. But more importantly, it has resulted in my ability to grow into a self-directed learner, to discover and pursue my own learning opportunities. I feel I have developed my own creative capacity, the ability to better direct my life, and am more equipped for my next venture. Amy Wright is completing her apprenticeship with George Whitten and Julie Sullivan at the San Juan Ranch. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using Meta-Analysis to Validate Grazing Optimization by Frank Aragona
e have given significant consideration to Samuel McNaughton’s grazing optimization hypothesis. Essentially, McNaughton argues that grazing can in fact improve ecosystem productivity through compensatory plant responses and other biotic and abiotic factors associated with the effects of grazing animals. He provides compelling evidence to support these claims.
However, most of his research is specific to the African Serengeti. A 1993 peer-reviewed article written by Milchunas and Lauenroth entitled “Quantitative effects of grazing on vegetation and soils over a global range of environments” and published in the journal Ecological Monographs uses a meta-analysis to address the veracity of the Grazing Optimization Hypothesis. The article states: “no quantitative evaluations of the longterm effects of grazing on ANPP (aboveground net primary production) have been made across ecosystems.” Therefore, the objectives of their research “…were to use quantitative techniques to compare the impacts of grazing on plant communities in relation to various grazing, abiotic, and ecosystem variables.” The authors go on to name the variables with which they were most concerned: Specifically, community variables included plant species composition, abundance of dominant species, aboveground net primary production (ANPP), root biomass, and soil carbon and nitrogen of grazed and ungrazed sites. We asked how these depended upon grazing variables such as level of consumption (intensity) and years of protection from grazing (duration), and upon ecosystemenvironmental variables such as mean annual precipitation, high and low temperatures, latitude, ANPP, and evolutionary history of grazing. We then asked whether relationships differed among grasslands, shrublands, forests, deserts, and high-elevation sites. In order to perform such a comprehensive and global analysis, they searched and compiled information from the scientific literature to create a large data set for statistical analysis. The authors elaborate, stating that “Approximately 500 potential articles were surveyed, with 97 articles representing 276 data sets obtained for analyses.” In regards to the nature of the included studies, the authors provide this information: Some of the studies used in the analyses
were from systems with native grazers where populations are not regulated by humans, some were from sites where grazing by domestic livestock was "uncontrolled" or "free- grazing" or represented "overgrazed" situations, but most were studies of controlled levels of grazing by domestic livestock. To determine a key variable in their statistical models, they turned to their colleagues in the scientific community: …sixteen scientists with several different areas of expertise and from various parts of the world were asked to categorize the sites according to evolutionary history of grazing, and to rank the certainty of their estimates. The individuals were asked to rank each study site either 1, 2, 3, or 4 for least to greatest evolutionary history of grazing, and to rank their estimate either 1, 2, 3, or 4 for low to high certainty. Statistical analysis performed on the data relied heavily on the use of multivariate regression models. Various iterations were performed on different statistical models. Models that had poor explanatory power were not included in the results; models using independent and dependent variables with strong relationships were included in the results and discussion of the paper. The statistical models developed are given consideration below.
Aboveground Net Primary Productivity The response of ecosystem productivity to grazing is a controversial topic that has been under debate for decades. This paper provides strong evidence that grazing can increase or decrease ecosystem productivity. The authors describe the measurement method for ANPP: In the majority of cases ANPP was estimated as peak standing crop in ungrazed treatment and in temporarily caged grazed treatment; compensatory growth due to current-year defoliation is not accounted for. [emphasis added]
The summarized results of the regression analysis are provided below: Most of the differences between ANPP of grazed vs. ungrazed plant communities were negative. However, the statistical models for grasslands-plus-shrublands or for grasslands alone predicted positive ANPP responses to grazing in some situations. For the entire data set, 17% of the cases had positive values for the effects of grazing on ANPP and these were generally low levels of consumption and few years of treatment. The authors elaborate on those conditions where grazing tends to induce a positive productive response: Conditions under which grazing was more likely to increase or have no or small effect on ANPP were long evolutionary history and low productivity, regardless of the number of years of grazing treatment or the levels of consumption within a range generally not considered abusive "overgrazing." In other words, grasslands and shrublands seem to benefit from moderate grazing, while mountains, deserts, and forests are less likely to see an improved productive response due to grazing. When analyzing below-ground productivity, even across ecotypes, this argument becomes even more compelling: Whereas the effect of grazing on ANPP averaged -23%, the effect on root mass averaged + 20%. Further, positive effects of grazing on root mass occurred in 61% of the sites where grazing had negative effects on ANPP and in 62% of sites where differences in ANPP were negative, positive, or not known. [And] negative impacts of grazing on aboveground production were accompanied by as many positive as negative responses belowground. The general perception of decreased plant production with grazing may not be as great when viewed at the level of the whole plant. Another critical data point makes this argument more persuasive. As we have seen in previous articles, compensatory growth due to CONTINUED ON PAGE 5
IN PRACTICE 3
State of the State of Young Farmers by Severine T. Fleming
e are new to farming; we are kids of farmers. We are farming in the suburban outskirts of big cities, in rural backwaters, close to smaller cities, and even on roofs. We are farming on leased ground; we are farming for landscaping clients. We are farming in partnership with schools, churches, holiday-home owners. We are Americans, young ones, from all over.
Why We Do It Young farmers are motivated, highly motivated, usually with well considered goals lying close to the surface. Talk to the ones you know and you’ll soon see; and if you don’t know any, find some to know! For some of us it has to do with the terrible job market, for some with the collapsing economy or with the poor diets and our desire to improve the place we love. Farming is also a great place to pour your ambition, since even the smallest farm can absorb as much mojo as you’ve got at times. Farming is physical; farming is intellectual; farming is sensual; farming is practical. There are those of us fascinated with the mechanics, rotations, finessing weed seed bed reduction, systems design and maximizing the affordability of their CSA. There are those of us passionate about horse-power, increasing soil carbon, reviving the fully diversified farmstead.
The Ways We Do It Many of us start with high-value, low-input vegetables or pastured meats for direct market: why? Because that is the easiest business model to cash flow. Pretty much all of us are motivated to stay solvent, though most of us carry an off-farm job and income into at least the first seasons, and some of us straddle farming and “ other work” for longer than that as we become involved in local politics, working for land trusts, extension, cooperatives, distribution companies, and other ag-related businesses that support our farming and enhance our network of support and influence. Our jobs working for trade shows, seed companies etc. underlies how much we rely on the existing agricultural economy to get us launched in our own enterprises. Having chosen to farm, we’ve had to contend with the confusion of our family and friends, the expectations of our educations, and the debt that came with it. The purposeful life challenges us to be disciplined, to act according to the goals we have set for ourselves, to point ourselves clearly in the direction we want to go. It is not convenient, it is not carefree, but it sure builds character! Farm apprenticeships and farm start up are tremendously physical. The joke goes like this: “we work like dogs, and eat like kings.” Those sore 4
muscles of startup do ache. But as we get stronger, we get braver. As our observation and stewardship yields us a thrumming little business, we can bring the confident farmer feeling further out into the community, into the civic sphere.
How We Act First comes survival, then success, and then analysis usually gets a bug in the bonnet. Over the last few years the ‘off-farm’ activities of my young farmer friends continues to astound me. So many of my friends are joining boards, getting involved in local politics, working with the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), with Farmers Union, with whatever institution seems to make sense to them. Getting our own farm careers going has meant leaping over some serious hurdles, and it’s radicalized us to change the system. From marching to Zuchotti Park during the Farmers’ March, to writing rule changes on how the Farm Service Agency loans start-up money, taking action to change the game makes practical sense. We are grateful to have inherited a wonderful set of regional sustainable agriculture groups, groups like the Northeast Organic Farming Association groups, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture, and Midwest Organic and Sustainable Educational Services that deserve our membership and support, as well as new groups like the NYFC.
What about Holistic Management? Business planning courses geared toward new and young farmers are popping up across the country, funded by the USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which was funded at $27 million in the last Farm Bill. These trainings give us young farmers the business brains we’re gonna need to stay in this risky business — and in the next Farm Bill we are advocating for an increase in public investment in the form of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. You can Google it, or you can read about it on our website www.youngfarmers.org
Next Moves I’m hopeful that you are convinced that this movement of young people is a good move, and perhaps even asking “How can I support the
March / April 2012
Severine v T Fleming farmers, this movement, and the future of farming in this country that I love.” We need, and most of us have found, committed mentorship as we learn the skills to farm. Often these relationships outlast the official apprenticeship period. We similarly need relationships around land access, and help meeting, preparing, and successfully negotiating for the land we will farm. We need grooming, pep talks, and scolding. Today we are greenhorns, gangly and bright eyed, with energy to spare and an almost invincible eagerness. We cannot only be tenants and farm managers, cannot only be seen as temporary land stewards. This is not an intellectual exercise, our love of farming; it is a commitment to the foundational industry of an economy that truly needs our commitment. So if you can muster it, or if your community can band together to muster it, please take the long view. If a greenhorn in your valley has proven their salt, has busted their butt for a few years, has paid their dues and done their homework, please help them get their farm dream realized. Please connect them with fair equity and the opportunity to scale up, interpret the equipment being auctioned, reach out and meet them as equals, neighbors and friends. A lot more dreams will have to come true before we change the course of American agriculture. Please do join our mailing list and become a part of this wonderful community. You can reach us at: www.thegreenhorns.net or www.youngfarmers.org. An additional website of interest is: www.farmhack.net. Severine v T Fleming is a young farmer, activist and organizer based in the Hudson Valley of New York. She is director of Greenhorns, and founder/board member of the National Young Farmers Coalition.
Learned Optimism and Finding Our Feelings by Tony McQuail
fter the 2011 Western Canada Holistic Management Conference I wanted to share a couple of resources which I have found very helpful in my own life. The presentations by Kier Barker and Elaine Dembe reminded me of them. One is the book Learned Optimism by Dr. Martin Seligman.
Learned Optimism helped me in several ways. It has assessment tools by which one can examine one’s own level of optimism. It also has powerful strategies to help one develop a more optimistic approach to life. I realized that I was quite optimistic in general and able to pick myself up when knocked down by weather and accidents in my life. However, I tended to be much less optimistic about the people closest to me. I tended to catastrophize. If our daughters were late getting home from school with the car I would worry that they were in an accident. By the time they got home I would have worried myself into a state of anxiety and my relief would be overshadowed by my anger at them for having worried me so. If Fran and I had a disagreement I would catastrophize that she didn’t love me and want to be with me, that our relationship was on the rocks and too painful. Seligman helped me become aware of the little catastrophizing voice in my head that started fretting about worst possible outcomes and kept repeating and expanding them. Once I became aware of that voice I could start challenging it. I could argue back, “NO! The girls are just late, they probably had to stay a bit longer at school, maybe they are doing something with their friends, there is nothing to worry about, no news is good news.” Then when they got home I was glad to see them and could ask them about their day without laying into them about being late and inconsiderate. When Fran and I had a disagreement I could remind myself that we agreed on many things, that she obviously loved me and that maybe I should look at things from her perspective. I also learned to ask myself what my reaction was telling me about myself. Why was I getting upset? What did my fear or anger tell me about myself? Was there some old history that was pushing my buttons? Was there some unfinished business of my own that I needed to work through? I realized that my parents may have been the source of my anxiety, of that catastrophizing voice in the back of my head. They had provided a secure and loving home for me as a child. But my father had lost his mother when he was 6 during the 1918 flu epidemic and instead of being told she had died he was told she had “gone away”. He spent his childhood feeling he had been abandoned by his mother. My mother’s father
committed suicide during the depression when she was in her late teens and she was a worrier as well as a wonderful caring listener. I realized that I had unconsciously been carrying their baggage. Learned Optimism helped me to live from my own reality and experience rather than imagined fears and problems. I think Holistic Management helped deal with the catastophizing voice in several ways. Having a financial plan helped us have a clearer sense of where we actually were financially and have a better sense of how things were working out and where we were heading. It provided a clear “reality check” that could be called upon when the catastrophizing voice was starting to freak out about something that didn’t work out. Also, the clear understanding that plan is a 24 letter word helped. Knowing that you do the best job you can when you plan and then you assume it isn’t going to work perfectly gave me skills and an attitude to cope with setbacks. By monitoring, controlling and re-planning problems could be resolved and it made it harder for the little voice to blow them out of proportion. The planned grazing charts also helped us feel more secure about our grazing and that we could do a better job of managing our pastures and be on top of what we needed to do. If we had to
destock we could plan to do it in a timely fashion. It gave us tools to feel more in control of how things were going on our land and that we could influence them. Holistic Management gave us a sense that we could cope with whatever happened in a way that would take us toward our quality of life. We now had something to guide us and keep our sights on the big target and not get sidetracked by the little disappointments. I also took to heart the quote Don Campbell shares: “Attitude: When I focus on what’s good today . . . I have a good day. When I focus on what’s bad . . . I have a bad day. If I focus on a problem . . . the problem increases If I focus on the answer . . . the answer increases . . . ” When I would find myself focusing on a problem or a conflict, I would give myself a mental shake and shift to looking at the answer or what was positive in the situation. And over the course of working on my attitude and arguing with that little catastrophizing voice I started having a lot more good days. It is not just the tools; it is also the encouragement of seeing others putting them into practice and having mentors and friends to share insights and support. I feel very fortunate that we took our first course in 1995 and even more that we are being able to share Holistic Management with those we are now teaching. Tony McQuail is a Certified Educator who farms near Lucknow, Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
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grazing can be a powerful force driving greater ecosystem productivity. Yet, as emphasized above, this study did not account for compensatory growth due to defoliation in measures of ANPP. Of critical importance is the concept that evolutionary history may be a key driver affecting ecosystem response to grazing and defoliation. The presented data show a very strong relationship between evolutionary history of grazing and ANPP; sites with a long evolutionary history of grazing show greater resilience and in general respond more favorably to grazing. As the authors point out, “the predominance of ecosystem-environmental variables rather than grazing variables in sensitivity analyses suggests that where we graze may be more important than how we graze.” Of significance is the fact that most of these studies represent systems under management either by scientists or field managers. In most cases, the natural cyclic patterns of grassland ecology so thoroughly described by McNaughton are not in effect; the critical factor of human management may in fact be the principle phenomenon driving “noise” in the research data. Yet, as the authors note, the “general directions indicated by the relationships and the relative influence of variables in the statistical models” on the whole seem acceptable, especially when tempered by thoughtful analysis.
IN PRACTICE 5
In Practice— Holistic Management Through Osmosis by Paul Schwennesen
aving never taken a formal course in Holistic Management, I was flattered but understandably rattled to write something meaningful for those who have… So consider this piece your ticket to an all-expense-paid flaw-finding expedition: as someone trained in the principles of which I’m barely cognizant. This is your chance to assess the wilder shots of a rank amateur.
Beyond Tool Setting Whatever principles of Holistic Management I claim to possess arrived almost entirely through osmosis. My formative years were spent trailing across grasslands over the globe from northern Mexico to the Indian border, comparing with keen interest “basal hits” in Arizona to those in South Africa. With trips to Albuquerque a kind of semiannual Hajj, I grew up in the ferment of a community of land managers with the remarkable faith that they could alter not only the land they lived on, but also the very lives they led. Of all the lessons imparted, this has to be the most significant. The idea that our lives can be driven through conscientious goal-setting (and knowing the difference between that and “toolsetting”) was something that struck firmly home. I am, after all, the son of parents nicknamed respectively (and I’m not making this up) “Bulldozer” and “Goal Nag,” monikers dubbed the old-fashioned way—by others. They insisted upon recognizing the crucial distinction between pursuing the outward veneer of material success and striving for deeper, self-identified measures of worth. Driving steadily toward the kind of predetermined, meaningful results one deems desirable is the embodiment of the holistic model
and, curiously enough and perhaps not coincidentally, also embodies the “pursuit of happiness” in the enlightenment-era, Jeffersonian sense.
The Primacy of Economics We came back to the family ranching business because, in the somewhat naïve vein of Thoreau, we wished to live “deliberately.” We wanted to live life on our own terms; wholly independent from the exasperating whims of employers, imposed deadlines, and daily commutes. But this was hardly a romantic Marxist idyll; we also wanted to make money. Part of our deliberate approach was the recognition of the primacy of economy to attaining our ends (the first chapter of Walden, for what it’s worth, is titled “Economy”). We knew that by cutting out employers, we would inevitably become subject to customers; deadlines didn’t disappear, they became selfimposed; commutes would be less often but an awful lot longer. We saw a business angle in local grassfed beef and set up financial goals and a monitoring program (“bookkeeping” in the rest of the world) as the first and most important step in our holistic approach. I had heard over and over again from the founding generation of holistic practitioners that financial planning was primary but often left until the “fun stuff” of land transformation was complete. We decided to try an approach that began with creating a meaningful cash flow from the land first, landscape alteration later. “Oh sure,” the steely-eyed capitalist in you says, “but isn’t your scale of production
Paul & Sarah Schwennesen with children Katherine & Timothy (and Anne not pictured).
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embarrassingly tiny, supported only by the bubbleheads infatuated with ‘local’ food?” And you’re right; we would be the first to admit that this particular method of converting solar energy into cash flow is subject to the whims of a health and eco-conscious clientele. But frankly, we’ll take our chances with the whims of a clientele we can see and know over a commodity-trained clientele that insists on ninety-nine cent Whoppers for two decades in a row. For years now, corporate cattle buyers have been able to offer lower prices as feedlot production and processing systems grow beyond recognition. In 1970, a pound of ground beef cost nearly five adjusted dollars. Now it costs two. In 1970, a rancher could buy a new pickup (the standard Western asset index) with fifteen steers. Now it takes forty-four. Commodity agricultural produce has largely grown out of the bucolic settings generally splashed on its packaging; the pastoral fantasies we harbor really can’t be supported by commodity prices. As to clientele, I have to say that the genuine appreciation we get for our product is a large part of our compensation package. Our customers are interested in what they eat, justifying their purchase on far more than price-point. They love the proximity of their food production, they love the connection to it, and they are willing to pay for our lack of commensurate economies of scale. What you eat is about more than just shelf price, and a growing number of newly ascendant “foodies” recognize this. Economics itself is about more than just prices; it is the study of competing demands for limited resources and it encompasses the curious and heartening revelation that the application of human creativity (holistic tool #1!) to a problem of scarcity always breeds abundance. A brief economic history of the bovine is evidence enough of this: A shortage of accessible protein led to the domestication of beef cattle at the end of the Holocene; a shortage of cheap beef led to the development of industrial scale feedlots at the end of the war-period, and a shortage of additive-free, humanely raised beef is leading to the oncoming abundance of the kind of beef we make a living selling. Interestingly enough, the word “cattle” is related to “capital,” representing one of mankind’s first intimations of personal property and transactions through trade; bovine economics clearly has a long lineage. Economics is the primary consideration of our enterprise. After six years of steady growth, we are honest enough to admit that we are nowhere near the “best case” goals we set at the outset (though just about exactly where we thought the “likely” outcomes would be). While we’re not quite making the six figures we’d hoped, we are paying
our bills and investing the residual in our operation. We have arrived at the stage where it seems theoretically possible to buy (and sustain) an additional productive ranch. Perhaps more importantly we have managed to free up a considerable amount of time to, among other things, participate in the world of ideas. Our financial goals were not based strictly on a dollar amount, but upon a more general quality of life description. I’d have to say we’re just about there.
that mankind occupies a vital ecological niche, that of “rambunctious gardener,” quietly increasing the capacity of a given parcel of land to support life. Certainly, my definition of “improvement” is wholly relative, betraying the self-serving slurry of aesthetic values that I then impose more or less at random on the property under my domain. But is that so very strange? Indeed, is there any other way?
Management— Husbandry by any other Name
But are we “green?” Another wince. People who emotionally relate to our way of life commend us for our “greenness” all the time. Calling someone green used to be a dismissive out here, but now it means we are darlings of the Left. I doubt if we’re as green as they think. People are terribly excited about the notion of “food-miles,” the premise being that the fewer miles food travels to reach one’s mouth, the better. This resonates with me at an emotional, interpersonal, community-loving level, but I doubt that the carbon footprint a pound of our beef creates in traveling to Tucson towed in a diesel pickup is significantly lower than a pound of Uruguayan beef traveling by shipping container. I do my honest part to dissuade people from their madness, but will still sell my beef if they insist. If being green means that we produce our beef without relying on taxpayer funded, artificially cheap corn feeds, without externalizing our costs into local aquifers and impinging on our neighbor’s property with obnoxious noise, dust, and pollutants, then I guess we’re “green.” I care deeply about the landscape that supports us, in part because my good management benefits me, not Mother Earth. Maybe it’s not politically correct,
We are often accused by our clientele of being “sustainable.” This is one of those wince-inducing phrases that means all things to all people and looks cute on Facebook. In the interests of disclosure: in our minds it means profitably harvesting a wholesome food source with limited external inputs beyond sunlight, water, and our own energy; an activity that can reasonably be expected to continue unchanged for generations to come. But frankly, the concept of “sustainability” is disturbingly unambitious. In my mind at least, the sadly out of favor term of “husbandry” is much more appealing. It refers to the far more positive concept of improving land instead of simply “sustaining” it. Our stewardship begins, of course, by countering the common misunderstanding that livestock are generally destructive toward landscapes, that their impacts should be limited or mitigated by agencies with the wisdom and resources to control them. Being diffusion-loving, bottom-up kinds of managers, we exert what influence we can to support the nematode as well as the megafauna. We adhere to the philosophy
but brazen self-interest (well understood) is the only way to make the world a better place. Husbandry of resources is a vital and venerable agrarian tradition. Understood within the context of holistic thinking, I believe that it’s due for a renaissance as society moves beyond the simplistic (and in many ways detrimental) paradigm of “fatter, faster, cheaper” agricultural production.
Applied Creativity (there’s no App for that…) We do a lot of the now-standard stuff: parcel our irrigated pasture into day-long rotations, bunching our cattle using electric tape (not twine!), we plant legumes for nitrogen (white and Haifa clover do okay at the leaks, alfalfa seems to be our new, more resilient, favorite), we overseed annual cool-season grasses every fall and grow green pasture all year long (Arizona climate). And we do some weird stuff: we skip planting in the spring and just water the native annuals (we sit on old Amaranth fields and a Ballcourt from our pre, pre, predecessors). We are experimenting with transitioning to permanent “savannah” pasture, opting to keep (but trim) the mesquites for their valuable shade, water, nitrogen, feed, and organic matter. We’ve quit discing (just seed drilling now), and have planted native perennials to extend our forage chain through the late summer. We’re stabilizing our riparian banks through mechanical labor and intend to establish soil horizons with animal impact. We’re going to try mobile chickens again on pasture and see if we can outthink our coyote welfare-recipients. We’ve had pretty good luck with an experiment in freerange, mesquite-bean-finished hogs (prosciuttos, sausage, cured hams: jamon Arizonico anyone?). One of the creative joys in this business is the entrepreneurial pursuit of turning liabilities into assets. For instance, we made the disgusting (and expensive) problems of offal disposal from our on-site packinghouse into viable assets. Blood, rumen, and other “soft” offal gets combined in an 80,000 pound windrow of wood chips (provided free as “cleanup” from the local sawmill), and cooks off beautifully in a rich, high-octane compost. This pile is applied annually to our pastures using a manure spreader with remarkable (and highly visible) benefits to the grass. Beef fat is turned from a health hazard into biodiesel using our very own “appleseed enerator” that helps run our diesel trucks and tractors (this is both easier and harder than it sounds). We’ve turned old fence wire into Christmas wreaths. We’ve made our relatively inaccessible river bottom into a haven for birders and eco-tourists. And on and on. This stuff is fun! CONTINUED ON PAGE 8
Irrigated pasture pre-graze on left and post-graze on right. Number 142
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Holistic Management Through Osmosis continued from page seven
Pursuing Happiness As Madison alluded, every question is one between freedom and security. In our general pursuit of happiness, we confront this conflict more intimately, perhaps, than most. Giving up a comfy, predictable, well-paid “Nerf” lifestyle for one that depends wholly on one’s own wherewithal is a frightening thing. But freedom is a strong incentive, and we now allocate our time and energy to what we deem best. We eat our meals as a family, play outside, read, ride horses, play the piano, watch chickens, and go for walks when we want to. Weekends don’t mean what they used to, since “free” is always. Of course, we aren’t on vacation all the time, far from it. We work longer days doing harder work than ever before. Being free from the direct caprices of bosses and bureaucracies does not mean you are free from want, from the necessity to feed and clothe one’s family. Inevitably we find ourselves stressed and unhappy at times. But there seems to be a big difference when pressure comes from within rather than without. All in all, I suspect that we’ve found our own particular version of Aristotle’s “middling way,” while attempting to negotiate the balance between excess and deficiency. I wouldn’t congratulate ourselves for doing this intentionally; we bounce through the ruts like everyone else. But I must confess a certain contentment of spirit, an appreciation for what we craft that I suspect is lacking in many of the lives of our peers. At the end of the day, the model of production we promote is by no means perfect. It’s costly to consumers, it’s physically and financially demanding for producers. But if nothing else it is honest; the costs are a direct reflection of the necessary inputs. We live in intimate proximity to the processes that give (and take) life. We, in turn, give back to the land, leaving it richer and more fecund than we found it. As long as we have consumers who value that, our business will survive. But even if social passions change (as they invariably do), the way in which we arrive at our decisions will be in large measure predicated on the holistic model which helps to clarify an appropriate allocation of resources. My formal grasp of the principles of Holistic Management is like my formal grasp of the Gospels: probably negligible, but the message comes through loudly and clear. Cultivating lives and landscapes into full bloom seems a very noble and fulfilling pursuit; thinking holistically makes it that much easier. Maybe it’s about time I signed up for the “The Course.” Paul Schwennesen and his family ranches near Winkleman, Arizona and can be reached at:Schwennesen@mac.com.
March / April 2012
Walking the Talk of Ecosystem Services— JX Ranch by Courtney White
alk of ecosystem services is all the rage today among academics, activists, agencies, and policy-makers. But for ranchers Tom and Mimi Sidwell, who produce grassfed beef in the high, dry plains of eastern New Mexico, this talk is old news. That’s because they have been delivering ecosystem services for decades—they just didn’t know it had an official name until recently. They thought they were growing grass, building soil, improving the water cycle, and feeding people while earning a living at something they love to do. Calling the management of natural processes to provide essential resources for human well-being ‘ecosystem services’ might sound new to them—except in practice it’s exactly what they been doing all their adult lives. That’s why examining this important concept from the bottom up, as in the case of the Sidwells’ JX Ranch, instead of top down can help us get past the talk and on to the increasingly urgent job of improving human well-being in the 21st century.
Ecosystem Services Explained The term ‘ecosystem services’ came into vogue in 2005 with the publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment by the United Nations, which focused on the role ecosystems play, directly or indirectly, in human well-being. The Assessment’s basic premise is this: humans, although buffered against environmental stress by culture and technology, are utterly dependent on the flow of ecosystem services for our well-being, such as soil for food production, fresh water for drinking, wood for fuel, grass for animals, and open space for recreation. To make their point, the authors grouped ecosystem benefits into four broad categories: Provisioning Services: including food, fishing, wild crops, timber, fiber, fresh water supplies, fossil groundwater, and genetic resources (biodiversity); Regulating Services: including mitigation and adaptation to climate change, protection from floods, conservation agriculture, erosion control, reforestation, wetlands restoration, pest regulation, and water quality; Supporting Services: including soil stability, biotic integrity, watershed function, photosynthesis, and microbial activity; Cultural Services: including spiritually significant places, traditional knowledge, educational opportunities, aesthetic experiences, cultural heritage, recreation and ecotourism. The interaction and integration of these services in a specific ecosystem is key. When they work in harmony with each other, human well-being rises; when they compete or damage one another, well-being declines—and not just for humans. Ecosystem degradation harms the well-being of multiple species as well. The erosion of watershed function, for example, can have cascading detrimental effects on a wide variety of plants and animals. To no one’s surprise, perhaps, the Assessment concluded that the current demand for many ecosystem services around the globe is unsustainable. “If current trends in ecosystem services are projected unchanged to the middle of the twenty-first century,” wrote the authors, “there is a high likelihood that widespread constraints on human well-being will result.” [emphasis added] Specifically, the authors say that the rapidly growing demand for provisioning services, such as water, food and fiber, has been largely met at the expense of supporting, regulating, and cultural ecosystem services. Increased crop yields in industrialized nations, for example, have come at the expense of soil fertility, widespread erosion, and increased fossil fuel use. These costs have important feedback implications for ecosystem health and the services it provides. The Assessment identifies the following “drivers” as the main culprits in ecosystem service decline:
Mimi & Tom Sidwell
create more-sustainable management methods) could greatly improve outcomes for ecosystem services and human well-being.
Enter the Sidwells
• Changes in local land use and cover • Species introduction or removal • External inputs (fertilizer, pest control, irrigation, etc) • Overexploitation of natural resources • Climate change • Natural, physical, and biological agents (evolution, volcanoes, etc) • Increasing demand for ecosystem services • Increasing pollution and waste • Global trade Of all these drivers, however, it is climate change that is projected over the next century to most affect all aspects of ecosystem service provision. This is particularly true for semiarid drylands, which cover over 40% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and are home to at least two billion people. In fact, desertification has become a major concern already. Predicted hotter and drier conditions as a consequence of climate change will increase pressure on these lands, especially its ability to produce fresh water, likely reducing human well-being significantly. Also important, though less obvious at first glance, is the role rapid loss of culturally valued ecosystems and landscapes has played in social disruptions and societal marginalization in many parts of the world. This is less apparent because the understanding of the linkages between ecological processes and social processes and their intangible benefits (such as spiritual and religious values), as well as the influence on sustainable natural resource management, is weak. It all adds up to a strong sense of urgency— which is where the activists, academics, agencies and policy-makers come in. Reducing and reversing ecosystem service decline quickly is necessary if we are to maintain the level of wellbeing to which humans are accustomed. Accomplishing this work will require collective action, wrote the Assessment’s authors, because uncoordinated individual action is insufficient to mitigate many issues that have large-scale underlying causes or consequences. They also say that active adaptive management (experimentation and monitoring in order to
In 2004, Tom and Mimi purchased the 7,000acre (2,800ha) JX Ranch, south of Tucumcari, New Mexico and set about doing what they know best: earning a profit by restoring the land to health and stewarding it sustainably. As with many ranches in the arid Southwest, the JX had been hard used. The land’s health had been depleted by substandard cattle, farming, and water management. Grass cover had diminished in quantity and quality, exposing soil to the erosive effects of wind, rain, and sunlight, which also diminished the organic content of the soil significantly. Eroded gullies had formed across the ranch, small at first, but growing larger with each thundershower, cutting down through the soft soil, biting into the land deeper, eating away at its vitality. Water tables fell correspondingly, starving plants and animals alike of precious nutrients, forage, and energy. Profits fell too for the owners. Many had followed a typical business plan: stretch the land’s ecological capacity to the breaking point, then add more cattle when the economic times turned tough, and pray for rain when dry times arrived, as they always did. The result was the same: a downward spiral as the ranch crossed ecological and economic thresholds, ultimately resulting its breakdown, breakup, or sale. In the case of the JX, overgrazing caused mesquite shrubs to outcompete perennial grass plants, which increased the amount of bare soil across the ranch, which encouraged wind and water erosion, which dropped water tables as gullies grew and deepened and topsoil blew away. Water, nutrient, mineral,
and energy cycles unraveled across the JX.
Changing the Landscape This did not deter the Sidwells. In fact, after nearly thirty years of experience healing land, they saw the deteriorated condition of the JX not as a liability, but as an opportunity. That’s because their business model was holistic and integrated—they look at every part of their property as interconnected. Their goal was to increase the capacity of the ranch at all levels. Profit to them is a means to this end, not the end itself. And after decades of practicing a style of cattle ranching that healed land instead of depleting it, the Sidwells knew exactly what to do on their new place. Tom began by dividing the entire ranch into sixteen pastures, up from the original five, using solar-powered electric fencing. After installing a water system to feed all sixteen pastures, he picked cattle that could do well in dry country, grouped them into one herd and set about carefully rotating them through the pastures, never grazing one for very long (7-10 days typically) in order to give the land plenty of recovery time to grow grass. Next, he began clearing out the juniper trees on the ranch with a bulldozer. Eventually he turned his attention to the mesquite as well, grubbing out hundreds of acres so that native grass could grow in its stead. It worked. Tom knows how to read a landscape, and what he began to see on the JX was land beginning to heal. Tom kept going. He began to feed the cattle on patches of bare soil and on gully headcuts (dry waterfalls that migrate upslope with rain events) and then watched as grass grew—a result of the animals’ hooves breaking up the capped topsoil, allowing seed-to-soil contact. Soon he was able to CONTINUED ON PAGE 10
Even with the 2011 drought, Tom Sidwell was able to increase his stocking rate by utilizing 2010 stockpiled grass and smaller paddocks with tighter control of graze/trample ratio and recovery. Number 142
IN PRACTICE 9
many ranchers in nearby Texas have done, Tom
continued from page nine built fences—the JX now has 25 pastures, each with
lengthen the period of rest between pulses of cattle grazing in each pasture from 60 days to 90 days to the current 105 days across the whole ranch, as grass continued to grow under his careful stewardship. This allowed the Sidwells to increase the overall livestock capacity of the ranch by 25% in only six years, which has had a significant positive impact on their bank account. The typical stocking rate in this part of New Mexico is one cow to 50 acres (20ha). The Sidwells have brought it down to one to 36 acres (14ha), and hope to get it down to 1 to 30 acres (12ha) someday. The reason for his optimism is simple: the native grasses are coming back, even in dry years. In fact, Tom says he has essentially “droughtproofed” the ranch by his management. It was a statement-of-fact, not a boast (he’s not the boasting type). What does he mean? First, by managing the JX for increased land health—soil, grass and water—instead of increased pounds of beef, the ranch has plenty of feed to get through the dry times. Second, Tom plans for drought. Every fall, once the growing season is over, he checks his monitoring plots and evaluates how much grass he has left. Then he calculates the stocking rate for his cattle assuming that it won’t rain again until July. If it does rain or snow before then, he’ll adjust the rate upward; if it doesn’t, at least he knows he can stay in business, and within the land’s carrying capacity, until the monsoon rains begin. It’s not the amount of rain that matters, it’s how it’s used when it does come. Ten inches of rain falling on barren, eroded soils will be less effective than five inches falling on grass-covered range. The first runs off, the second sinks in. If it rains, that is. In 2011, Tom’s drought planning was put to a severe test. The JX has seen a little more than three inches of rain in twelve months (the average is ten inches). Rather than sell his cattle, however, as
an average grazing period of 4 days followed by 105 days of rest. Tom reports that the ranch has “plenty of grass for the cattle even with a 28% increase in carrying capacity. We haven't reduced our cow numbers and are weaning the calves tomorrow.” However, the long range forecast isn’t optimistic—for rain or cows. If another La Niña weather pattern settles in over the Southwest, as predicted, drying things out even further, then the Sidwells will likely have to sell most of their animals. They won’t have a choice—they won’t go backwards on their land management program or their planning. “Our decision is weighted about evenly between economic and environmental concerns,” Tom wrote me. “The soil has a lot of litter on it and hopefully we won't get too much erosion or movement next spring when the wind blows. Surprisingly, we have quite a lot of standing 2010 forage. We will forgo herd impact and hoof action, but that's ok; I suspect that a herd of buffalo would avoid a droughted out area also. We will be in good shape until 2013 when cash flow will need to occur. When it rains again, we plan to winter graze yearlings until conditions are right to get back into cow/calf again.”
Enterprise Diversity In 2009, the Sidwells converted their beef business from a conventional, feedlot-based system to an entirely grass-fed operation. Grass-fed means the animals have spent their entire lives on grass—which is what nature intended for them—and no time in huge, stinky feedlots, eating corn and other assorted industrial byproducts. Grass-fed beef consumes far less fossil fuels in its production and distribution, especially if the customers are only a short drive away from the farm, ranch, and processing facility. It has another benefit: profitability. As an added-value food, grass-fed meat sells for as much as 50%
Tom’s biological monitoring has shown that even in drought he continues to increase ground cover with litter and perennial grasses. That monitoring helps him find the right balance between economic and environmental needs. 10 IN PRACTICE
March / April 2012
more than conventional meat—if customers are willing to pay the higher premiums, which in the Sidwells’ case they are. The Sidwells also run a small tourism business on the JX—customers pay to stay in a pretty guest house on the property and help around the ranch. Whether the Sidwells can keep both programs going through 2013 and beyond will depend on the drought. All the elements are in place for continued success—but even ‘drought-proof’ ranches need to have rain at some point! It’s all an example of how the Sidwells are walking the talk of ecosystem services on their ranch. They are supplying provisioning services (food and water) while simultaneously restoring and maintaining supporting services (soil health and watershed function) and providing regulating services (erosion control, improved water quality, resistance to drought, and mitigating climate change). The ranch also supplies a high qualityof-life for them, and an aesthetically-pleasing experience for the guests who pay to stay on the ranch, which means they are creating cultural services as well. The Sidwells can do all these things on one ranch because they have reconnected soil, water, plants, sunlight, food and profit in a way that is both healing and sustainable. They did it by returning to nature’s principles of herbivory, ecological disturbance, soil formation, microbial action, and good food. In the process, they improved the resilience of the land and their business for whatever shock or surprise the future may have in store. They made the land sing, in other words, with health and life. Now all it needs is a little more rain. The Sidwells illustrate how we can bring the idea of ecosystem services back down to the ground. Talk of these services tends to be abstract, academic or colored by grim descriptions of crisis and collapse. By looking at a ranch like the JX, however, which has been successfully delivering ecosystem services for years, we can begin to see how the idea managing natural processes for human well-being can actually operate. Not that the Sidwells have all the answers, they don’t, nor will their example be relevant in other social or ecological contexts. But there is a lesson here about the interconnection between soil, plants, animals and people that can be studied for its larger utility. What the Sidwells have accomplished is neither abstract nor academic. What they do works—and it’ll work for others. Of course, scaling this lesson from the individual ranch up to the collective level, as many say must happen, will be a challenge. But learning how to walk to the talk successfully is the first step. This article appeared first in ACRES Magazine.
& Drought Mitigation— Addressing Social, Biological, and Economic Issues by Peggy Cole Editor’s Note: The following article is information from a series of Drought Mitigation workshops produced by Holistic Management International Texas; sponsored by Farm Aid; and taught by Oklahoma rancher and longtime Holistic Management practitioner Walt Davis, who wrote most of these tips. Additional information from a variety of sources is also included.
rought is a regular occurrence for most ranching operations because ranches tend to be located in areas of natural grassland and one of the formative factors for grasslands is erratic moisture availability. The frequency and severity of droughts vary according to location.
The Effects of Drought Short-Term Effects: • The rate of forage growth slows. • Stock water quantity and /or quality drops. • Animal production is reduced either by lower animal numbers or by poor performance of the same numbers. • The competitive advantage shifts to non-forage and low quality forage plants as a higher percentage of the quality forage is consumed. Mid-term Effects: • Both the mineral cycle and energy flow through the system begin to slow. This puts additional pressure on quality forage species since they tend to require better growing conditions. Weaker individual plants of these species begin to die. • Unless numbers are reduced, animal performance declines as poor nutrition stresses animals and causes them to be more susceptible to parasites and disease. Mortality rates increase in weaker animals. • Surface cover both—living plant and litter—declines, which damages the water cycle by reducing water infiltration and by increasing evaporation. Potential for soil erosion by water runoff increases. • Temperatures at and near the soil surface become more extreme due to the loss of insulation effects of turf and litter. Biological activity slows in this critical area further reducing both energy flow and the mineral cycle. • Low humidity at and near the soil surface reduces the establishment of quality forage seedlings and gives competitive advantage to seedlings of nonforage species. • Low humidity at the soil surface reduces the populations of all types of beneficial organisms from spiders and earthworms to beneficial nematodes, bacteria, and fungi. Loss of these organisms sets the stage for later explosive
growth of pest organism populations. • Stock water becomes a major problem. • As forage quality and quantity both decline, poisonous plants that would normally not be consumed by livestock become more dangerous. Also poisoning can occur from drought stressed plants that accumulate nitrates due to slow growth or by the formation of prussic acid in certain plants. • If a large area is affected, livestock prices will decline as producers reduce animal numbers. Long-Term Effects: • Bare ground increases and long-lived plants such as trees and brush take up most of the available soil moisture. • Forage production becomes minimal. • Livestock production is greatly reduced and wildlife populations suffer. • Soil erosion by wind increases and any rainfall causes erosion. • Bio-diversity decreases and populations of beneficial plants and animals are reduced. If the drought is long enough or severe enough, entire species of plants and animals are lost to the local environment. Effects After the Drought: • Populations of pest organisms explode. Weeds, grasshoppers, armyworms, fire ants and other species that thrive in a simplified local environment can build large populations very rapidly when moisture returns. These population explosions extend the negative effects of the drought by preventing the recovery of populations of beneficial plants and animals. • Soil erosion can be severe if large areas of bare ground have formed. Water infiltration will be below normal until soil cover is reestablished. Floods from excessive runoff may occur even though soil moisture is still below normal. • Succession will have been pushed back by the damage to the mineral cycle, water cycle and energy flow. Note: The extent to which biological succession is repressed is greatly affected by our management practices during the drought. Long-term range deterioration is caused more by our management practices during drought than by the drought.
Planning Before A Drought The best way to mitigate the biological effects of drought is to recognize it as a normal occurrence that varies in frequency according to locale. Doing so allows you to make plans to reduce its impact upon the operation and upon the soil-plant-animal complex on which the operation depends. Prepare Mentally and Socially: • Realize that drought is normal and will occur sooner or later. The CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
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frequency with which drought occurs depends upon the area. Know the historical frequency of drought for your area and plan accordingly. The stress and helpless feeling that come from not being in control of your operation, can literally be life threatening. Planning helps you stay in control of what is happening. • Learn the normal weather patterns of your area and be alert for early signs of drought. Know in what time period the forage you depend upon is grown. If moisture is low or ineffective going into the period of peak growth, some degree of drought is almost certain. • Watering restrictions and the increasing battle over water for people versus water for agriculture can create social unrest and a division between agricultural and urban interests. Prepare Biologically: • The effects of dry weather are in direct proportion to the health of the range. Degraded range suffers sooner and more severely than does healthy range. Know the condition of your country and do all that is feasible to improve your range while conditions are good. You can effectively double your rainfall by managing for a healthy water cycle. • Use Planned Grazing to improve the water cycle by: 1) maintaining soil cover, either with live plants or litter in order to increase water infiltration and to decrease evaporation. Under good grazing management, bare ground will be reduced as will capping of the soil. Uniformity of grazing promotes health of both mature plants and of seedlings. 2) increasing soil organic matter content and thus soil tilth and soil life. The cyclic growth and die back of plant feeder roots is one of the best ways to increase soil organic matter. Proper planned grazing stimulates this process. Soil organisms are stimulated with the nutrient pulse of manure, urine, and trampled plant material that comes with each graze period. 3) maintaining enough plant canopy to break raindrops, trap snow and moderate temperatures. • Know the realistic carrying capacity of your country and the results of over stocking. • Subdivide your country so that time control management becomes feasible. This subdivision can normally be more than paid for with increased production and decreased costs. • Design, implement and continually update a grazing plan for each unit on the ranch. Build a time reserve for drought into the plan. • When drought occurs, combine herds wherever possible to increase the number of paddocks available to each herd. This makes longer recovery periods possible without increasing the length of the graze periods. • As growth slows during a drought, recovery periods must be lengthened if damage to the vegetation is to be minimized. Keeping graze periods short is the key to good animal performance. • Develop water in excess of what you expect to need. One or two weak water points can disrupt the entire grazing plan, bring about unnecessary damage to range through over use, and cause poor animal performance. • Understand that the long lasting damage of a drought comes from a loss of biodiversity and a regression of biological succession. Begin now building biological capital (high biodiversity plus the long term effects of high biodiversity) as this is the thing that gives stability as well as productivity to range. Manage to push biological succession forward and biodiversity will increase. Improving the mineral cycle, the water cycle and the amount of energy flow through the system is the key to stability and productivity. • Understand the relationships between animals, plants and soil in a 12
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Walt has found that sheep are a great money maker because of dropping twins and utilizing different forage in multi-species grazing.
rangeland situation. In times of drought, animals will suffer before the vegetation is permanently damaged. Most permanent drought damage to the vegetation and the soil of a range comes about because animals are held on the area long after its ability to feed them is gone. Droughts have come and gone for eons without destroying the range. Before humans when drought became serious, the animals either moved or died. By feeding animals on drought stricken range, we compound the damage many times over by destroying soil cover and thus the soil. Animals recover from stress faster than range forage and range forage recovers much faster than does soil. It is very possible to save the herd and lose the ranch. • Know the difference between feeding for supplementation and feeding for substitution. Supplementing low quality forage with protein or minerals can be a valuable tool. Substitution feeding of animals seldom makes economic sense. If the decision is made to use substitution feeding, put the animals into drylot to prevent damage to the range. Livestock can be replaced much more quickly then damage to the range can be repaired. Prepare Financially: • The first order of business should be to make realistic financial plans to cope with the drought that is surely coming. If your operation were such that you are not building a surplus reserve, you would be wise to change the operation. • In areas with a high drought risk, the stocking rate should contain animals that can be moved as soon as drought is evident without incurring large financial loss; the higher the drought risk the larger the percentage of these animals in the stocking mix. Plan the mix of enterprises to the likely frequency and severity of drought. Set up a mix of livestock that allows stocking rate to vary with a minimum of disturbance to the overall operation of the ranch. This mix might range from 10 % stockers and 90% registered cows in an area little subject to drought; to stocker goats purchased only in the years that it rains on country subject to frequent and severe drought. • Have a plan detailing what is to be done at each stage as a drought develops. This would entail spelling out what animals are to be removed at what point and what other changes such as combining herds will be made in the operation. Get ready to lighten the load on your range at short notice and with minimal financial damage. Plan to reduce stock numbers before it becomes absolutely necessary. Once growth stops, the sooner numbers are reduced the more animals can be saved. After the Drought: • Expect a plague of weeds along with grasshoppers, armyworms or whatever pest organisms are common to your area. These population explosions come about because of the reduced amount of life in the area due to the drought.
• Be careful that your response to the situation doesn’t increase the problem. Weeds are Nature’s way to respond quickly to bare ground. If there is nothing growing but weeds and you kill the weeds, you still have no forage but you do have bare ground. Pest organism explosions occur because of a lack of biodiversity. • Do not be in a hurry to re-establish the old number of herds. Keep your stock density high after the drought breaks unless there are compelling reasons not to do so. High stock density is a powerful tool for improving mineral cycle, water cycle and energy flow, and thus moving biological succession forward. It is also the most effective tool to deal with the plagues of pest organisms as it addresses the root cause of these plagues, which is low biological activity. • If you do not have a monitoring program in place, use the end of the drought as a starting point and begin monitoring the health of your range. With good management, improvement will be rapid after good conditions return, and this will offer an excellent opportunity to learn how the range heals itself given the chance. Set up permanent photo points and begin a formal monitoring process addressing the whole soil-plant-animal complex.
Conclusion Our management determines the health of our grazing lands. If our practices promote healthy ecological processes: good water cycling and rapid mineral cycling and strong energy flow; then biological succession will advance and our ranges will become both more productive and more stable. Our management during drought is particularly critical since the ecological processes are under stress so that the effects of management mistakes are magnified. Natural grasslands are extremely stable due to their complexity and to the health (read high organic content) of their soils. These grasslands evolved with drought over eons of time. When nature was managing the show, if drought became severe, the grazing animals either left or died. The drought ended and the prairie came back just as it had hundreds of times before. Drought doesn’t destroy grassland. Our management during drought destroys grassland. If we are going to operate in drought prone areas, we would be wise to study natures’ means of range management. Some of the most valuable management tools to work with Nature are: • Keep stock density high • Match the demands for forage to the production of forage especially during drought • Match recovery time to growing conditions and never leave animals on the range when it has lost its ability to produce the feed they need. Do these things in an economically feasible way and your operation has a head start in the race for success. To learn more about Walt’s new book, How to Not Go Broke Ranching, see the book review on page 20. To contact Walt, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Integrating Diversified Strategies— From Renewable Energy and Multiple Breeds to Conservation Easements on a Single Ranch by Dennis Moroney
wenty years ago, in 1992, my wife Deb and I enrolled in a Holistic Resource Management course being offered at the old Jacob Lake Lodge, on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The course emphasized collaboration and was team taught by Steve Rich and Tommie Martin. At the time there was a decided emphasis on working with the many diverse people and organizations that might have an interest in what we were doing on the land. The fact that we were, at the time, ranching on a 50,000 acre U.S. Forest Service permit only added to our need to devise ways to get along with the neighbors as well as involve the agencies and environmental groups in helping us to do a good job of managing the ranch. Much has happened in that twenty year time span, but we have continued to use the tools we acquired through our study of Holistic Management to operate a diverse and productive ranching business which has provided our family with a good life. Decision making skills learned through Holistic Management led to the decision to sell the Cross U Ranch, our forest permit, and purchase a ranch not far from the Mexican border in southeast Arizona, the 47 Ranch. The 47 Ranch is made up of about 32,000 acres (12,800ha) of desert grassland, and oak woodland within 20 miles of the border, and not far from famous old mining towns, Tombstone and Bisbee. I will describe a number of innovations we are using to broaden our base of support and increase our long term sustainability. These include the use of extensive solar and wind energy for water pumping and electrical generation; adding sheep and goats to our traditional beef operation, and experimenting with desert evolved and heritage livestock breeds to increase adaptation to our semi arid landscape; adding 125 fruit and olive trees as part of a permaculture inspired windbreak capable of producing fruits, local cooking oil, CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
Gordon, Deb, Dennis, and Allie Moroney
Walt allows for adequate recovery of forage before turning animals into a new pasture. Number 142
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and artisanal olives; and developing alternative ways of marketing our products. In addition I will discuss some of the work we are doing to restore degraded watershed conditions and improving wildlife habitat; as well as our role in helping the next generation of food producers to obtain the knowledge and skill needed to care for the land. I will also describe some interesting ways we are cooperating with other producers to promote local sustainable food production, and protection of the land and water resources which make our local agriculture possible.
Diversification on the 47 Ranch The 47 Ranch is divided into fifteen large pastures and numerous smaller enclosures, with relatively good water distribution in each pasture, thanks to seven solar powered pumps and windmills located around the ranch, and a network of pipelines and drinkers connected to them. In addition, we graze 6,500 acres (2,600ha) of currently undeveloped ranchette subdivision property which adjoins the ranch, and is divided into five pastures. Less than five miles away, we also have a small farm with grid tied solar and wind powered electrical generation, that help us pump groundwater from shallow wells to produce irrigated forage for our sheep and other livestock. Because we only irrigate during the spring and early summer before the monsoon rains arrive, surplus power generated during the rest of the year is purchased by our local electric co-op, and helps to offset the cost associated with irrigation water pumping. Because of our relatively remote location, all electricity used to power the houses, shops and outbuildings at our ranch headquarters is generated onsite with a combination of solar and wind generators. We have been rigorously-selecting our Arizona native cattle for heritable traits like disposition, fertility, and tenderness for over twenty years. While we are able to graze our cattle year round on the desert grassland and mountain pastures found on the ranch, we know that they must be genetically adapted to thrive in these sometimes harsh conditions. When it became possible to sequence DNA, the University of Arizona began to do some work to identify specific breeds that had both the physical attributes to thrive in a semi-arid environment, but also possess the particular gene associated with tenderness. The result of their work is a hybrid derived from a cross between the well known Kobe beef producing Wagyu breed of Japan and a lesser known breed from Zimbabwe called the Tuli. The Tuli brings drought tolerance, and insect and disease resistance like that found in the more common Zebu or “brahman” type cattle, but with the gene for tenderness. The resulting “Waguli” seems to be a pretty good match for this environment. We are now running seven Waguli bulls with our native cows, and we like the results we are seeing in their calves. We market a large part of what we produce directly to the consumer through farmer’s markets, food co-ops, restaurants that feature regionally produce d foods, and small grocers. Because these animals are raised to slaughter weights entirely on natural rangeland forage, they have tended to be on the lean side. While many customers say they want lean meat, the fact is that the meat generally tastes better with some fat in it. Recent studies have provided strong evidence that the fat produced by pastured livestock actually has some health benefits as well. We recently acquired some Criollo cattle sourced from Chinipas, Chihuahua by way of the USDA Jornada Experimental Range, located near Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Criollo cattle are direct descendents of the original cattle brought to the new world by the Spaniards in the 1500s. These cattle have a smaller frame size, high fertility, and are very well adapted to thrive under harsh desert conditions. In addition they are known to “marble” or put on slight amounts of intermuscular fat on a native rangeland diet. The meat from these Criollo steers has proven to be very popular with our farmer’s 14
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Improved soil health and native grassland vegetation are two objectives for the 47 Ranch with tactics including improved water systems and grazing planning to allow for adequate recovery of grasses. market customers. We are currently breeding some of our native cows to Criollo bulls to see what that cross will produce, but we are thinking that the resulting genetic package may be a step in the right direction as we try to anticipate the effects of climate change on our region. Navajo-Churro sheep were added to the mix because they produce delicious tender meat with a distinctive flavor, and a high value wool favored by Navajo weavers, handspinners, and those who make garments and hats of wool felt. The Churro also is a descendent of the original sheep brought to the New World by the Spaniards, and like the Criollo, has survived centuries of benign neglect in the desert southwest adapting to the temperature extremes, periods of drought, and a diet that often has consisted of shrubs and forbs as much as range grasses. The Navajo Churro originated in North Africa, and came to the Iberian Peninsula with the Moors. It is a breed still favored by the Basques as a milking breed for cheese production. This kind of diversity helps us keep our options open in an uncertain future. Goats were seen as a complimentary enterprise primarily because they prefer a diet consisting of shrubs and annual forbs. In this high desert environment they are an overlay on the same landscape with the cattle and produce a tender and flavorful meat of fine texture, and leanness. The goats we raise are Boer goats and Spanish Boer crosses. The Boers originated in South Africa and were developed as a meat breed, with large frame size, and heavy muscling. They also frequently produce twins, and sometimes triplets. We started crossing them with Spanish genetics for the same reasons we have found to use Spanish origin sheep and cattle. Centuries of surviving and thriving in a harsh environment have winnowed out the weak and frail, leaving a goat that is virtually immune to all diseases, is very fertile, and has excellent mothering instincts. The cross between the two breeds seems once again to be particularly well adapted to our conditions. Permaculture training, and a friend producing artisanal olive oils, and olive delicacies, inspired the planting of 125 fruit and olive trees of several different varieties wrapping around the windward sides of our ranch headquarters. The trees are growing on a drip irrigation system, fertilized with goat manure, and mulched with residue from our chicken pen. Once again the Spanish connection is evident with several of the varieties originating in Spain; and the Mission olive variety featuring individual trees which are over three hundred years old, and still producing where they were planted by Spanish settlers in the 16th century. When these trees begin to come into production in a few years we are planning to add pork produced from pigs finished on the spent olives remaining after pressing for oil.
The Value of Landcare One of the most important factors we feel gives value to the products that we produce is our commitment to land care. Over the years we have come to
Dennis is involved in many projects and programs for education and outreach, including serving as a mentor for apprentices Laura Hoffman and Timothy Prow (pictured here with Allie Moroney in center). understand that we are working in a landscape that has seen some pretty severe degradation over the last century. Much of what has changed is the result of a combination of factors; including changes in fire frequency, drought, inadequate grazing management, climate change, and the unintended consequences of species elimination. In general this has resulted in reduced vegetative cover, accelerated erosion, the loss or reduction of key biological species and the introduction of some non-native species. We have been very involved in what some would term “conservation ranching,” actively working to restore a functional water cycle, increase ground cover, slow or eliminate soil erosion, and restore or augment wildlife habitat. We have viewed the ranch and its surroundings in a holistic context, and have attempted to adapt our management to the needs of the land and use the livestock as a means to accomplish our goals. Specifically, we have built miles of new fencing, extended miles of waterline, and added many new drinkers; to improve livestock control and improve grazing management. In addition we have constructed over 600 rock erosion control structures in washes and gullies, replanted hundreds of acres with native range grasses, and worked with the Arizona Game and Fish Department to create year round water for wildlife all over the ranch. In addition extensive work has been done to ranch roads to enhance their role in water harvesting and reduce their former function as drainage channels and erosion collectors. We recently completed a habitat project funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to benefit three species of migratory sparrows. The project involved selectively removing mesquite shrubs, and creating small water bars, brush rows, and spreader structures to increase the grass cover, and reduce shrub density on about 50 acres. We also constructed 200 artificial burrows for relocation of burrowing owls impacted by residential subdivision development near Phoenix and Kingman. Another project completed with Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Natural Resource Conservation Service involved drilling a well, outfitting it with a solar pump, and building a special pond for endangered Chiricahua and Lowland leopard frogs.
Sharing Knowledge Over the years we have had interns, apprentices, graduate students, and others engaged in all manner of formal and informal educational activity on the ranch. Every summer we have one or two students here on some form of study for credit. In 2011 we hosted two apprentice farmers under the Quivira Coalition’s New Agrarian Program. We have had many students and researchers from the University of Arizona, Prescott College, and Cochise College. In addition we have had foreign students from Mexico, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Denmark. The ranch has served as a lab and teaching facility for countless workshops and short courses on topics ranging from permaculture, range management, alternative energy, livestock judging, horsemanship, ranch roping, spinning, weaving, felting, and wool processing. It has also served as the site for numerous meetings focused on land and
watershed restoration, marketing locally, cross border conservation with our neighbors in the Mexican State of Sonora, and grassfed beef production for our neighbors on the San Carlos Apache Nation. We have also hosted numerous K-12 school groups for farm and ranch visits, field days, etc. Our most ambitious endeavor so far in facilitating the transfer of knowledge, skills, and assets to the next generation of food producers involves the sale of a half interest in the cowherd to our former employee and now partner. This sale took place roughly two years ago, and was accomplished after long and thoughtful conversations about how to keep the ranching option open to our children without burdening them with a sense of obligation regarding a career in ranching. Our partner was able to get a low interest “Beginning Farmer-Rancher Loan” through the USDA, and will have his half of the herd paid for within 5 years. He pays us rent for use of his share of the forage, and is building equity while doing what he loves. This arrangement has allowed us to think a little about retirement in the future, and preserved the options for our children to enter the business when they are ready.
The Need for Collaborators We could not do what we do without many cooperating partners. We have long running working relationships with many government agencies and entities that we have worked with to accomplish goals and projects where we shared a common interest. Some of these partnerships involve benefits for wildlife conservation or habitat management; some are more focused on soil erosion, improving grazing management, sharing information for research purposes, and improving our management capabilities. While we have completed many projects over the years, almost all of them were done in partnership with at least one governmental agency partner. Some of the best projects involved many different agencies, nongovernmental conservation organizations, and other neighboring producers. One of these serves as a good example of the kind of cooperation and coordination that puts good results to work on the ground. The Hay Mountain Watershed Restoration Project began as a conversation with three other neighboring ranchers, and our Natural Resources Conservation Service field staff. All of the four ranches shared a geographic location occupying a significant part of the headwaters of the Whitewater Draw, a sub-watershed of the Rio Yaqui, one of the few Arizona watersheds to drain south into Mexico. But before the Whitewater Draw crosses the border, it flows into a wildlife refuge that serves the seasonal habitat needs for upwards of 20,000 Sandhill Cranes, and thousands of other migratory waterfowl, including Snow Geese, Trumpeter Swans, and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks. Hundreds of other species of waterfowl, song birds, and terrestrial mammals, reptiles, and amphibians also benefit from the refuge. In addition the City of Douglas, Arizona, and City of Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico both draw their domestic water supply from the aquifer. The ranchers came together in 2005 and with assistance from the USDA-NRCS, and USDA Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS), applied for a grant from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, to place a variety of conservation measures on about 7,000 acres (2,800 ha) of rangeland in the upper watershed. Each of the four ranches were already using some type of planned grazing practices and had a long history of conservation ranching. Two of the ranches were operated by ranchers with Holistic Management training. The Hay Mountain Watershed Project placed well over a 1,000 rock erosion control structures, and spreader dikes in drainages to slow runoff velocities, trap silt, and restore native grassland vegetation. Improvements were made to some existing stock tanks to help them function better as sedimentation traps, and some management of brush encroachment allowed for native grasses to regenerate. Additional funding was obtained from Arizona Department of Agriculture, CONTINUED ON PAGE 16
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and technical assistance came from the Arizona State Land Department, USDA-NRCS, and USDA-ARS. Vegetation monitoring was provided by the University of Arizona (U of A) Cooperative Extension Service, and graduate students from the U of A School of Renewable Natural Resources. It is estimated that the project has reduced silt inflows to Whitewater Draw by about 22,000 tons per year! Along the way, the project has served to augment other conservation work taking place on each of the ranches, and benefitting both wildlife and livestock. We have also completed several multi agency projects on the ranch benefitting threatened and endangered amphibians, migratory songbirds, and three species of quail found on the ranch. Other partners we have enjoyed working with include Bat Conservation International, who sponsored workshops in cooperation with the state and federal land management agencies to get escape ramps for small mammals installed in all stockwater drinkers throughout the region and Wild at Heart, who partnered with us to construct the 200 artificial homes for relocated burrowing owls.
Boer goats are an additional livestock raised on the 47 Ranch as part of their diversification strategies.
Conservation Easements on the 47 Ranch
completed a conservation easement on a portion of the ranch in 2007. The agreement provided for the protection of wildlife habitat and continued active ranch management on three parcels in Abbot Canyon, in the Mule Mountains. Each of the three parcels was a 320-acre (128-ha) homestead with a variety of terrain and vegetation types, and each had some riparian habitat and seasonal surface water. The conservation easement agreement involved the sale of development rights for each of the three parcels, which effectively eliminated the possibility of future subdivision, or development for non-agricultural purposes. We retained the right to continue ranching and using the property as it has been used since settlement of the area in the late 1800s. The benefits to our family ranch included a reduction in the value of our taxable estate, making it easier for our heirs to carry on ranching on the property; a cash payment sufficient to pay off our mortgage; a deduction on taxable income with a significant carry-forward; no loss of usefulness of the land, and perpetual protection of wildlife habitat. The value of the development rights extinguished in this particular easement represent roughly 15% of the value of the ranch. However, the elimination of the mortgage placed us on more secure financial footing overall, allowing us to shift our focus to other important goals for our ranch. We currently are in the process of completing another conservation easement on about 1,450 acres (580ha) through the Grassland Reserve Program of the USDA-NRCS. No matter what challenges arise from energy shortages, climate change, or social unrest, the people still will need food and fiber to survive. There is no more important work than restoring the productive capacity of wild and open landscapes in the West, and helping to pass on the skills and knowledge to manage them wisely. Along the way, collaboration is critical: reaching out to the community— the many agencies and constituencies that may share common interests— has been an important part of the 47 Ranch’s holistic approach to land care. Our relationship with our community includes our role as food producers, providing a small part of the food produced and consumed within our local foodshed, and as active participants in promoting and practicing elements of sustainable living within our local area. Among the approaches we found most useful to our long-term stability were diversification of products and functions, and the negotiation of a conservation easement on the property. The conservation easement, in particular, has ensured that our ranch will stay in ranching for generations to come, and that our own heirs will be able to work the family land.
A real estate mortgage is a tough burden for a bunch of cows to drag around. For our ranch to be sustainable, in addition to diversifying, we needed to pay off the mortgage. Half a decade after purchasing the 47 Ranch, we
Dennis and Deb Moroney ranch near Bisbee, Arizona and can be reached at: email@example.com.
Building Resilience The ranch is very involved in promoting sustainability, local foods, and preservation of open spaces and habitat. We work with Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture, Sabores Sin Fronteras, and Ecoasis, to promote all natural, regional food production. We’ve also been active in some of the more conventional agricultural organizations. I recently served as the President of the Arizona Section for the Society for Range Management, and as the President of the Cochise-Graham Cattle Growers. I am also on the Board of the Arizona Cattle Industry Foundation, an organization that awards scholarships to rural youth; and I’m active in the Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance. All of these activities feedback in some way to achieving a more resilient ranching operation, and perhaps making some sort of contribution to our community. At the same time, we have to be profitable to be sustainable. While the economics of ranching are not well understood by most people; the basics center around land, water, forage, livestock, and human knowledge or skill. Many other variables can come into play, sometimes without warning, and so while we strive to move toward clearly defined goals, and aspire to sustainability, we also have to remain very responsive to our changing economic, social, and environmental realities. Decisions made about the quality or quantity of meat we will offer at our local farmer’s market need to be front-loaded more than three years in advance; at the same time, the seasonal variation in rainfall, can trump the best management and preparation; and political decisions made in Phoenix or Washington DC can change the price of a ton of hay overnight. Ranching economics is still pretty complex, mostly because so much depends on the variability of the landscape and what it is capable of producing, and the rich diversity of human creativity that each operator brings to managing their own operation. The fact that there is so much variability keeps it interesting, but predictability and stability make it easier to plan for the future. One of the strategies we chose—the conservation easement, has helped to improve our financial outlook; and lend some predictability to the long term viability of the ranching operation. With the narrow margins ranching provides, reducing or eliminating debt can be essential to long term survival of family scale ranches.
Land & Livestock
March / April 2012
From the Board Chair by Sallie Calhoun
ver the holidays I read an essay by Wes Jackson that made me look at the world differently, and made me think about the role of HMI, and all of us who practice Holistic Management, in the future of agriculture. The name of the essay is “The Information Implosion,” and it is included in the book Nature as Measure. The main premise of the essay is that “though the conventional wisdom is that we are living in the midst of an information explosion, more careful consideration must surely convince us that the opposite is true.” As a trained engineer and long-time Silicon Valley resident, my first reaction to the sentence was, “What is he talking about?” Google tells me that worldwide knowledge is doubling about every 5 years. The changes that I have lived through in the high-tech world are almost incredible. Students these days seem much more educated then when I was in college. In agriculture we are rapidly learning more about soils, microbiology, genetics, plant science, etc. We clearly know so much more now than we did a hundred years ago. As I read the essay, though, I changed my view. The author points out that we have lost a large number of species to extinction in the last 100 years, all of which represent billions of years of accumulated knowledge. We have also seen the depopulation of rural areas all over the world, causing a loss of agricultural knowledge, local knowledge, and cultural knowledge on a vast scale. Both of these trends are still in force and possibly accelerating. As Jackson says, there are many fewer “eyes per acre” all over the world. We have dramatically increased formal, measurable knowledge, but we cannot even put an estimate on how much we have lost in other kinds of knowledge. Jackson is not proposing that we wax nostalgic about the good old days, or try to take agriculture back there, but he does maintain that the loss of cultural diversity and local knowledge of how to convert solar energy into a livelihood may be as significant as all the species loss and environmental degradation. So, where does that leave us today? I might argue with the author's statement that with the knowledge we had in the 1930s we were closer to where we need to be than we are today. I am hopeful that the rate of learning possible today with our global connections and formal knowledge may mean that we are better off than he thinks. The important point is that we have more to re-learn than we imagine if we are going to move forward to a placed-based, sustainable agriculture that will
support human society in the years to come. And this is where HMI and all of the Holistic Management practitioners all over the world come in. Everyone who manages land and thinks about ecosystem processes and monitoring is always observing and learning. You have to be curious and willing to challenge assumptions and explore new ideas. If we have fewer “eyes per acre” we have to use them more effectively. I know that in our ranching operation, learning is continuous. Last year we learned how to install electric fence, how to train steers to the fence, how the steers grazed our new, smaller paddocks, how to build a better ranch road, and how to increase the
biodiversity in our wetlands, and that was just the big stuff. The new agrarians that we heard from at the Quivira Coalition meeting embodied this spirit of learning and adventure. HMI's mission is to educate people to manage land for a sustainable future. If Jackson is right, there is no more urgent need in the world today than to make sure that all of us who manage land are constantly learning and re-learning. We face the immense challenge of bringing more people back onto the land, and they will all need to learn as quickly as possible. We have got to increase “learners per acre” as well as “eyes per acre.” This is exactly what HMI works towards every day.
DEVELOPMENT CORNER Beginning Women Farmers in Texas In the last issue of IN PRACTICE, we talked about the success of HMI’s four seminars which took place in Texas in the fall of 2011. The seminars were designed to introduce Texas women to HMI’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas program that will be implemented in Austin, Texas in 2012. Over 160 women expressed a strong interest in participating in the program, and we’d like to introduce you to two of them. Diana Padilla is the co-owner (with husband Saul) of Yahweh’s All Natural Farm & Garden in Harlingen, Texas. Yahweh’s grows over 40 different vegetables, which are sold to area Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups, farmers markets, and local restaurants. Diana is the founder of H.O.P.E. for Small Farm Sustainability, an organization that utilizes a holistic approach to farming while working to create and preserve small farming operations in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Diana is also the former President (now Treasurer) of Tip of Texas Agriculture Producers Farmer Society Cooperative. When asked why taking HMI’s advanced training classes were important to her, Diana said that HMI’s training was based on information that she believes would improve her farm business, and that as a result of that training, Diana hopes to gain better record keeping methods, while finding the best and most profitable crop to increase farming income. Kim Martin, along with business partner Laurie Bostic are the owners of Barking Cat Farm in Heath, Texas. Barking Cat Farm is a small, specialty farm founded in 2004, which grows high quality cut flowers, herbs, and produce. The farm uses organic and sustainable methods, and currently produces over 200 varieties of fruits, produce, herbs and flowers which are currently sold to various CSA’s as well as some of the finest restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Kim and Laurie believe that taking the Holistic Management training will fundamentally change both their farm business and their lives by bringing some much needed balance back into both. Kim and Laurie Kim Martin also hope to improve the financial decision-making process, and to learn how to sustainably manage their land during drought, while finding time for family, friends, and eating well. Both Diana and Kim are excited about the prospect of mentoring other women farmers, and both indicated that they are looking forward to having a network of other women farmers to collaborate with. Diana and Kim are just two of the women that are interested in HMI’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas program. There are 158 other who need your support as well. Please consider supporting HMI’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Women in Texas program and help these women in their quest to create a successful, sustainable farm or ranch in Texas. You can also give online by visiting our new website at www.holisticmanagement.org. CONTINUED ON PAGE 18
IN PRACTICE 17
John Feehan on the subject of dung beetles. The conference concluded with a field day featuring a fourth generation farmer from Narromine, Bruce Maynard, who dazzled attendees with his no-stress stock handling techniques and methods to teach animals to eat weeds.
T he news from holistic management international
HMI COO on Organic Board
e are proud to announce that HMI’s COO, Tracy Favre, was appointed to the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Five qualified members were chosen for these representative seats which are five-year terms. "As the board serves a critical role in the direction of the USDA National Organic Program, we are pleased to welcome these individuals, chosen for their expertise and familiarity with organic issues," said Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. Authorized by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 the NOSB is responsible for making recommendations about whether a substance should be allowed or prohibited in organic production or handling; assisting in developing standards for substances used in organic production; and advising the Secretary on other aspects of the Act's implementation.
people, programs & projects
Texas program and the Cliff Miller Family Endowment of the Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia gave $4,000 to our Future Farms & Ranches program. Both these programs aim to education farmers and ranchers on Holistic Management practices.
he 2011 New South Wales Holistic Management Conference was a resounding success with over 300 people attending in the Wingham area. The conference included Certified Educators Dick Richardson from South Africa/Australia and John King from New Zealand, as well as other Australian experts in sustainable land and water management. Other speakers and topics included Callum Coates speaking on water as a vital living substance, Bruce Maynard on teaching animals to eat weeds and no stress stock handling, Michael Keily speaking on carbon credits, and
t is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Ekkehard Kulbs, a great Holistic Management practitioner and a mentor to many in the Holistic Management community in Namibia. He is survived by his wife Judith. As Wiebke Volkmann noted: “Ekkehard has been such a wonderful leader by example; he has inspired and accompanied many innovations towards simplicity and holistic common sense, combining sound understanding of principles with practical implementation and a deep compassion for the human being in all of us.”
n the last issue of IN PRACTICE, in the article about Whirlwind Farm, there was an error in the Gross Profit Analysis Table. It should read— Annual Income: 2T/acre @ $600/T = $168,000 for a Gross Profit of $120,800 and a Gross Profit/acre of $862.
continued from page seventeen
Beginning Women Farmer Conference
MI, along with co-sponsors USDANational Institute of Food & Agriculture, and University of Massachusetts College of Natural Sciences and the Center for Agriculture, are excited to announce the Beginning Women Farmer Conference to be held on the University of Massachusetts campus on March 22-23, 2012 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Keynote speakers will include HMI’s COO Tracy Favre, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, and many participants from the Beginning Women Farmer program and experts in whole farm planning. To register for the event, go to HMI’s website at www.holisticmanagement.org.
Program Funding Awards
e are honored to receive grants in support of two important programs. Farm Aid, Inc. generously gave us $5,000 towards our Beginning Farmers & Ranchers: Women in 18 IN PRACTICE
March / April 2012
Kids on the Land The Texas Kids On the Land (KOL) program continues to grow. Peggy Maddox, Director of KOL, has developed a guide for others who might want to start a program for their area. There are four steps she suggests to help you get started. 1. Passion: You must have a passion for it. Designing and carrying out the KOL program for your place will be hard work, but will be most rewarding. In the process you will know more about your soil, plants, wildlife and ecosystem processes. 2. Site: If you have interest in Kids on Land, perhaps you are a landowner, know someone who is, or are simply interested in helping children reconnect to the land. The site does not have to be large. The site does not have to have many facilities although bathrooms are essential. Port-a-potties work well if the real thing is not available. 3. Program: Once you have your site, decide on the age group you want to target. Check out the KOL program booklets available for free download from HMI’s website (www.holisticmanagement.org). The program booklets, which include a “how-to guide”, are for grades K-6. These booklets are designed for the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas, but are meant to be adaptable to other environmental regions. 4. School: Now you are ready to approach public school officials, home school programs, private schools or other organizations that provide programs for children. If you want more information or help, contact Peggy Maddox at firstname.lastname@example.org or 325/392-2292.
Jeff Goebel 5105 Guadalupe Trail NW Albuquerque, NM 87107 • 541/610-7084 email@example.com
The following Certified Educators listed have been trained to teach and coach individuals in Holistic Management. On a yearly basis, Certified Educators renew their agreement to be affiliated with HMI. This agreement requires their commitment to practice Holistic Management in their own lives and to seek out opportunities for staying current with the latest developments in Holistic Management. For more information about or application forms for the HMI’s Certified Educator Training Programs, contact Ann Adams or visit our website at: www.holisticmanagement.org.
◆ These educators provide Holistic Management instruction on behalf of the institutions they represent. These associate educators provide * educational services to their communities and peer groups.
UNITED STATES ARIZONA
* Tim McGaffic P.O. Box 1903, Cave Creek, AZ 85331 808/936-5749 • firstname.lastname@example.org
* Larry Dyer 1113 Klondike Ave, Petoskey, MI 49770 231/347-7162 (h) • 231/881-2784 (c) email@example.com
CALIFORNIA Owen Hablutzel 4235 W. 63rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90043 310/567-6862 • firstname.lastname@example.org Richard King Poppy Hill Farm, 1675 Adobe Rd., Petaluma, CA 94954 707/769-1490 • email@example.com * Christopher Peck 1330 Gumview Road, Windsor, CA 95492 707/758-0171 Christopher@naturalinvesting.com ◆ Rob Rutherford CA Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo, CA 93407 805/756-1475 • firstname.lastname@example.org COLORADO Cindy Dvergsten 17702 County Rd. 23, Dolores, CO 81323 970/882-4222 email@example.com * Katie Belle Miller 22755 E. Garrett, Calhan, CO 80808 970/310-0852 firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTANA Roland Kroos 4926 Itana Circle, Bozeman, MT 59715 406/522-3862 • email@example.com * Cliff Montagne P.O. Box 173120, Montana State University Department of Land Resources & Environmental Science, Bozeman, MT 59717 406/994-5079 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Constance Neely 1421 Rockinwood Dr., Athens, GA 30606 706/540-2878 • email@example.com IOWA Torray & Erin Wilson 4375 Pierce Ave., Paullina, IA 51046-7401 712/448-3870 • firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com MAINE Vivianne Holmes 239 E Buckfield Road, Buckfield, ME 04220-4209 207/336-2484 • firstname.lastname@example.org * Tobey Williamson 52 Center Street, Portland, ME 04101 c: 207-332-9941 • email@example.com
NORTH DAKOTA Wayne Berry 1611 11th Ave. West, Williston, ND 58801 701/572-9183 • firstname.lastname@example.org Joshua Dukart 2539 Clover Place, Bismarck, ND 58503 701/870-1184 • Joshua_dukart@yahoo.com
WASHINGTON Sandra Matheson 228 E. Smith Rd., Bellingham, WA 98226 360/398-7866 • email@example.com ◆ Don Nelson Department of Animal Sciences 116 Clark Hall, Washington State University Pullman, WA 99164-6310 509/335-2922 • firstname.lastname@example.org Doug Warnock PO Box 48, Prescott, WA 99348 509/629-1671 (c) • 509/849-2264 (h) email@example.com
PENNSYLVANIA WISCONSIN Jim Weaver 428 Copp Hollow Road, Wellsboro, PA 16901 570/724-4955 • firstname.lastname@example.org TEXAS
* Laura Paine Wisconsin DATCP N893 Kranz Rd., Columbus, WI 53925 608/224-5120 (w) • 920/623-4407 (h) email@example.com
Guy Glosson 6717 Hwy. 380, Snyder, TX 79549 806/237-2554 • firstname.lastname@example.org
* Mae Rose Petrehn
86904 Delmar Ave., Newport, NE 68759 913/707-7723 email@example.com Paul Swanson 5155 West 12th St., Hastings, NE 68901 402/463-8507 • firstname.lastname@example.org Ralph Tate 1109 Timber Dr., Papillion, NE 68046 402/932-3405 • Tater2d2@cox.net NEW HAMPSHIRE
NEW YORK Erica Frenay 454 Old 76 Road, Brooktondale, NY 14817 607/539-3246 • email@example.com Phillip Metzger 120 Thompson Creek Rd., Norwich, NY 13815 607/316-4182 • firstname.lastname@example.org
Peggy Maddox P.O. Box 694, Ozona, TX 76943-0694 325/392-2292 • email@example.com Peggy Sechrist 106 Thunderbird Ranch Road, Fredericksburg, TX 78624 (C)830/456-5587 • firstname.lastname@example.org
◆ Seth Wilner
24 Main Street, Newport, NH 03773 603/863-4497 (h) • 603/863-9200 (w) email@example.com NEW MEXICO ◆ Ann Adams Holistic Management International 5941 Jefferson St. NE, Suite B Albuquerque, NM 87109 505/842-5252 firstname.lastname@example.org Kelly Boney 4865 Quay Road L, San Jon, NM 88434 575/268-1162 • email@example.com Kirk Gadzia P.O. Box 1100, Bernalillo, NM 87004 505/867-4685, (f) 505/867-9952 firstname.lastname@example.org
AUSTRALIA Judi Earl “Glen Orton” 3843 Warialda Rd., Coolatai NSW 2402 email@example.com 61-2- 0409-151-969 George Gundry Willeroo, Tarago, NSW 2580 61-2-4844-6223 • firstname.lastname@example.org Graeme Hand 150 Caroona Lane, Branxholme, VIC 3302 61-3-5578-6272 (h) 61-4-1853-2130 (c) email@example.com Dick Richardson Frogmore Boorowa NSW 2586 61-0-263853217 (w) 61-0-263856224 (h) 61-0-429069001 (c) firstname.lastname@example.org Brian Wehlburg Pine Scrub Creek, Kindee, NSW, 2446 61-2-6587-4353 email@example.com CANADA Don Campbell Box 817 Meadow Lake, SK S9X 1Y6 306/236-6088 firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda & Ralph Corcoran Box 36, Langbank, SK S0G 2X0 306/532-4778 email@example.com
* Allison Guichon
Box 10, Quilchena, BC V0E 2R0 250/378-4535 firstname.lastname@example.org Blain Hjertaas Box 760, Redvers, Saskatchewan SOC 2HO 306/452-3882 email@example.com Brian Luce RR #4, Ponoka, AB T4J 1R4 403/783-6518 firstname.lastname@example.org Tony McQuail 86016 Creek Line, RR#1, Lucknow, ON N0G 2H0 519/528-2493 email@example.com Len Pigott Box 222, Dysart, SK, SOH 1HO 306/432-4583 JLPigott@sasktel.net Kelly Sidoryk P.O. Box 374, Lloydminster, AB S9V 0Y4 780/875-9806 (h) 780/875-4418 (c) firstname.lastname@example.org
IN PRACTICE 19
Holistic Goal Setting and Facilitation Services
KENYA Richard Hatfield P.O. Box 10091-00100, Nairobi 254-0723-506-331; email@example.com Christine C. Jost International Livestock Research Institute Box 30709, Nairobi 00100 254-20-422-3000; 254-736-715-417 (c) firstname.lastname@example.org * Belinda Low P.O. Box 15109, Langata, Nairobi 254-727-288-039; email@example.com
Are you ready to make the most out of your resources? Do you need help dealing with critical human resource issues? Has change taken you by surprise?
HMI provides skilled, objective facilitators to help you achieve your goals! BENEFITS OF HOLISTIC MANAGEMENT FACILITATION INCLUDE:
To learn more, call HMI at
• Elicits key motivators and values 505/842-5252 or from the group for more effective email Tracy at tfavre@ group decision making holisticmanagement.org. • Improves communication • Improves conflict resolution • Creates a safe environment to have crucial conversations including generational transfer • Creates common ground from which to make management decisions and plans
Ivan A. Aguirre Ibarra P.O. Box 304, Hermosillo, Sonora 83000 52-1-662-281-0990 (from U.S.) 51-1-662-281-0901 Rancho_inmaculada@yahoo.com.mx NAMIBIA Usiel Kandjii P.O. Box 23319, Windhoek 264-61-205-2324 • firstname.lastname@example.org Colin Nott P.O. Box 11977, Windhoek 264/61-225085 (h) 264/81-2418778 email@example.com Wiebke Volkmann P.O. Box 9285, Windhoek 264-61-225183 or 264-81-127-0081 firstname.lastname@example.org
* John King
P.O. Box 12011 Beckenham, Christchurch 8242 64-276-737-885 email@example.com SOUTH AFRICA
Jozua Lambrechts P.O. Box 5070 Helderberg, Somerset West Western Cape 7135 27-83-310-1940 • 27-21-851-2430 (w) firstname.lastname@example.org Wayne Knight Solar Addicts PO Box 537, Mokopane, 0600 South Africa 27-0-15-491-5286 email@example.com Ian Mitchell-Innes P.O. Box 52 Elandslaagte 2900 27-36-421-1747 firstname.lastname@example.org UNITED KINGDOM
* Philip Bubb 32 Dart Close, St. Ives, Cambridge, PE27 3JB 44-1480-496-2925 (h) +44 7837 405483 (w) email@example.com
open to new knowledge that would result in better here are few people who have more on the returns. This is the hallmark of an astute business ground knowledge of ranching than Walt by Ann Adams person and a lifelong learner. Paradigms such as all Davis. As an educator he has been generous in How to Not Go Broke predators are bad are hard to shift, but Walt talks sharing that knowledge and now he’s made about his experience with coyotes and how his that knowledge more accessible to all by publishing Ranching: Things I Learned management toward predators has changed over the a book. How to Not Go Broke Ranching: Things I the Hard Way in Fifty Years years. He asks the question: “To how many Learned the Hard Way in Fifty Years of Ranching of Ranching jackrabbits and packrats do you assure long life provides context for ranching today as well as those By Walt Davis, ©2011 when you shoot a coyote?” The issue of unintended lessons of Walt’s he references in the title. Lastly, he consequences articulated here can be most talks about where the ranching industry is today successfully avoided by another philosophical and how to pay attention to the factors that approach of Walt’s: “First do no harm; good advice for physicians and contribute to the profitability and stability of ranching and what to do ranchers.” When it comes to the war on weeds Walt’s advice is: “The answer about them. is not how to kill weeds but rather how to change conditions so that forages You may find some points that have been pointed out before in this can compete effectively with the weeds.” publication and others (i.e. planned grazing is good for you, your animals, This shift in a broader perspective is linked to his expanded interest in your land, and your wallet), but the devil is in the detail. Walt steps you through some of the key aspects of what makes for successful planned grazing biodiversity and agriculture’s place in nature. As Walt puts it: “Agriculture and there’s nothing like shared experience to help you lessen a steep learning should be the art and science of promoting life so we can harvest some of the surplus for our own use.” This book is a training manual on how curve. This book has been a long time coming—Walt began thinking about this to do just that. Every page has a succinct and clear nugget of advice and an explanation book when he began his management consulting business in 1974. Over the of how Walt learned to accomplish that outcome and how you can, too. years his knowledge and experience on both his own ranch and with others Whether you have a large spread or a small ranch, if you run livestock, How has grown so that what you get with How to Not Go Broke Ranching, is really more than just Walt’s 50 years of ranching in Texas and Oklahoma. to Not Grow Broke Ranching will help you improve your long term One of the aspects of this book that I appreciated the most was Walt’s profitability through managing toward a healthy soil-plant-animal complex. evolution as a rancher. He started out doing conventional ranching and was To purchase Walt’s book go to www.waltdavisranch.com.
20 IN PRACTICE
November / December 2011
T H E
M A R K E T P L A C E
SOIL FERTILITY FOR WINE GRAPES Determining & Calculating Needed Nutrients July 30-31 & Aug. 1, 2012 LOCATION: THE EMBASSY SUITES, NAPA, CALIFORNIA
—SPONSORED BY —
KINSEY AGRICULTURAL SERVICES, INC. CONDUCTED BY NEAL KINSEY
Use 100 new and updated vineyard soils on the Albrecht System to explain how to determine each formula and calculate nutrient requirements for grape production.
— MONDAY — Working with Soil Tests, pH and Liming REGISTRATION: $1,200 per person, including lunch each day. Or, $1,550/person, includes breakfast, lunch and lodging for July 29, 30, and 31.
— TUESDAY — Building Vineyard Fertility with Major Nutrients
For room reservations call Kinsey Ag. Services, Inc. (573) 683-3880
— WEDNESDAY — Working with Micronutrients
For consulting or educational services contact:
Kinsey Agricultural Services, Inc. 297 County Highway 357 Charleston, Missouri 63834
Ph: 573/683-3880, Fax: 573/683-6227 www.kinseyag.com • firstname.lastname@example.org
— THURSDAY — WE ACCEPT CREDIT CARD ORDERS (VISA, MC)
Optional Vineyard Soils Tour
Beginning Women Farmer Conference: Exploring Whole Farm Planning MARCH 22-23, 2012 University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts Lincoln Campus Center
HRegUistrRatioRn enYds! March 16, 2012
two-day conference for all farmers interested in improved quality of life, profitability, and land health. Learn how Whole Farm Planning can help you achieve improved quality of life, profitability, and land health
➤ Hear about the successes HMI Beginning Women Farmer Program participants have achieved ➤ Learn from experts in the field about ways to farm successfully whether you are a beginning farmer or have been farming for years. ➤ Network with other farmers in the Northeast to share tips and learn about farming resource
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, AND TO REGISTER, GO TO: www.holisticmanagement.org/conferencebwfne/ Number 142
IN PRACTICE 21
T H E
M A R K E T P L A C E
.!4)/.7)$% . !4)/.7)$% $ ) 3 4 2 )"5 4 )/ . $)342)"54)/.