Whole Farm Planning - Holistic Management

Final Report for ENE01-061

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $143,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Federal Funds: $19,500.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $66,800.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Phillip Metzger
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
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Project Information

Summary:

In the fall of 2001, 14 farmer educators, two university faculty and two private participants began a three-year professional development program to build their capacity in whole farm planning using the Holistic Management® decision making process. The program required a significant commitment of time and effort on the part of the participants both at the training events themselves, as well as in the interim between the sessions.

The outcomes identified in the grant application were as follows:

• Participants from Cooperative Extension, NRCS and other agricultural professions will learn the Holistic Management® decision making process.

• Participants will work with learning communities composed of farmers, colleagues and agency personnel to develop whole system plans relevant to their own farms, food systems, forest stewardship efforts and conservation projects using Holistic Management®.

• The participants will train and educate other NRCS, Cooperative Extension, and farmer educators in the Holistic Management® process.

To achieve the above outcomes, four weeklong training sessions were held between November 2001 and October 2002. A fifth session was held in February of 2004 to evaluate the knowledge level of each participant and certify those who reached proficiency.

Of the 14 that completed the training, 10 were certified by The Savory Center as Educators in Holistic Management.

Performance Target:

Target l. The 15 project participants receive training to teach and facilitate all Holistic Management (HM) processes. The 15 project participants teach HM Processes to 15 Whole Farm Planning Groups (learning communities) consisting of 30 individuals (from the project participants’ sponsoring agencies/organizations) and 67 to 90 individuals representing 45 diversified Northeast farms. HM processes are used to develop 45 Whole Farm Plans.

Target 2. Experiences of the Whole Farm Planning Groups and the Whole Farm Plans are documented by the 15 participants in case studies, with a focus on changes in farm practices, farm profitability, quality of life, natural resource conservation and vitality of the local community. Hard copy and online resources of the documentation are available through CNY RC&D, CES, NRCS and nonprofit agricultural educational organizations. The 15 participants and the Whole Farm Planning Groups present their ongoing work during the NRCS / CNY RC&D’s Annual Farm Diversity Conferences.

Target 3. The 15 project participants successfully fulfill all requirements of the program, and become Holistic Management Certified Educators. The exponential effect of this training through further teaching, facilitation and publications broadens the sustainable agriculture base in the region and continues to reach an estimated 75 to 200 people per year.

Achievement of Performance Targets:
Target 1. The project routinely monitored, evaluated and offered guidance to the participants insuring the required successful completion of their individual learning, the facilitation and teaching of their learning communities and the work on the Whole Farm Plans.

As a result of the time and effort required, 14 participants completed the training.

Of the 15 targeted project participants and learning communities, 13 participants worked with 1 or more for a total of 29 learning communities. Ten (10) participants worked with members of their own agency/organization consisting of approximately 30 individuals. Total learning community numbers including farmers were approximately 110 individuals.

Between 20 and 39 farms completed various aspects of the core Holistic Management® framework. These breakout as follows: 20 Farms identified indicators for a specific decision and monitored for these (Feedback Loop); 29 Farms defined the farm’s resources and decision makers (Whole Under Management); 31 Farms tested decisions using the (Testing Guidelines) and 39 Farms developed a 3 part whole farm goal (Holistic Goal).

Target 2. The project by design, required and offered support to the participants in the successful documentation and dissemination of their work with the Whole Farm Planning Groups during the many events and conferences and through CNY RC&D, CES, NRCS and NGO information channels.

Nine farmer case studies were developed by participants along with 4 personal Ag Educator and 1 organization case study. These are available in the “Improving Whole Farm Planning through Better Decision-Making” publication through Central NY RC&D and other participant organizations. An additional organization and farmer case studies are also available through Central NY RC&D.

Target 3. Participants’ learning was successfully reviewed and evaluated for their achievement of Performance Targets 1 & 2, and 10 participants become certified to teach and facilitate Holistic Management. Continued certification as an educator in Holistic Management requires the individual to facilitate and teach Holistic Management processes throughout their sphere of influence and expertise.

Of the 14 who completed the training, 10 became Certified Educators as determined by The Savory Center for Holistic Management. Four (4) of the original 18 participants (includes private individuals) left the training program over the course of the three years.

Below is a list of participants who completed the training:
• Farmer Educators – defined here as people who are farmers themselves and also teach other farmers – Abe Collins (Dairy farmer-VT), Karl North (Dairy farmer-NY), and Fred Hays (Farmer-WV).
• Consultants – defined here as people whose clients are primarily not farmers – Gretchen Blank (MN)
• Not for Profit Educator – Jim Weaver (County Planner-PA)
• University Faculty – John Gerber (UMass-Amherst), Grace Gershuny, Institute for Social Ecology
• USDA Employees – Vivianne Holmes (UME-Extension), Phil Metzger (NRCS-NY), Steve Ritz (NRCS-WV), Monika Roth (Cornell Extension), Margaret Smith (Iowa Extension), John Thurgood (Cornell Extension), Seth Wilner (UNH-Extension).

Events where information on participant learning was presented included 2 professional development training workshops (New Hampshire – 17 attendees & New York – 33 attendees) for cooperative extension, NRCS, NGO & farmer educators. Additionally, participants learned and practiced many new adult education techniques.

Participants presented their experiences and ongoing work at venues including the 2002 National Small Farms Conference (3 Poster presentations), NOFA-New Jersey 2003 Winter Conference, 2003 Northeast SARE Professional Development Program Winter Meeting, 2003 Audubon Farm Symposium, 2004 Northeast Grasstravaganza Conference, 2004 NY Soil & Water Conservation Society Annual Meeting, 2005 PASA Conference and many others.

Additionally, participants conducted 2 workshops (1 day & 2 day) for Regional Farm & Food for an all farmer audience, and a 1 day workshop in conjunction with the 2004 VT Grazing Conference.

Participants involved in facilitating these events included John Gerber (CES), Phil Metzger (NRCS), Karl North (Farmer), John Thurgood (CES), Jim Weaver (NGO) and Seth Wilner (CES). Steve Ritz (NRCS) and Fred Hayes (NGO) also gave presentations to farmer & agency gatherings and field days in WV and OH.

In total 11 participants facilitated and/or gave public presentations on what they learned. It is estimated that over 400 people were reached per year (2003 & 2004) by the 9 participants actively presenting at large and small conferences/events and to specific groups upon request. (e.g. Participant Phil Metzger has given approximately 20 presentations since 2003 to audiences numbering as few as 5 to over 60 attendees.)

Introduction:

The primary intent of this Northeast SARE PDP project was to train farmer educators in whole farm planning using the Holistic Management® decision making framework. The farmer educators were from Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Universities and Non-Government Organizations.

Holistic Management is a decision making process, which ensures that financial, environmental & social impacts are considered simultaneously, along with long and short term consequences, prior to taking action.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Gretchen Blank
  • Abe Collins
  • John Gerber
  • Grace Gershuny
  • Fred Hayes
  • Vivianne Holmes
  • Chris Hopkins
  • Dale Johnson
  • Karl North
  • Steve Ritz
  • Monika Roth
  • Margaret Smith
  • David Tepfer
  • John Thurgood
  • Jim Weaver
  • Seth Wilner

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

A number of educational methods were used in an effort to provide learning at four different levels. The first educational level was aimed at a basic understanding of the Holistic Management® framework, the planning processes, and the underlying concepts and principles that support them.

The second educational level targeted an understanding of how the various aspects of the framework and the planning procedures work together to provide for holism, helping farmers to achieve economic, environmental, and social sustainability.

The third educational level was focused on the practical application of the decision making framework at a personal level. This was predicated on the notion that personal implementation and practice strengthen a participant’s clarity about the material and their ability to teach others.

The last educational level focused on building the capacity of the participants to teach and facilitate the decision making framework with others, including farmers, Boards of Directors, and agency staff.

The various methods utilized in the program to achieve learning and proficiency at the four levels described above included the following:

• Assigned Readings
All required readings were assigned prior to each training intensive and were relevant to the specific content taught at that session. Readings averaged between 250 and 450 pages. Required readings were assigned from Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making by Allan Savory, At Home with Holistic Management by Ann Adams, “Holistic Management© Financial Planning Guide”, “Holistic Management© Planned Grazing Aide Memoire”, “Holistic Management© Land Planning Guide”, and a bi-monthly educational journal, “Holistic Management-In Practice”. To enhance the students’ knowledge and ability to practice Holistic Management, there was also a “Suggested Reading List” which is attached as Appendix C. The total required reading for the multi-year course was approximately 2000 pages.

• Development of a Learning Contract
The Learning Contract included five required learning objectives, five identified strategies or actions for meeting those objectives, the creation of a time line for accomplishing the work, a list of resources to support the completion of the learning contract, and items to be included as documentation in a Learning Portfolio.

The five required objectives included the following:
1. To understand the content and underlying theories and principles of Holistic Management®
2. To practice the Holistic Management® decision making framework in your personal life
3. To practice or assist someone in the application of the Holistic Management® decision making framework in a professional setting
4. To share what you are learning about Holistic Management® with your Learning Community
5. To develop a Case Study with one or more of your Learning Community participants documenting the learning, practice and teaching of this decision making framework

• Four Content Focused Intensives
Over the first 12 months of the program the participants attended four week-long intensives, each focused on a specific aspect of the framework. For specific details please see Appendix A – Curriculum Outline and Appendix B – Program Details.

• In-session Teaching
Based on the premise that if you want to know something well, attempt to teach it to others, participants were charged with using pre-selected readings and other materials to develop their own teaching methods, training materials, and activities that would support them in educating their fellow students. Teaching methods included role playing, group facilitation, and applications of Howard Gardner’s, “Multiple Intelligences” which include: musical intelligence, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, logical-mathematical intelligence, linguistic intelligence, spatial intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and intrapersonal intelligence

The in-session teaching methods allowed the participants to experiment with a safe audience, establish an accurate understanding and representation of the subject matter, principles and concepts, and to develop and share creative educational tools with the other participants.

• Out-of-session Teaching
Participants were required to share the knowledge they had gained during the training intensive with the members of their Learning Community upon their return home. As mentioned above, Learning Communities included family members, farmers, professional colleagues, and other agency personnel. Participants were charged with working with their Learning Community a minimum of six times over the course of the two plus years.

• Personal Practice / Application
Participants were required to put the decision making process into practice on a personal level. This provided them with both personal experience in working through each step of the Holistic Management® framework and practical experience for relating to those they would be teaching.

• Mid-term Review
Each participant was required to complete a take-home review/exam. The Savory Center’s director of education reviewed midterm responses and gave feedback on an individual basis. Feedback included correcting misconceptions, reiterating key concepts and principles, and providing further questions as food for thought. The midterm also served to identify any ways in which the Savory Center staff could better support the participant during the second year of their practicum.

• Development of a Learning Portfolio
The participants were charged with documenting the completion of their Learning Contract. The documentation demonstrated the level of skills and knowledge they had developed in understanding, practicing, and teaching Holistic Management®. It provided evidence of their ability to use the Holistic Management® framework to develop whole farm or other such plans. Items included in the learning portfolios were PowerPoint presentations, handouts used in the participants’ work, case studies, holistic grazing and holistic financial plans, and journal entries, amongst others.

• Developing Case Studies
The participants were also charged with documenting their work with farmers and agency personnel in the form of case studies. These have been collated and published under the title, “Improving Whole Farm Planning through Better Decision Making”. These are available through the Savory Center for Holistic Management and include 14 case studies.

• Graduation Session
The participants were required to attend a final week-long intensive held in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This allowed the participants the opportunity to discuss the framework, underlying principles and concepts in a completely different environment from the one in which they are working. The graduation week closed with a ceremony and celebration.

• Oral Exit Exam
Each participant was required to complete an oral exit exam. Each exam took approximately 2 hours and included 15 to 20 thematic questions. Four people were present during an exam: the examiner (Savory Center Staff), the Program Mentor (contract employee of the Savory Center), the student being tested, and a peer participant from the program that had already completed their exit exam. Sitting in as an observer during someone else’s exit exam served to enhance and reinforce each participant’s understanding of the material since they were able to once again listen to the questions, hear someone else’s responses and integrate the feedback given.

• Additional Educational Tools
Other educational tools were used throughout the program including a program mentor, several electronic list serves, quarterly self-assessment forms, and journals.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Not only did 14 participants substantially build their knowledge and change the manner in which they perform their work, 31 farms adopted new practices as a result of this training.

The data collected using the three simple tools suggests that the train-the-trainer design of the program was sound and effective, as were the educational methods utilized. People from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skills all effectively learned and implemented the core tenets and methods of the Holistic Management® framework.

The specific planning procedures and monitoring practices were less universally understood and implanted. There could be several reasons that explain why these parts of the training program were less successful in building the capacity of the participants, as discussed in the Outcomes and Impacts section.

Informal interviews conducted with some program participants found that those who had prior skills in grazing, farm management, or ecology appeared to understand the material in the respective planning processes better than those who had no prior skills. Based on these conversations, it appears that previous knowledge and skills in the areas of grazing, financial management, and ecological monitoring would result in a higher probability of being able to understand and disseminate this specific material. Yet it is important to note that this is speculation as the data was not collected to support or refute such a hypothesis. More data would be needed as the anonymity of the responses precludes such analysis here.

The strong correlation between the areas where the participants felt well versed in and the topics the farms completed and adopted further illustrates the success of this training design and of this program in particular. Not only did 13 participants build their knowledge and change the manner in which they perform their work, 31 farms adopted new practices as a result of this training.

Another correlation cited by some program participants, but not measured in the evaluation, was that those who taught or personally practiced Holistic Management regularly had a better understanding of the material than those who did not or did so to a lesser degree. The evaluation did not collect the data to analyze this, but it is a point worth further exploration.

It is important to note that not only did this training impact the agricultural community; further impacts were realized by other audiences including college students, community groups, non profit organizations and board members. As this was a SARE funded grant and resources were limited to conduct an impact evaluation, this other data was not collected and analyzed. Yet oral interviews with participants indicate that these other audiences were positively impacted as a result of this training program.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

The outcomes identified in the grant application were as follows:

I. Participants from Cooperative Extension, NRCS and other agricultural professions will learn the Holistic Management® decision making process.

Fourteen (14) participants completed the training and 10 were certified as Holistic Management Educators by The Savory Center.

Participants rated their ability to teach as high on just over half of the aspects of the Holistic Management® framework.

Items that participants rated their ability to teach as high included the following:
• The whole under management – average rating was 4.7 out of 5, with 92% of respondents (12) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic and 1 respondent rating a satisfactory preparation.
• The holistic goal – average rating was 4.6 out of 5, with 100% of respondents feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic.
• The testing guidelines – average rating was 4.4 out of 5, with 77% of respondents (10) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic and 23% (3 respondents) feeling that they were prepared at a satisfactory level.
• The feedback loop – average rating was 4.5 out of 5, with 92% of respondents (12) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic and 1 respondent rating a satisfactory preparation.
• The foundation principals behind Holistic Management – average rating was 4.2 out of 5, with 77% of respondents (10) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic, 15% (2 respondents) feeling that they were prepared at a satisfactory level and 1 respondent feeling that the training prepared them at less than a satisfactory level.
• The ecosystem processes – average rating was 4.1 out of 5, with 77% of respondents (10) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic and 23% (3 respondents) feeling that they were prepared them at a satisfactory level.

Items that participants rated their ability as satisfactory or lower include:
• Tools for managing the ecosystem processes – average rating was 3.5 out of 5, with 46% of respondents (6) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic, 31% (4 respondents) feeling that they were prepared at a satisfactory level, and 23% (3 respondents) feeling that the training prepared them at less than a satisfactory level.
• The management guidelines – average rating was 3.1 out of 5, with 38% of respondents (5) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic, 23% (3 respondents) feeling that they were prepared at a satisfactory level and 38% (5 respondents) feeling that the training prepared them at less than a satisfactory level.
• Holistic Planned Grazing® – average rating was 3.1 out of 5, with 38% of respondents (5) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic, 23% (3 respondents) feeling that they were prepared at a satisfactory level, and 31% (4 respondents) feeling that the training prepared them at less than a satisfactory level.
• Holistic Financial Planning® – average rating was 2.9 out of 5, with 38% of respondents (5) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic, 23% (3 respondents) feeling that they were prepared at a satisfactory level and 38% (5 respondents) feeling that the training prepared them at less than a satisfactory level.
• Holistic Land Planning® – average rating was 2.8 out of 5, with 31% of respondents (4 respondents) feeling that the training program prepared them well to teach this topic, 15% (2 respondents) feeling that they were prepared at a satisfactory level, and 54% (7 respondents) feeling that the training prepared them at less than a satisfactory level.

II. Participants will work with learning communities composed of farmers, colleagues and agency personnel to develop whole system plans relevant to their own farms, food systems, forest stewardship efforts and conservation projects using Holistic Management®.

Total learning community numbers were approximately 110 individuals, which included farmers, agency colleagues and other interested parties.

Between 20 and 31 farms completed the various aspects of the core Holistic Management® framework.

Whole Farm Plan Action Items
• Defined the “whole” under management – 29 farms completed this, while 10 did not. Reasons for not completing this aspect of the whole farm plan included no time to sit own and formally learn the process, resistance to new ideas, and farmers felt it was obvious.
• Developed a holistic goal – 39 farms developed a holistic goal while 13 farms did not. Reasons for not developing a holistic goal included resistance to new ideas, lacked an understanding on how, the process was too touchy feely and took too much time, and did not want to spend the time required.
• Utilized their holistic goal when testing decisions – 28 farms did, while 10 farms did not. Reasons for not utilizing the holistic goal included lack of confidence that their holistic goal was correct, lack of experience in using the testing guidelines, resistance to new ideas, treating the holistic goal like a mission/vision statement and putting it on a shelf to collect dust, didn’t want to test actions, instead wanted to use traditional remedies recommended by NRCS.
• Continued to utilize their holistic goal over the years – 23 farms did, while 11 farms did not. Reasons for not continuing to utilize the holistic goal over the years included never fully completed it, just did not want to exert the effort, too much effort to change decision making paradigms, did not get that far before they selected not to continue.
• Updated their holistic goals – 14 farms did, while 18 farms did not. Reasons for not updating their holistic goal included didn’t happen if hand wasn’t held, too formal of a process.
• Tested actions and decisions using the testing guidelines – 31 farms did test actions and decisions using the testing guidelines, while 6 farms did not. Reasons for not testing actions included not getting that far before selecting not to continue.
• Utilized the feedback loop – 20 farms utilized the feedback loop, while 15 farms did not. Reasons for not utilizing the feedback loop include not having built their knowledge yet.
• Developed a grazing plan using the Holistic Planned Grazing® process – 12 farmers completed a grazing plan while 14 farms did not. Reasons for not completing a plan included farms did not desire to do this, farms used Management Intensive Grazing, felt it was too much effort and not worth it, didn’t want to move animals and conflicted with other recommendations.
• Utilized their grazing plan – 11 farms did a grazing plan while 8 farms did not. Reasons farms did not utilize a grazing plan included, no fences or watering systems, and conflicted with other standards.
• Developed a Holistic Financial Plan® – 8 farms developed a holistic financial plan, while 22 did not develop a holistic financial plan. Reasons for not doing a holistic financial plan included not practical, participant could not lead the farms through the process, farms did not advance that far, farm did not keep records accurately enough, and not interested, and farm and educator lacked time or skills.
• Monitored impacts using Holistic Management® monitoring techniques – 9 farms did monitor impacts using HM monitoring techniques while 24 did not. Reasons for not using monitoring techniques included more detailed monitoring techniques already in place, did not perceive benefits of monitoring, too much effort with little return, did not believe in its usefulness, have not built the skills yet, and educator not comfortable with the material or lacked time to work with farms.
• Developed a Holistic Land Plan® – 9 farmers developed a holistic land plan, while 23 did not. Reasons for not developing a land plan included farms were already laid out, no new buildings, farms did not advance to that level, farms rejected planned grazing and land planning as a result, no cost share money, still learning about land planning, and educator was not comfortable with the materials or lacked time.
• Utilized their land plan – 9 farms did, while 17 did not. Reasons for not utilizing their land plan included having not formed one and no money for doing so.

Not surprising, many of the reasons listed that farms did not complete or continue with action items included general resistance or lack of interest to new ideas, the perception that the action required more time or effort than it was worth and feelings that the action wasn’t practical.

Educators’ comments indicated that in some cases the farmers and the educators simply didn’t have enough experience or knowledge, or time to implement some of the actions, particularly the land planning, financial planning and monitoring techniques.

One respondent out of the nine indicated that a conflict with NRCS standards was the reason that their farmers did not complete many of the actions.

Several educators indicated that they were not sure or hadn’t had the time to follow up with farms to know why actions were or were not adopted.

One of the general comments from an educator suggested that a successful method to teach farmers Holistic Management® was to work with a study group. “This is a very active group that meets every four to six weeks. Members consistently challenge each other to practice, practice, practice.”

III. The participants will train and educate other NRCS, Cooperative Extension, and farmer educators in the Holistic Management® process.

Ten (10) participants worked with members of their own agency/organization consisting of approximately 30 individuals.

Participants who completed the evaluation showed how they do their jobs differently after this training. This information is transferred to colleagues within their and partnering agencies.

These participants were asked to indicate how they work with farmers on various aspects of Holistic Management® and the data indicated that the respondents did change the way they worked with farmers as a result of the training. Specific results are as follows:

Include all of the people who make daily decisions in developing a farm goal – Before the training five indicated they never or only sometimes did this when working with farmers and after the training five participants indicated they either usually or always do this now.

Address quality of life factors when considering goals/actions/decisions – Before the training three indicated they never or only sometimes did this with farmers and after the training five participants indicated they always do this now.

Encourage farmers to move decision making away from an objective/goal oriented approach to a holistic approach – Before the training four indicated they never or only sometimes did this with farmers and after the training all six participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Teach farmers about seven filters to use prior to decisions or actions – Before the training five indicated they never did this with the farmers they work with and after the training five participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Help farmers evaluate the impact of their decisions using a feedback loop – Before the training five indicated they never did this with the farmers they work with and after the training five participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Work with farmers to monitor impacts of actions over time toward a farm goal – Before the training five indicated they never or only sometimes did this and after the training all six participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Talk with farmers about how they make decisions on the farm – Before the training four indicated they usually or always did this, but after the training, all six participants indicated they always do this with the farmers they work with now.

Encourage farmers to tie financial decisions to their farm goal – Before the training all six indicated they never or only sometimes did this with the farmers they work with and after the training all six participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Help farmers delineate expenses into those that generate new income and those that maintain current levels of income – Before the training all six indicated they never did this with the farmers they work with and after the training five participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Work with farmers to define the farm’s resource base on paper – Prior to the training four indicated they never or only sometimes did this and after the training all six participants indicated they either usually or always do this now.

Brainstorm new enterprises as part of financial planning – Before the training three indicated they never or only sometimes did this with the farmers they work with and after the training five participants indicated they always do this now.

Ask farmers to list a farm profit as an expense category – Before the training all six indicated they never did this with the farmers they work with and after the training four participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Help plan grazing – ensuring adequate recovery times – Before the training three indicated they never or only sometimes did this with the farmers they work with and after the training five participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Help farmers incorporate animal impact, grass growth rate and livestock needs into grazing plans – Before the training four indicated they never or only sometimes do this with the farmers they work with and after the training five participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Help farmers to define the way they must behave and be seen by clients to sustain the farm for future generations – Before the training all six indicated they never or only sometimes did this with the farmers they work with and after the training four participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Help farmers focus on impacts of decisions with respect to ecosystem health – Before the training four indicated they never or only sometimes did this with the farmers they work with and after the training all six participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Help farmers describe the necessary condition the land must be in to sustain the farm for future generations – Before the training four indicated they never or only sometimes did this with the farmers they work with and after the training five participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Address environmental factors when considering goals/actions/decisions – Before the training two indicated they never or only sometimes did this with the farmers they work with (three indicated they usually or always did this) and after the training all six participants indicated they usually or always do this now.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Not only did 14 participants substantially build their knowledge and change the manner in which they perform their work, 31 farms adopted new practices as a result of this training.

The data collected using the three simple tools suggests that the train-the-trainer design of the program was sound and effective, as were the educational methods utilized. People from diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skills all effectively learned and implemented the core tenets and methods of the Holistic Management® framework.

The specific planning procedures and monitoring practices were less universally understood and implanted. There could be several reasons that explain why these parts of the training program were less successful in building the capacity of the participants, as discussed in the Outcomes and Impacts section.

Informal interviews conducted with some program participants found that those who had prior skills in grazing, farm management, or ecology appeared to understand the material in the respective planning processes better than those who had no prior skills. Based on these conversations, it appears that previous knowledge and skills in the areas of grazing, financial management, and ecological monitoring would result in a higher probability of being able to understand and disseminate this specific material. Yet it is important to note that this is speculation as the data was not collected to support or refute such a hypothesis. More data would be needed as the anonymity of the responses precludes such analysis here.

The strong correlation between the areas where the participants felt well versed in and the topics the farms completed and adopted further illustrates the success of this training design and of this program in particular. Not only did 13 participants build their knowledge and change the manner in which they perform their work, 31 farms adopted new practices as a result of this training.

Another correlation cited by some program participants, but not measured in the evaluation, was that those who taught or personally practiced Holistic Management regularly had a better understanding of the material than those who did not or did so to a lesser degree. The evaluation did not collect the data to analyze this, but it is a point worth further exploration.

It is important to note that not only did this training impact the agricultural community; further impacts were realized by other audiences including college students, community groups, non profit organizations and board members. As this was a SARE funded grant and resources were limited to conduct an impact evaluation, this other data was not collected and analyzed. Yet oral interviews with participants indicate that these other audiences were positively impacted as a result of this training program.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

As training progressed consensus building became a major topic of need as participants went out and worked with farmers, fellow ag professionals and learning communities. When dealing with whole farm planning, due to the complexity of natural systems and human interaction, conflict arises. So, participants were given the opportunity to learn a conflict resolution process called the Chadwick Consensus Model (information can be found at managingwholes.com). This added greatly to the curriculum and was successfully utilized by the educators. This process utilizes 5 questions. (1)What is the current situation and how do you feel about it? (2)Given no change what are the worst possible outcomes? (3)If things are changed what are the worst possible outcomes? (4) If things do change what are the best possible outcomes? (5) What behaviours and actions are needed to bring about the best possible outcomes?

A total of 5 participants put the practice into use. Contributions to participants included increasing knowledge in a conflict resolution process and allowing educators to use this in thier work. Examples: Seth Wilner (used on farms and taught it to 21 extension educators), Jim Weaver (used with watershed groups), Phil Metzger (plans to use with non-profit boards and used with newly formed working groups), John Gerber (used with students).

Future Recommendations

Key Point:
A correlation cited by some program participants, but not measured in this evaluation, was that those who taught or personally practiced Holistic Management clearly had a better understanding of the material than those who did not or did so to a lesser degree. Owning the process and practicing it made a major difference in buy-in, motivation and the understanding of the essentials.

Although cases studies illustrate how Holistic Management changed the way farmers/others made decisions, another type of “decision case” is needed to provide adequate detail on how the Holistic Management process actually works by honing in on the mental process.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.