Building capacity in whole-farm systems and planning using the holistic management framework

2008 Annual Report for ENE07-105

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2007: $171,923.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Seth Wilner
UNH Cooperative Extension

Building capacity in whole-farm systems and planning using the holistic management framework


This grant project has engaged 28 farmer educators throughout the northeast region of SARE. These participants consist of Cooperative Extension staff, NRCS staff, and other non-profit staff.

The project focuses on using the Holistic Management Decision Making Framework to train these farmer educators in whole farm planning. Four distinct 3-day sessions provide the principle educational activities. These are supplemented by phone, email and a web site to support participant learning. Finally, each participant has agreed to work with at least two farms to practice and implement their newly gained knowledge and skills.

The four sessions include: 1) an introduction to decision making and the Holistic Management framework, 2)Environmental/biological monitoring, 3) financial planning, and 4) grazing planning.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Our performance target is as follows: Eighteen project participants (nine in each region) use a systems approach, driven by an integrated understanding of economic, environmental and social factors, in their work with farmers. These participants utilize specific methods in their work with farmers to develop whole farm plans, grazing plans, and financial plans using the Holistic ManagementĀ® Framework. (January 2010)

To date we have exceeded this target. There are 28 program participants (14 in each region) who are actively using and learning the Holistic Management Framework to conduct whole farm planning with farms in their area. Although some of the original participants did drop out of the project, we used our waiting list and filled their slots, getting the new participants up to speed with individual sessions.


Our milestones and their status is as follows:

1) Twelve project participants in each region work with two farms to begin developing a whole farm plan using the Holistic Management framework. (December 2007 through January 2008)- All 28 participants are working with at least one farm, with many working with the two farms that this milestone strives for. For those participants who are working with one farm only, they will have engaged two farms by the time the project ends. Lack of confidence in the framework has been cited as the reason that some participants have not worked with the two farms.

2) Twelve participants in each region work with two farms each to teach the Holistic Financial Planning process (which includes enterprise analysis, cash flow budgeting and record keeping) to develop a financial plan for their farm. (February to October of 2008) – We have not yet held this session so the participants have not engaged in this yet. This session is scheduled to be taught in February 2009 for the NH group and April 2009 for the NY group.

3) Nine participants in each region work with two farms each to teach them how to read their farmland and monitor and assess the impacts of their management on the ecosystem. (November 2008 through January 2009) – This session was held and the 28 participants are working with at least one farm each on this skill set. Over half of the participants are working with two farms and are on schedule to achieve this milestone.

4) Seven participants in each region work with one farm each to teach them how to develop a grazing plan using the Holistic Planned Grazing process. (November 2008 to January 2009)- This session has not been held and is not scheduled to be taught until August of 2009 for both groups (NH and NY).

5) Eighteen Whole Farm Plans are made available online. (April 2009) – Again, this milestone will be achieved later in the project’s life.

6) Nine participants in each region work with their program mentor the year following the last residential session to increase their understanding of the Holistic Management framework and incorporate their knowledge and skills into their work with farmers. (February 2009 through January 2010). – This will occur during the fall of 2009.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

To date, we have had two sessions, each lasting 3 days. The end-of-session surveys have shown that their is an extremely high satisfaction level in both the NH and NY groups.

Additionally, the evaluation tools have found a high level of knowledge and skills gained through the session, as well as a change in awareness and attitudes on holistic thinking, biological monitoring, and whole farm planning.

Participants have found this training to be truly inspiring, as is their work with the farms and their organizations.

All participants have begun at least one whole farm plan with a local farm, and many have began two or more. Knowledge and skills gained during the training are being translated into action outcomes with the whole farm plans.

Participants report that this training has changed: 1) the way that their organization approaches whole farm/business planning, 2) how they observe pasture systems and farm environmental monitoring, 3) how they approach whole farm planning, 4) how they handle farm family conflict, 5) how they perform succession planning/farm transfer planning, and how they approach major farm decision making.


Phil Metzger
RC&D Coordinator
99 North Broad St
Norwich, NY 13815
Office Phone: 6073343231