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

2009 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 use a systems approach, driven by an integrated understanding of economic, environmental and social factors, in their work with farmers. These participants utilize the Holistic Management framework to develop whole farm plans.

This target has been exceeded! There are 28 program participants who are actively using and learning the Holistic Management Framework to conduct whole farm planning with farms in their area. The 28 participants report that this training has changed the way they work with farmers.

We will collect data in terms of farm numbers, acreages, and financial impacts at project’s end.


1) Twenty eight project participants work with at least two farms to develop whole farm plans using the Holistic Management framework.

This milestone has been accomplished. All 28 participants are working with at least one farm, with many working with well more than the two farms that this milestone strives for.

2) Twenty eight participants 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.

This milestone has been accomplished in a modified manner. Over half the participants have worked with individual farms, while the other half say that they have taught Holistic Financial Planning in group settings.

3) Eighteen participants 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.

The participants report that they now look at farm ecosystems in a systematic manner, exploring the water cycle, mineral cycle, solar energy flows, and biodiversity as they walk a farm. Some of the participants report that they have taught biological monitoring methods to farmers, while others say they simply use it as they make farm visits.

4) Fourteen participants work with one farm each to teach them how to develop a grazing plan using the Holistic Planned Grazing process.

This milestone has not been accomplished yet in full. Only six participants have reported that they have developed a grazing plan. With that said, most report that those who work with grazers have introduced concepts of Holistic Planned Grazing, including a greater focus on plant recovery and ecosystem health.

5) Eighteen Whole Farm Plans are made available online.

This milestone will not happen, as the web site did not allow for this feature and participants did not feel comfortable with this aspect of the project, so we scrapped it. We do however intend to have at least 18 whole farm plans accomplished.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

All four sessions have been completed and the end-of-session surveys have shown that their is an extremely high satisfaction level in both the NH and NY groups. Likewise, knowledge and skill levels have been measured to have been increased.

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 begun 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.

A fifth session is being planned for the end of April in which participants will be able to improve their knowledge in any of the subject areas, as well as have another opportunity to teach farmers who will come for a free workshop on the subject.


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