A Distance Learning Approach to Whole Farm Planning

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $60,400.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Ann Adams
Holistic Management International

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine, poultry, goats, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: free-range, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, mentoring, study circle
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, biodiversity, indicators
  • Production Systems: holistic management, permaculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life

    Proposal abstract:

    According to a survey done by Holistic Management International (HMI), there are a total of 50 agricultural professionals in the Western SARE region interested in HMI’s Whole Farm Planning through Distance Learning training. As a result of the survey, HMI has adapted the training so that residency periods are shorter, enabling more professionals to participate. Training will take place over a period of three years, with HMI training 35 agricultural professionals from 6 different states in whole farm planning. Two distinct training methods will be used: 1) online distance learning that will focus on basic content learning of whole farm planning and 2) webinar/teleconference discussions about the most effective techniques for facilitating learning with farmers. Additional virtual learning tools such as listserves, YouTube videos, and web sharing documents will also be used. All 35 trained professionals will also help two agricultural producers with some component of a whole farm plan, or present information about whole farm planning at a producer educational event for a minimum of 90 producers trained or mentored in whole farm planning. In turn these producers will evaluate their learning experience and be subsequently tracked in order to evaluate changed knowledge/behavior/results achieved from the training. HMI’s whole farm planning training program is based on a highly successful Northeast SARE Professional Development Program titled “Building Capacity in Whole-Farm Systems and Planning Using the Holistic Management ® Framework” (ENE07-105) that was completed by Seth Wilner from The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and Phil Metzger of Central New York Resource Conservation & Development (RC & D) for 28 agricultural professionals, who in turn reached 929 area farmers through a variety of venues, ultimately completing 287 whole farm plans. Along with Dr. Ann Adams, who is the Project Leader and instructor, additional instructors/mentors will be Joshua Dukart, Richard King, Jeff Goebel, Roland Kroos, Seth Wilner, and Phil Metzger. During training, all participants will learn: (a) whole farm planning procedures; (b) financial planning; (c) how to observe the land and evaluate ecosystem health; (d) how to implement monitoring methods to assess the impact of management practices on the ecosystem; (e) grazing planning; and (f) a systems approach to management. Additionally, effective facilitation techniques will also be covered in the training. Frank Aragona, HMI’s Program Director, will be used to evaluate program success.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    HMI expects the following level of participation drawn from the pool of extension and conservationist personnel who have expressed interest in whole farm planning training. The timeline below details out the specific activities and methods that will be employed:
    October – December 2013
    • 35 project participants are selected from the pool of applicants expressing interest in training
    January – November 2014
    • 35 core participants participate in monthly webinars, teleconferences, distance learning
    December - 2014
    • Program evaluations completed by 35 participants
    March 2014 – December 2016
    • 35 project participants work with two farms to begin developing a whole farm plan using the Holistic Management® framework.
    January 2015 – October 2016
    • 35 project participants help to develop/instruct in monthly webinar/distance learning opportunities
    December 2015
    • Program evaluations completed by 35 participants
    • 90 producer evaluations completed for whole farm planning facilitation efficacy of professionals
    December 2016
    • Program evaluations completed by 35 participants
    • 90 producer evaluations completed for whole farm planning facilitation efficacy of professionals

    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.