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Grazing for Change conference ignites engagement in holistic management

The first annual Western Regional Grazing Conference: Grazing for Change held at Chico State University Feb. 27 and 28 brought speakers and attendees from four continents to explore the power of holistic management. Three hundred people filled the farm pavilion to engage with the leaders of regenerative agriculture, folks like Allan Savory, Gabe Brown, Dr. Christine Jones and to learn how holistic management can help create the life they want for the land, their families and communities. Excitement filled the room through out the two days, which were packed with presentations and workshops. Perhaps it was the number of attendees for this first-time event–300–or the sense that holistic management is now a global movement that created such buzz, but either way, hope and delight filled up the huge farm pavilion.

The conference featured 12 speakers–international, national and local to Northern California, 35 sponsors, including the Savory Institute, about 20 volunteers and countless hours of planning and preparation from the event hosts: The Jefferson Center for Holistic Management and Chico State College of Agriculture. The Western Livestock Journal covered the event and will continue a holistic management series. Some attendees found it so valuable that they started a meet up group to discuss the topics presented at Grazing for Change.

Attendees also covered the event via Twitter. Check out the big takeaways and follow the Jefferson Center on Twitter @Grazing4Change


The Grazing For Change conference was held at the Chico State Farm Pavilion. Photo by Kent Reeves.

The Grazing For Change conference was held at the Chico State Farm Pavilion. Photo by Kent Reeves.

The guests. The speakers. The food. Amazing.

The focus of the talks and workshops was on the practical application of holistic management for producers and land managers to help them build soil, resources and wealth. Dr. Dave Daley, Dean of the College of Agriculture at Chico State, welcomed the crowd to the university. The Savory Institute’s Director of Marketing, Chirs Kerston, served as the emcee of the event. Folks were nourished by a banquet of local foods for breakfast and snacks such as roasted almonds donated by Burroughs Family Farms, yogurt from Wallaby Yogurt and juice from Smuckers. Allan Savory kicked off the first day with an explanation of the principles of holistic management and his key insights made in developing the concept. Bill Burrows and Tony Malmberg led us through how to manage holistically on public lands and using livestock for fire prevention.

Lunch both days was prepared by locals, Bacio’s Catering, and  featured many locally produced food, such as meat by Belcampo Meat. Co., Llano Seco Meats, LLC, greens from the Chico State organic vegetable project, and rice from Lundberg Family Farms.

In the afternoon, focus shifted to science, especially that beneath the soil, as Jason Rowntree explained holistic management research and Dr. Christine Jones the liquid carbon pathway in soil. Tre Cates, COO of the Savory Institute explained the Savory Network strategy of global hubs working in their region of the world to advance holistic management. Then we, Spencer, Abbey and Maezy Smith, introduced the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management and explained why we are doing the important work of bringing a holistic management center to our region. We explained what we offer in terms of training and skill building as well as the online courses produced by the Savory Institute. Robb Wolf wrapped up the first day with an explanation of how holistic management impacts human health and Kent Reeves shared cowboy poetry with the crowd  and led us into the social hour. This featured locally produced cheeses from Clover Stornetta, sausages from Chico Locker, wine from: 

And of course no social hour in Chico, California would be complete without beer from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.

The Jefferson Center and Chico State College of Agriculture is thrilled and thankful for the support of these local food companies and ranches! We also want to thank our event sponsors for advancing holistic management in our region:

The second day started ranch-style: early. A rancher and farmer who says he has more time now than ever before and spends his winters touring warm places, like California, kicked off the second day. The crowd sat fixated on Gabe Brown’s presentation of how holistic management and his creative approach to cover cropping took his family farm from broke to luxurious. One slide featured his son, Paul, enjoying a beverage and working on his tan during calving season because when you work with nature it is really that easy. Most attendees, as producers themselves, related to Gabe Brown’s story and were excited by the possibilities he shared. Gabe and neighbors started their own local food-coop, abattoir, and he created a direct marketing business for his food products created by farming sunlight and armoring soil.

Dr. Christine Jones and James Komar from the Natural Resource Conservation Service continued the conversation about how to build healthy soil. Allan Savory, William Burnidge from the Nature Conservancy and Rob Rutherford from Whole Options, LLC., led us through an examination of holistic management’s impact on land, including public land and Nature Conservancy owned ranches. A scientific round table with Richard King, Jason Rowntree and Dr. Christine Jones, facilitated by Dr. Cyndi Daley, evaluated the role of academia in holistic management and supporting regenerative agriculture. Dr.  Cyndi Daley wrapped up the first day with a discussion of shifting paradigms and building legacies that last–a deeply-held value that unites the crowd. We were all here because we want a bright future for our land, families, community and world.

The Ranch Tour at Guidici Ranch

The optional ranch tour to Guidici Ranch on Sunday,  March 1, sold out. Forty-plus people loaded onto busses at the Chico State farm early Sunday morning and traveled about an hour south to Guidici Ranch in Oroville, California. Gabe Brown and Dr. Christine Jones attended the tour and provided  management considerations to all attendees. Spencer Smith, a Savory Institute accredited holistic management educator, led discussions on ecosystem processes. Lunch and accommodations were provided by ranch owner, Dr. Cyndi Daley, and ranch managers Darby and Travis Heffner.

Behind the scenes

A special thank you is in order to Brittany Cole Bush who was part of the core event team and led the AV team during the conference. Thank you also to the College of Agriculture students who volunteered to help work and promote the event. You make us proud and hopeful for the future of agriculture. Thank you too to the Buel Mouser Memorial Scholarship program and Indian Valley Academy for making sure a group clad in the corduroy blue jackets made it to the conference. Having FFA students in attendance made it a success for us.

Grazing for Change Conference Photos

Guidici Ranch Tour Photos