The following post is written by the Jefferson Center’s work study program participant, Willie Canseco from Austin, Texas.
My name is Willie Canseco. I’m a student from Del Rio, Texas, a city on the U.S.-Mexico border. I attend Hampshire College in Western Massachusetts, where I hope to steer my studies toward regenerative agriculture. My family raises beef cattle; ranching in northern Coahuila, Mexico near the border with Texas. We’ve recently begun transitioning toward using Holistic Management on our ranches in hopes of reducing our carbon footprint, growing our biodiversity, and improving the operation of our business overall. In order to gain some hands-on experience with ranch work using Holistic Management, I’m currently taking the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management’s Ranch Work Study course on Springs Ranch in Fort Bidwell, California.
I’m now two weeks into my month-long course here in far-northeastern California. The Smith family has been extremely hospitable and accommodating, and Spencer has been a fantastic teacher. I’ve learned a tremendous amount already and I’m excited about the new knowledge and skills I’ll be able to take home with me and hopefully pass on to others in the future. Thankfully, I still have a couple more weeks to take in as much as I can about grass, soil, cattle, ecosystem processes, the tools available to my use, and working toward my Holistic Context (which I’m still in the process of building), among many other things.
Arriving in Northern Nevada
I arrived in Reno, Nevada on Friday, July 10 and joined Spencer and Abbey for a one-day workshop in Holistic Management that they put on at an intentional community in Willits, California. There they gave an overview of HM to some of the folks from the community, who are using it on their ranch, as well as to folks from the Grange Farm School, who are also interested in engaging in holistic, regenerative agricultural practices. On Sunday, after the workshop, I traveled with Spencer to Fort Bidwell. Every morning, I have a scenic two to three-mile bike commute from town to the ranch. Days often have been filled with walks in meadows and up steep hillsides to examine grasses and other vegetation, ponder soil health, and overturn cow pies in search of evidence of decomposition, a healthy mineral cycle, and good community dynamics. There has also been the occasional fence repair project and movement of cattle to fresh pasture.
Biological Monitoring and Land Planning
Last weekend, the Jefferson Center put on a four-day Biological Monitoring and Land Planning workshop. We spent some of the time venturing into Holistic Context-building to ensure that we could all set up a foundation for our own use of Holistic Management. For Biological Monitoring, we went out into the fields of Springs Ranch to examine and record the state of the vegetation and ground cover present, a task that is repeated annually to track ecological progress. For Land Planning, everyone involved examined their own projects and/or ranches to see what infrastructure was already present and what infrastructure could be worked towards in Context for the most benefit. The exercises were extremely invaluable and discussion fruitful. The workshop also proved to be a good opportunity to network and interact with others similarly interested in Holistic Management and see some more of the Fort Bidwell community. I look forward to the next workshop, which will be on Holistic Financial Planning, from August 7 to 9.
Spencer and I also went this week and last to nearby Likely, California where a group of local ranchers and ranch managers had gathered to watch Allan Savory’s webinars. We caught most of the second and third webinars, which covered policy and climate change, respectively. It was exciting to see a group of local community members, who are already working with the land and livestock, having thoughtful and productive discussion on improvement using Holistic Management. It’s been a privilege studying and working with the Smiths and the Jefferson Hub, from whom I’m learning tons. I look forward to my remaining weeks here, which I’m sure will be filled with fascinating and important projects and learning opportunities, and I look forward to what will come as a result of this fantastic experience in the future.