Artisans of the Grasslands, Savory Institute, Jefferson Center for Holistic Management
Spencer Smith during the Q&A session of his Holistic Planned Grazing talk at Artisans of the Grasslands

Spencer and I are in San Francisco at the Savory Institute Artisans of the Grasslands International Conference. Spencer gave a presentation today on holistic planned grazing–his main point was to “graze like the plants matter” and holistic planned grazing is not rotational or mob grazing–those are actions to be tested. We’ve reunited with lots of good friends like Marta from Sweden, Sarah from Ethiopia, Phyllis from New York and many, many others. We’ve met new friends like our hotel roommate Stephanie Holbrook, who we met through a podcast interview earlier this year but now feel like old friends. We had a chance to meet with two of our advisory board members in person, Robb Wolf and Robert Rutherford to brainstorm how we can reach more people through the Jefferson Hub and advance holistic management in or region. Do you have suggestions for us? Send them our way!

Enjoying House Kombucha at #SavoryArtisans and reuniting with my dear friend from Sweeden, Marta.

Posted by Abbey Kingdon Smith on Friday, October 2, 2015


Learning to tell our stories

Today the breakout sessions I attended–and the main session talks focused on stories. Great stories, says Jonah Sachs, are about ordinary people making extraordinary change. This author of Winning the Story Wars taught us about the “hero’s journey” which is that of ordinary people saving the world. This is the story we all love. Haven Bourque taught the advanced media track, where attendees learned how to prepare for interviews, become Twitter masters and tell their story with the right mix of emotional connection and proper structure. The key: have an orange folder with your story, facts, stats and notes ready to go at all times. She was a dynamic and captivating speaker.

Anya Fernald told us her story. She is a fast talker in a striped dress and a brilliant businesswoman. I sat captivated as she told us the story of building the Belcampo Meat Co. vertically integrated empire. I learned that:

  • They sell steak for $35 a pound, roasts for $250 and people are paying these prices and loving the products.
  • Anya says that we are not responsible for the fabricated prices of the conventional market, “anymore than we are responsible for Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory prices.” Grassfed products she said, should be double the price of conventional beef. The best beef she said she ate was a 17-year old dairy cow in Spain. Most Spanish beef, by the way, is four to seven years old when harvested.

The most powerful story, for me, though was from Finian Makepeace who told us why he became involved in the regenerative agricultural movement. He had a dream. It was 2060 and he was in a Brazilian refugee camp looking at a decimated city with his granddaughter and she looked up at him and said, “why didn’t you do more to stop this?” It made me (and others) tearful as I thought of my daughter and how our desire to build a beautiful world for her motivated us to be hub leaders. Finian took action and made The Soil Story. Please watch this. Check out their site. This simple, four-minute video explains why we are doing what we do. If you wonder what Spencer and I are doing, what we are working for and the movement we are part of–this video is the explanation.

This conference feels more like a family reunion than a gathering of strangers. Songs are sung. Kombucha is served. Local meats, cheeses and wine (from vineyards that are holistically managed with grazing sheep). As Allan Savory said tonight, we are ordinary people pulling together, collaborating as humans, to find solutions to desertification through holistic management.


This is just the beginning. To follow along, watch live streaming.


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