The Jefferson Center for Holistic Management is offering a four-day Holistic Land Planning and Ecological Monitoring course, July 6 through 9 at the Smith Family ranch and learning site, Springs Ranch in Fort Bidwell, California. Participants will learn how to make a long-term land plan for their property and how to work toward this each year using the holistic financial planning process. This course also covers another key process to managing holistically–monitoring.  Holistic Management is a process of planning, monitoring, adjusting and re-planning (if needed). Working with complex systems, like nature, requires this type of flexibility and adaptability. The course covers how to conduct ecological monitoring. This immediate feedback tells the manager if management decisions are moving the land in a regenerative direction. The ecological monitoring process used in Holistic Management studies the soil surface. This is where change first appears so we look there for feedback. (Hint: this is likely a question the instructor will ask so take note!)

The Savory Institute recently released their data platform, which we will review. This tool allows the rancher, or monitor, to enter data directly into a web-based platform (from a tablet or smartphone) directly from the field.

Details about the course, travel, lodging and extra curricular activities in Surprise Valley are listed below.  Early July is a breath-takingly beautiful time in the valley. It is when we do our own ecological monitoring on Springs Ranch and we invite you to learn with us as we complete this critical component of managing holistically.


July 6 to 9, 2017


Please register in advance for the four-day holistic land planning and monitoring workshop so we can arrange for meals and other details. Registration is $599 online or $620 at the door. Click here to register online. You can also purchase the course bundle and save $100, if you plan to complete all Holistic Management courses and become accredited in Holistic Management.


Jefferson Center Headquarters/Springs Ranch, Fort Bidwell, California

We spend time in a classroom setting, which is held at the Fort Bidwell Community Center. This is where concepts are introduced and attendees can practice using the new tools. The rest of the time is spent outside on the ranch, observing, discussing and exploring ecosystem processes and learning to read the land through the lens of Holistic Management and practicing ecological monitoring.

Modoc County one-day holistic management workshop by the Jefferson Center
Each workshop includes classroom discussions like this one at the Fort Bidwell Community Center during the Modoc County one day workshop.

holistic planned grazing, Jefferson Center workshops, Savory Institute
Workshops include ample time in the field observing ecosystem processes and learning how to see what the land is telling us about management practices through plant life.

Lodging and travel to Fort Bidwell:

The historic Fort Bidwell Hotel, is located just three miles from Springs Ranch. Featuring a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests, this recently remodeled hotel is an icon from the region’s heyday in the early 1900s. Please reserve your room at the hotel.    Other lodging options are available in Cedarville, California, 23 miles from Springs Ranch. They include:

When traveling to Fort Bidwell, please be prepared to travel to a remote area. Especially for those folks used to urban areas where grocery stores and gas stations are on every corner, cell service and internet connections are always available, pretend that you are travelling to another country when visiting us. In Fort Bidwell, we are 23 miles from a gas station and a grocery store (one hour from a supermarket chain store), cell service is unreliable (AT&T doesn’t work in the area, Verizon is ok but a 3G area only when service is available, US Cellular is best) and internet connectivity is spotty. Please plan your business accordingly. Please research your route to Fort Bidwell carefully. There are plenty of dirt road mountain passes that Google may try to send you through.

If you travel to Fort Bidwell via Gerlach, Nevada (near the Black Rock Desert and home of Burning Man), please make sure you have plenty of fuel before heading north to the Black Rock Desert. There is only one gas station on that route. Most people will travel via Reno to Fort Bidwell using Highway 395. This is a more traveled route, but there are still remote stretches of road where cell service is not available. Please fuel up with food and gas before heading out on this drive. If you are traveling from other directions and your route sends you on Modoc County Road 9 please know that this is a county-maintained but non-paved road. It is the historic Fandango Pass, which is a fun and scenic drive if you are up for it. We do not recommend travelling through Fandango Pass in winter conditions.


The four day workshop will be led by Savory Institute-accredited Holistic Management instructor,Spencer Smith. Spencer completed his holistic management training with Savory Institute accredited professionals in Colorado, Zimbabwe and California. He has 10 years experience managing ranches and rangelands in Northern California and Nevada.



A portion of the workshop will take place indoors, at the Fort Bidwell Community Center, about three miles from Springs Ranch. The rest of the workshop will be spent outdoors in the fields of Springs Ranch. Please wear clothes that are appropriate for walking in the field and getting dirty. Don’t forget a hat, water bottle and sunblock.


Key Takeaways:

Participants in the holistic land planning and monitoring workshop will learn these key takeaways, in addition to many other essential learnings:

  • How to make decisions holistically
  • How to monitor for ecosystem processes to make sure our management is taking us in the direction we want to go
  • How to read plant forms and what each form indicates about the health and biology of the soil
  • Where ecological monitoring fits into holistic management
  • Value of annual monitoring and daily observations
  • Understand long term trends on your land
  • Understand the needs of the soil and how to apply the tools we have within our own contexts
  • Understand the basics of land planning
  • Develop your own holistic land plan
  • How to plan infrastructure needs to maximize production through grazing and animal impact


Most importantly…meals:

The Jefferson Center will provide breakfast treats each morning such as fresh fruit, sausages, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, coffee, tea and water. We will have gluten-free options available for all meals. We serve fresh, local (when possible) food. If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance. Given our location, we cannot improvise a meal for you. We must plan in advance. Another option is to bring your own food. The Fort Bidwell hotel will provide space in their fridge for those people who truly have severe dietary restrictions and cannot eat the food provided.

Surprise Valley has it’s own local food hub! We are sure proud of it and the amazing local produce, meats, cheeses and other items grown right here. Surprise Valley Grown offers an online ordering system, with pick ups each Wednesday through Friday from 9 am to 5 pm at The Station in Cedarville. A login is required, and is simple to set up.

For guests staying at the Fort Bidwell Hotel, a full and hearty breakfast is available. Lunch will be provided each day and will be deli-style sandwiches (with lettuce wrap options) or community potluck style dining. One night during the workshop, we will all gather at the picnic area of the Fort Bidwell Community Center for a BBQ and conversation. Dinners for the other nights will be independent, but attendees are encouraged to continue their conversations at the Fort Bidwell Hotel, local restaurants and other gathering spots. The Fort Bidwell Hotel provides dinner as do restaurants in Cedarville (23 miles south of Fort Bidwell) such as The Country Hearth Restaurant and Bakery.

Surprise Valley Farmers Market, holistic management, Modoc County
While in the area, check out a farmer’s market in Cedarville, full of the valley’s veggies, fruits, crafts and fun activities for the whole family.

Extra-curricular activities:

The most beautiful months in Surprise Valley are the summer months (according to Abbey and Spencer). It is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the wilderness and open spaces of Modoc County. Lily Lake is just a few miles north of Fort Bidwell. Other local lakes just  miles from Fort Bidwell and brimming with fish include Lake Annie and Fee Reservoir. The valley is known for great bird watching, including Sand Hill Cranes and many large birds of prey such as Bald Eagles. The national forests of Modoc County offer great trails for hiking, backpacking and horseback riding, many camp sites and fishing holes. Want to come back for a visit? Here are other events in Surprise Valley and at the Fairgrounds in Cedarville through the summer. Visit the Surprise Valley Saturday Market while you are in town for local fresh produce, crafts and activities. Return next year in June for a writer’s workshop.

Great Basin, Jefferson Center for Holistic Management
Branding with neighbors in Fort Bidwell, California

 Other holistic management courses and events in 2017

The Jefferson Center offers a variety of events throughout  Northern California and Nevada. From farm-to-table dinners, field days, ranch workshops, Holistic Management courses and webinars, there is something for everyone who wants to regenerate our world. Check out our full events calendar for 2017. We also offer a ranch work study program at Springs Ranch.

You might also enjoy: