How many land owners are willing to sit down for a morning with their neighbors, land management professionals and folks with creative land management ideas and discuss land planning on their own property? It might be an uncomfortable concept, but it yields great returns. The ideas generated don’t have to be implemented–that is the land owner’s choice. This creative process is the foundation of holistic land planning.

The Holistic Land Planning Process: It’s a party

Break out the maps, markers and checklists, invite friends over and plan a big meal–that doesn’t sound boring at all!

  1. The first step of land planning is to gather important information about the land under management. Then make a list. It is called a checklist of issues. Who doesn’t love lists? Here are some things to list out: natural resources issues to consider (predation for example), social issues (like ownership boundaries, zoning, etc.), land management needs (two herds needed? one?), infrastructure and facilities needs, livestock production (what stocking rates do we desire?, herd size, access to water, etc.).
  2. Create a master map of the property. The local county assessor’s office website can provide a map of the property. Other mapping tools that can be used are:
    2. local Natural Resource Conservation Service offices
    3. USGS
    5. Google Earth Pro

Once the issues checklist is created and there is a good map of the property, with existing infrastructure displayed on the map, it’s time to plan a party. We estimate about four hours needed to get a good brainstorming session going. Invite folks from the business’s resource base such as customers, extension agents, neighbors, or anyone really who the decision-makers believe would have creative ideas about how to improve the land plan. It’s also a great family event. Bring the aunts, uncles, cousins, grandchildren together for a morning of planning and then celebrate with a shared meal.

3. After the great ideas are collected in during the planning party, document them and make a plan to implement the ideas that fit the operation’s holistic context (including the financial plan). It can be a gradual process. Break the plan into the smallest possible pieces and financially plan for it. Don’t just run out and start building fences. Decide the herd size and grazing unit sizes based on the new land plan. Consider the area per head needed to support the financial plan and holistic context, the handling facilities and the distance to water for livestock.

The holistic management intensive training: Eight days of learning, listening and herding…flies

The land planning unit wrapped up our last session together. We had spent eight days straight covering the holistic management curriculum (online excluded). The training was designed for the hub leaders in the Western United States. Dr. Cindy Daley, Brittany Cole Bush, my husband Spencer and I represented the Northern California Savory hub–The Jefferson Center, Julie and Roxanne traveled from their farm near Lawrence, Kansas to represent the Kansas hub and Ricardo Aguirre from Phoenix and Scott House from the Navajo Nation represented the Arizona hub. We spent seven days together in the classroom and fields at Chico State University’s farm thanks to our gracious host Dr. Cindy Daley. One day was spent at Cindy’s ranch, the Guidici Ranch, near Oroville, Calif. Given that we were right in the middle of the beef and dairy units, there happened to be a few flies who wanted to attend our classroom sessions too. We practiced low-stress herding techniques on the files and when that didn’t quite work as well as it does on livestock, Cindy brought out the swatters.

We also lived together for eight days–cooking for each other, extending the classroom discussions to dinner table conversations and laughing at training tales and ranch debacles. Did anyone know that holistic management could be so social and entertaining? We sure didn’t! This training reaffirmed to us that great people are involved in regenerative agriculture and our fellow “hubbers” with the Savory network feel more like family than friends.

Savory Hubs, holistic management, Byron Shelton
The Western United States Savory Hub leaders and our holistic management educator, Byron Shelton.
herding flies at holistic management training in Chico, California
We practiced low-stress herding techniques on the files that frequented our classroom at the farm.
holistic land planning and grazing planning review
Spencer Smith reviews holistic grazing planning concepts with Savory hub leaders from the Western United States
holistic management training in Chico, California, Savory Hubs
The group of hub leaders from the Western US shared a house and meals together during the eight-day intensive holistic management training in Chico, Calif.
grass, holistic grazing planning, grow more grass
How much is an ounce of grass? Growing just one more ounce of grass per square yard results in 10 more animal days per acre. This is about 3 ounces of grass.
holistic management training, leaders
The shepardess and the cowboy.
holistic management training, Chico, California
Life after class: good food, great conversation and catching up with family and friends.
holistic management training
After eight days of class we see the world differently…or is it just that we are upside down?




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