This post is written by Holistic Management Educator Spencer Smith.
Spence Smith and Mark Shepard will be discussing regenerative ag at the upcoming california workshop.

Regenerative Agriculture in the spotlight

Regenerative Agriculture is sure getting a lot of attention these days,  with the COP21 discussions in Paris and around the world, focused on climate change, food security and extreme weather. There are a lot of eyes on agriculture today,  and we need to be part of the solution and not a contributor to the problem.  Recently the French government decided to take action and start to manage their soils differently. They are beginning down the road of regenerative practices with the goal of increasing their soil carbon by .4% per year.  Why is it important to increase soil carbon?  For one, as we increase the amount of carbon in the soil we also increase the soil’s ability to take and hold plant available water, giving our farms and ranches drought tolerance and increased production/profits.  For example, each percent of soil carbon that you increase per six inches of soil, you will get 20,000 gallons of additional water holding capacity per acre!  Imagine what that would do to your farm or ranch.  Imagine a soil profile that would take and hold all of the rain that falls in a given year rather than puddle, allowing the water to evaporate back to the atmosphere.  Over the last 30 years a lot of study and practice has been done all over the world and the results are irrefutable.
One such rancher, Gabe Brown (one of the best regenerative farmers in the country and my personal hero), has taken his North Dakota farm from less than 2 percent soil carbon to over 10 percent, essentially eliminating the threat of drought or flood on his operation near Bismark.  Not only has he ensured against the best that Mother Nature could throw at him, he is doing it organically!  With the improvement in soil health and structure he has no need for fertilizers and  has increased his livestock carrying capacity five times while he produces 125 percent of the county average (of his conventional farming neighbors)  in cash crop production.  A statement Gabe made while in Chico for the Grazing for Change conference, that resonated with me is that he no longer signs the front of checks…. only the back!
Another great example of farmers in California using Holistic Management as a regenerative tool is Big Bluff Ranch in Red Bluff, California.  Now if you don’t know what Red Bluff is like in the summer, let me tell you, it is hot and dry.  With temperatures commonly over 110 degrees Fahrenheit  and no rain for months at a time, it can be a harsh climate to say the least.  However after adopting Holistic Management some years ago the owners of Big Bluff Ranch began to notice something: the creek that goes through their property stopped going dry in the summer. Now, if any of you have a farming or ranching operation in valleys of California you now what that could mean to your bottom line.  I had the distinct privilege to visit the Dawley Family during the worst drought in California history at their Big Bluff Ranch and I can attest to the amount of water that was flowing through the creek, which was once only a “seasonal creek.”

One of the leaders in regenerative agriculture, who comes with a permaculture background, is Mark Shepard of New Forrest Farms. His operation is considered to be one of the most ambitious regenerative agriculture projects in the United States. Mark travels the world helping people develop a better understanding of land planning and restoration agriculture.  He has immense knowledge and expertise in working with nature to create food forests that produce an incredible amount of healthy and regenerative food.  Recently we decided to join forces and, for the first time ever, offer a combined Holistic Management and Restoration Ag Design course together.

Regenerative Agriculture
Mark Shepard’s New Forest Farm

Now if you are ready to learn and adopt these techniques on your landscape, you can gain the tools that you will need to increase crop production while

Permaculture and Regenerative Ag
Mark Shepard checking his harvest at New Forest Farm.

increasing the nutrient-density of the food that you are producing.  I am thrilled to be offering an intensive Holistic Management and Restoration Agriculture Workshop with our friends at Restoration Agriculture Development. For the first time Mark Shepard and I will be teaming up to teach a  course that combines the tools that he has developed over the years at New Forrest Farm along with the Savory Institute’s Holistic Management framework.

This workshop promises to go beyond anything that you may have seen at a permaculture workshop in the past. What Mark has done on New Forrest Farm is revolutionary and he is coming to share his tools and insights to integrate with the Holistic Management decision making framework and planned grazing  so that we can enhance and re-build our California landscapes.

Come join us for this three-day intensive workshop at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits, California, where we will be hosted by the Grange Farm School. The course will cover how to implement the best actions within your farm/ranch holistic context. We will be discussing all of the tools in the “toolbox” and helping you decide how to best move forward on your farm/ranch projects.  We will teach you how to make a farm and ranch management plan that will work with nature, increasing the land’s ability to withstand drought, flood and fire, while simultaneously increasing your profit and the production from your landscape by managing for effective ecosystem processes and diversity of life.  
We will be diving into the ideas and principles of regenerative agriculture and discussing how the integration of livestock into cropping systems can increase production and overall ecosystem health in our landscapes. You learn how to build soil naturally while you create a landscape that produces more nutrient-dense foods for your family, community and customers.

Restoration Agriculture Course Highlights:

  • The theory and practice of Holistic Management and Restoration Agriculture
  • Biome identification and ecology
  • Keyline design, earthworks, and water management
  • No-till farming
  • Perennial crop establishment, maintenance, and breeding
  • Planning grazing to enhance ecosystem function
  • Holistic Financial Planning: planning for profit and peace of mind
  • Re-building your ideal landscape after a fire


If you are interested in joining us for this unique workshop, register today, as attendance is capped at 35 people.  We are offering an early bird discount for the first 15 people who sign up.  Hope to see you soon.  If you have any questions about the event you can contact me at: or 775-221-6793.


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