Q. What is Holistic Management?
Holistic Management is a decision-making framework based on your holistic context. It may be used in any aspect of life or business. The process is especially helpful when dealing with the complexities of the environment, people and money. Creating a “holistic context” helps to keep social, economic, and environmental balance. It involves planning, testing decisions, monitoring results, and re-planning as needed. The decision to create this organization came from this process.
Q. To practice Holistic Management do I need livestock?
No. Holistic Management is a way to make decisions, all kinds of decisions, in all kinds of situations. The process insures that those decisions will be sustainable; economically, environmentally, socially, and personally. The process is universal and can be as useful to an architect as a homemaker, an organic small farm or bowling club, restaurant, plumber, nation/state, or ice cream truck driver. We focus on livestock because that is the best tool to restore the planet to high levels of environmental quality.
Q. How does holistic planned grazing differ from conventional grazing?
Holistic Planned Grazing takes into account many complex variables such as grass growth rate, plant recovery time, natural cycles, human factors, and life stage of the animals. The animals are moved to new grass often and therefore maintain a high level of nutrition throughout the growing season. A large number of animals graze on a small pasture for a short time before moving to the next pasture eating the forage uniformly and naturally fertilizing the ground. They do not return until the plants have had a chance to recover. The results are more healthy plants and animals, better nutrition, greater production, and improved ecosystem processes, and more biological activity in the soil.
Q. I heard that livestock and too many of them can only damage the land. Is that true?
It is a common misperception that too many animals damage the land. In actuality it is the amount of time animals are on a piece of land that is crucial and not the numbers of animals. Plants must have enough time to recover before the animals return or the plants will be overgrazed. If the animals are left on a piece of land too long while the plants are actively growing, this will also cause overgrazing of plants. On the other hand, a large number of animals can graze a piece of land for a short time and rejuvenate the grassland. Yet one or only a few animals left too long or returning too soon can damage many of the plants.
Q. Isn’t it better to let nature heal the land by leaving it alone?
It would seem so and this is true in non-brittle, more humid, perennial rainfall areas such as on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. Old vegetation breaks down quickly usually before the next growing season due to the moisture and the biological activity. However, in the arid, seasonal rainfall areas (about 2/3 of the world) dead plant material oxidizes rather than decomposes. The result is standing dead, grey material that may stay there for several years smothering out the center of the perennial grass plants. Unless this oxidized material is removed by grazing, disturbance, or fire, the situation leads to greater plant spacing and more bare ground. An occasional fire will help remove this material but it also denudes the soil surface and puts a tremendous amount of carbon into the air. Grazing, on the other hand, removes the material, fertilizes the soil, and rejuvenates the grasses leading to healthier ecosystem processes, covered ground, and increased sequestration of carbon.
Q. What is the “triple bottom line”?
The triple bottom line refers to three major components of business that contribute to its success and sustainability: 1. the social aspects and human dynamics, 2. the environmental consequences and 3. the financial stability of the business. Holistic Management sees the business as a whole. There is a deep interconnection among all three areas. Too much focus or not enough in one or more of these may lead to eventual failure. In Holistic Management we seek to create balance and stability in all three areas and monitor to quickly address any consequences of our management decisions that may have a negative impact on the long term sustainability of the business. For example, a business may be profitable but treats its customers and /or employees poorly. The long term result will be poor employee performance, a bad reputation and/or loss of business. In small businesses, it is common for an entrepreneur to work long hours to create profitability but spend little or no time with the family. A divorce may spell the end for that enterprise. Some businesses may address the financial and social areas but create environmental problems that hurt all of us in the long term. Finally, many small businesses are a labor of love, they are environmentally friendly and yet produce no profit. That works for only as long as the spouse’s day job can support the loss. Sadly, that is the case of many farms in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere managed with good intentions! The triple bottom line also is applicable to our personal lives. To be truly sustainable, we must put effort into our relationships/personal growth, support ourselves financially and help to take care of our small part of the planet.