he first step is the big one,” says Ralph Corcoran. He’s referring to his decision to make the investment and attend an Holistic management (HM) course, but he thinks it was time — and money — very well spent. “We took the six-day course and it totally changed our lives.” He and his wife Linda ranch near Moosomin, Saskatchewan, and they were so impressed with the value of the HM program they became certified holistic management instructors, themselves.
Ralph says the course completely changed the way they look at making management decisions on their ranch. It made them critically evaluate their previous ranching practises, and they’ve made some big changes as a result. Implementing those changes improved their production, reduced their operating costs and eliminated stress they hadn’t realized they had. “Now, we’re able to make good financial decisions, our stress level all but disappeared and our grass lands improved the first year and are still improving,” he says.
Evaluating and planning are key elements in the HM approach. “Holistic management is such a simple approach that it’s hard to explain exactly what it is,” he adds. “It provides tools and simple steps to take out the confusion and keep you off the treadmill.” Among those tools is the ability to create a realistic financial plan. “By monitoring it throughout the year, you always know where you’re sitting.”
Another key element is the development of a grazing plan that maximizes forage growth. Ralph says in most cases it allows ranchers new to the concept to significantly increase grass growth and the carrying capacity of their pastures. And involving the entire family in the planning process makes it truly a co-operative effort, with everyone adding their strengths to the process. Taking that kind of broad approach to management is really at the heart of the HM program. “By looking after three things, families, finances and environment, you will be creating a better way of life for yourself and your community,” he explains.
Groups of producers who attend the six-day course usually continue to stay in touch by forming a management club that gets together periodically to share their successes — and failures. That exchange of information helps create a knowledge pool that keeps growing, allowing members to continually improve their operations. It also helps create a strong sense of community. Ralph says management clubs often get together for work bees to help out fellow members on certain projects, and they have sometimes raised funds for charities in the process.
If a group of producers is interested in getting together to hold an HM course in their own community, Ralph says there are several certified instructors available to teach it. “We like to have 10 couples attend an HM course, because at the end of the six days we like to see a management club start up,” he says. The instructors can also help a group of interested producers find other students in a community in order to get a course going.
He adds that producers in Saskatchewan deciding to take an HM course could get up to 90 per cent of the cost covered by the Farm Business Development Initiative, under the Growing Forward program. For more information on that, check out www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca.
To find a certified instructor in your area, you can visit www.holisticmanagement.ca or the international website, www.holisticmanagement.org. You can also contact Ralph and Linda at 306- 523-4778, and if they are unable to teach the course themselves, they will put you in touch with another instructor who can.
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