Farming With A Plan: Benefits Of Holistic Management


Any farmer can reap the benefits of Holistic Management. Whether you are a small scale operation or if you operate hundreds of thousands of acres. Whether you grow grain, vegetables, or animals. Holistic Management is a practical way to increase your profits, improve your quality of life, and improve your land.

The Three Aspects Of Holistic Management

Holistic Decision Making is a framework for making decisions without unintended consequences. The idea is to consider the whole picture (which includes land, finance, and relationships) every time you make a decision. The process starts when the manager/s define their personal “Holistic Goal” which is basically a thorough record of their deepest values, desires, and goals. From that point forwards the managers learn to test all of their decisions (using specific “Testing Questions”) to ensure that they are moving towards, not away from, their personal Holistic Goal. The process is more in-depth than I can explain here. The number one resource on Holistic Decision Making is the book “Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making” by Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield.

Holistic Management Tools include Holistic Financial Planning, Holistic Grazing Planning, and Holistic Land Planning. The benefits of these specific tools will be discussed below. The number one resource on Holistic Management Tools is the book “Holistic Management Handbook: Healthy Land, Healthy Profits” by Jody Butterfield, Sam Bingham, and Allan Savory.

The Holistic Management Movement is simply all of the people around the world who use Holistic Decision Making and Holistic Management Tools.

Holistic Management on the right, conventional grazing on the left.

Holistic Management on the right, conventional grazing on the left.


Holistic Management makes difficult decisions easy. There is a very precise way to make decisions Holistically. Following the process will give you a very clear answer about what action you should take in your situation. Making your decisions in this way will also give you a lot of confidence afterwords that you made the right decision. Holistic Management greatly reduces decision making anxiety and gives you the confidence to stick with your decision even when it gets difficult.

Holistic Management also offers powerful new management tools for farmers:

  1. Holistic Planned Grazing: In the past 30 years planned Grazing has taken the world of livestock producers by storm. It has spawned countless offshoots (Mob Grazing, MIG Grazing, Cell Grazing, just to name a few). Planned Grazing has the power to regenerate total desert into lush grasslands. Planned Grazing has the power to double your land’s carrying capacity (at least). Imagine producing twice as many animals from your land with no additional cost. There are countless real world examples of the extraordinary results of Planned Grazing. It increases biodiversity, profits, soil creation, and reduces erosion.
  2. Holistic Financial Planning: Farmers don’t have to be broke. As my mentor, Don Campbell, says “Holistic Financial Planning allows us to manage our business instead of having our business manage us.” Holistic Financial Planning puts profit first, while also taking into account your non-monetary goals at the same time. Profit is one of the most powerful tools in the world, and Holistic Financial Planning is one of the best ways to guarantee yourself a profit, even in the most difficult years.
  3. Holistic Land Planning: Developing large landscapes is very expensive. Holistic Land Planning provides a process for systematically developing your land without breaking the bank and without running into unintended consequences a few years down the road. Do it right, do it once.

Holistic Management does not dictate which methods, systems, or ideas can be used by the managers. There is no discrimination against any techniques. Holistic Management simply offers a way for managers to determine if the action they want to take will lead them towards, or away from, their personal goals and values. This usually leads to a lot more creativity in management.

  • Here are some examples of tools which could be used by a Holistic Farmer (Some of these tools would be very unlikely to pass the Holistic Decision Making tests. But, according to the Holistic Management Framework, none of these tools should be ruled out beforehand based on prejudice or personal bias.)
  • Pesticides, Livestock, Permaculture, Genetic Modification, No-Till, Solar Power, Fossil Fuels, Reforestation, Urban Development, Fire, Government Grants, Bank Loans, Venture Capital, Robotics, Horses, Feedlots, Factory Farming, Direct Marketing, Commodity Marketing, Continuous Grazing, Mob Grazing, Compost, Irrigation, Fertilizers, Clear Cutting, Selective Logging, Dams, Swales, Earthworks, Roads, Oil Wells, and anything else you can think of….
The land on the right has received heavy livestock impact under Holistic Management, the land on the left has not.

The land on the right has received heavy livestock impact under Holistic Management, the land on the left has not.

You do not need to pay any money to be a Holistic Manager. There is no yearly subscription fee. There is no central organization you must join. You can get an initial understanding of Holistic Management through the book “Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making“. Borrow it from your library if you must. On the other hand I would highly recommend attending an in-person course with a HMI Certified Educator if you can afford it. These courses are well worth the investment.

Holistic Management provides tool for farmers to actually improve the environment, instead of degrading it. Holistic Managers have developed many ecologically friendly methods of producing food, while also producing a profit, and taking care of relationships. These techniques, like everything listed above, need to be tested against your Holistic Goal before being used. Of course, none of these techniques are mandatory! But it has been the experience of many people that using these techniques leads them towards their personal goals faster than conventional farming practices.

  1. Grow large scale cash-crops (grain) without any tilling, fertilizers, or pesticides. Make more profit at the same time. Reduced irrigation needs.

  2. Produce meat on a large scale, while also providing a humane life for the animal, better nutrition, improved soil organic matter, improved biodiversity, improved production per acre, etc.

  3. Grow direct-market vegetables and fruit without fertilizers, pesticides, or tilling. Make more profit at the same time. Improve quality of product.

  4. Use properly-managed-livestock to stop desertification and to heal existing deserts. Produce food and profit at the same time.

Holistic Management allows people to work together effectively. This is probably one of the most underestimated benefits of Holistic Management. Holistic Management has been proven to improve the effectiveness of large companies, small families, and everything in-between. With Holistic Management, everyone in the group is working towards a shared goal, which everyone helped to create. Not only that, but Holistic Management provides a crystal clear method for making group decisions, preventing a big potential source of conflict. Holistic Management is especially powerful when it comes time to hand off the family farm to the next generation.

Holistic Management can adapt to any situation. It can be used by anyone, to manage anything, in any time period. It accomplishes this amazing feat because it is based on a deep understanding of human nature, the natural environment, human relationships, and economic principles. These things do not change depending on what country you live in or what language you speak.

Holistic Management teaches you how to maximize the beneficial organisms in your soil.

Holistic Management teaches you how to maximize the beneficial organisms in your soil.

Holistic Management works. There are thousands of farmers around the world who have been using Holistic Management for decades. If you live in North America you probably have at least one Holistic Manager in your local area, although you might not know about it. If you would like more proof please visit this list of case studies. But, as always the best way to know if it works is to get out there and try it out for yourself. It won’t cost you much money, or time, and the potential benefits are huge. If it doesn’t work abandon it, if it does work keep doing it. Its that simple.

Holistic Management dramatically increases personal happiness and well-being. Holistic Decision Making is basically a constant reminder to keep moving towards your deepest goals instead of wasting time “being busy”. If you stick with it you will discover that you are making faster progress towards your most important goals than ever before. As you might expect, this will make you tremendously happy!

Start Using This Powerful Tool Today

If you are sincerely interested in learning about Holistic Management there is no substitute for the original source material: “Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making” By Allan Savory and Jody Butterfield.

If you are seriously interested and you wish to master Holistic Management in a short amount of time there is no substitute for taking a course with a Holistic Management Certified Educator.

If you are ready to start implementing Holistic Management then it is time to get the “Holistic Management Handbook: Healthy Land, Healthy Profits” which will give you more in-depth, practical knowledge.

If you want to network within the global Holistic Management community you should start attending the annual Savory Institute Conference.

Other Useful Links:

Allan Savory’s TED Talk

Allan Savory’s Longer Talk

Tony Lovell’s Video

The History Of Holistic Management

The idea of Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory over many years as he pursued his various careers in Africa (scientist, farmer, ranch consultant, politician, military tracker, etc). He was concerned about the desertification happening in his country, Rhodesia. He eventually figured out that the desertification was caused by lack of animal impact and that the desertification could be reversed using properly-managed livestock. As he applied his grazing techniques he found that the land would eventually begin to deteriorate again due to the decision making of the managers, not the grazing technique itself. He realized that in order to truly address the issue he would have to address the people and the finances, not just the land itself.

The Holistic Management Movement began in the 1980s when Allan Savory was exiled from Rhodesia. He moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico and began to teach Holistic Management to ranchers. Originally, Holistic Management was marketed as a way to improve grass production for ranchers. This marketing technique was successful and now there are scores of long-time Holistic Ranchers in the US, Canada, and Mexico. The movement has since spread all over the globe. It is most prominent in English speaking countries. There are relatively few Holistic Managers in South America and Asia, although that is changing quickly. The movement has now grown to include annual conferences around the world, 40 million of acres under management, and recognition among major world organizations. Allan Savory’s TED Talk by itself has received over 1 million views.

Join us, as we change the world.

Holistic Management has the power to completely transform our world.

Holistic Management has the power to completely transform our world.

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