The basics of Holistic Management

Below is an overview of the Holistic Management framework. 

As with learning anything new, there is much more than what can be described here, so please consult with your local Savory Hub to take a course, read the Holistic Management textbook and handbook to better understand the concepts, or take one of Savory’s online courses.

A list of Savory Hubs and their locations can be found here, Holistic Management books can be found here, and information about Savory online courses can be found here

Defining your Whole Under Management

Before starting to manage holistically, you must first be able to articulate exactly what is you are managing, what resources are available, and who else is a decision-maker. This is known as the Whole Under Management, and articulating this “whole” then helps to show other stakeholders that are either influenced by or have veto power over your decisions. These people should all be included in the creation of the Holistic Context.

Developing a Holistic Context

The Holistic Context is the guiding North Star for any decision you make, and it helps keep you aligned with the future you desire. In creating a Holistic Context, you and the other stakeholders define the future environment and quality of life you all desire (known as your future resource base), as well as the behaviors necessary to bring these about.

Checking Decisions with the Context Checks

When faced with a difficult decision (e.g. should I bring in hay or destock my herd?), Holistic Management provides a series of seven simple questions, known as “context checks.” These context checks consider the social, economic, and environmental impacts that may result from an action relative to your Holistic Context. Ultimately, they allow you to avoid unintended consequences from actions you may have considered taking without looking at the full picture.

By running any decision through this simple process, it allows you to make decisions that are truly in line with your desired values.

Ecological Literacy

Proper management requires a basic fundamental understanding of ecology. To that end, Holistic Management teaches at its foundation the four ecosystem processes (energy flow, mineral cycle, water cycle, and community dynamics) and the four key insights that underpin Holistic Management (holism, brittleness, timing, and the predatory/prey relationship.)

Using the Planning Procedures

With all of the above understood, you can now use the four planning procedures to manage your land and livestock. The planning procedures are:

  • Holistic Planned Grazing (charting grazing moves)
  • Holistic Land Planning (planning infrastructure like water and fencing)
  • Holistic Financial Planning (planning for a profit)
  • Ecological Monitoring (feedback loops to move management in the right direction)

Some may want to skip to this last section and get straight to the grazing planning, but without an understanding of your “whole” or a clearly defined Holistic Context, you may as well be planning for failure.

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