Distance Learning Approach to Whole Farm Planning

Distance Learning Approach to Whole Farm Planning

Distance Learning Approach to Whole Farm Planning

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“It has made me look at farm management in a whole new way. Really looking at entire farm and all the components that make it work. Extremely powerful and helpful.” – testimony from project participant

Holistic Management Institute (HMI) is recognized as a successful whole farm planning method – incorporating environmental, economic, and social sustainability in its planning process.  HMI has also found success at integrating livestock as a land health tool to improve sustainability of grass fed and crop farming enterprises. A survey conducted by HMI found that 50 agricultural professionals in the Western SARE region were interested in HMI’s Whole Farm Planning through Distance Learning training. As a result of the survey, HMI adapted the training so that residency periods were shorter, enabling more professionals to participate.

Dr. Ann Adams and her team at HMI in New Mexico used their Western SARE PDP funds to provide agricultural professionals scholarships to participate in the Whole Farm Planning through Distance Learning training. By leveraging additional funds, they were able to increase the number of ag professionals trained from their original goal by 30%. By the end of the project, a good number of project participants left with a high satisfaction rate.

Adams planned on providing education to 30 ag professionals, with those professionals in turn training two to three producers (90 producers reached). They were to be trained in Introduction to Whole Farm/Ranch Planning, Financial Planning, Land Planning, Grazing Planning, and Biological Monitoring. By the end of the third year of the project, 40 ag professionals had been trained and 188 producers were trained in various aspects of Whole Farm/Ranch planning. During those trainings, producers developed plans or tested whole farm/ranch decisions, on which they were provided feedback.

The training methods used included live webinars, discussion groups, assignments, and dedicated mentors. All webinars and mentor meetings were interactive. The trainings focused on basic content learning of whole farm planning and the most effective techniques for facilitating learning with farmers.

The program was popular, with applications submitted from California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.  From HMI’s evaluation tools, it is clear that the project participants agree with the quote above – leaving the program well-educated and prepared to help producers. HMI’s surveys of all the agricultural educators found:

  • All 40 said they had learned knowledge that would help them better help producers with managing their businesses.
  • 100% felt they had improved their decision-making.
  • 100% also thought they could better help producers develop a land plan as a result of the training.
  • 95% thought they were better able to help producers develop a whole farm/ranch goal as a result of the training.
  • 90% thought they were better able to help producers develop a grazing plan.
  • 85% thought they were better able to help producers develop a financial plan.

Another participant stated, “I find I am observing, thinking, and communicating differently-.this course has changed the way I listen to my producers and I find I was liberated somehow and ask more questions. I feel more confident in planning.”

Download Guides and Planning Resources

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) EW13-021, A Distance Learning Approach to Whole Farm Planning .

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Sustainable Ag in the Pacific Islands

Download the report to read highlights of funded projects in Guam, Micronesia, the Northern Marianas Islands, and American Samoa, such as combating plant disease in key crops, building direct links between farmers and chefs, and creating integrated vegetable and livestock systems.