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Holistic Ranching: Improving our land

This year has been designated as the “year of the soil.” This might be an ideal time to reflect on the importance of the land not only to our individual farms but also to society in general.

Let me begin with the following:

  • I am the basis of all wealth, the heritage of the wise, the thrifty and the prudent.
  • I am the poor man’s joy and comfort, the rich man’s prize, the right hand of capital the silent partner of many thousands of successful men.
  • I am the solace of the widow, the comfort of old age, the cornerstone of security against misfortune and want.
  • I am handed down to children, through generations, as a thing of the greatest worth.
  • I am the choicest fruit of toil, credit respects me, yet I am humble, I stand before every man bidding him to know me.
  • I grow and increase in value through countless days. Though I seem dormant my worth increases, never failing, never ceasing, when all things wither and decay.
  • I survive, the centuries find me younger increasing in strength. I am the producer of food the foundation of cities — yet I am so common that thousands unthinkingly and unknowingly pass me by.

I am the land

I think it would be helpful to have a greater awe and respect for nature. Every area has certain strengths. Each individual farm in that area has certain strengths. Each family has certain strengths. I believe we will all be more successful when we work with the strengths of our area, our farm and our family. A worthy goal would be to co-operate with nature as opposed to trying to dominate nature.

To make these types of changes will require a paradigm shift. Let’s look at two different ways (paradigms) of viewing our businesses.

In the first example our focus is on our cattle (see below). We have some focus on the grass and little interest in the health of our land. Under this paradigm we may make money from time to time but over time our land tends to deteriorate and it becomes more and more difficult to make a profit. This was similar to the paradigm I had when I was introduced to H M some 30 years ago. In the second example our focus is on improving our land by co-operating with nature. We started doing this about 25 years ago. The results have been outstanding. As our land becomes more fertile (using management) we suddenly have ample grass. We can have more cattle if that is our desire. As our land improves over time it becomes easier and easier to make a profit. I believe this is a paradigm that will be profitable in the short term and sustainable in the long term.

paradigm-shift

One way to put the health of the land in perspective is to remember that we don’t inherit the land from our forefathers. We borrow the land from our children.

A sobering question might be, will my current management allow future generations (my great, great-grandchildren) to have the privilege of being on the land?”

The following graph (see below) shows what happens to your cost of production if your land is increasing or decreasing in fertility (the ability to produce without inputs).

costs-of-production

Is there any more valuable gift you could give future generations than highly fertile land with a low cost of production? Your management today can make a difference. I invite you to consider this important question.

About the author

Columnist

Don Campbell ranches with his family at Meadow Lake, Sask., 
and teaches Holistic Management courses.

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