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Joe Morris explains the learning site idea where livestock are concentrated for a short period followed by a generous recovery period. In the background, the learning site has about 700,000 pounds of stocker cattle per acre.

To California ranchers, livestock operators, land managers who use livestock, and Resource Conservation Districts:

With a one-day Rancher-to-Rancher session, we connect:

  • the core principles of soil health and ecosystem function
  • the wisdom and experience of participants
  • firsthand observations and experiments using most of our senses and simple equipment

into a fun and social experience of inquiry and shared learning. 

This is not a rule-based program, or a PowerPoint lecture. We adapt each session according to the situation and participants. We share some skills and questions we use, and we can help you create an environment for participation, observation, and shared learning. We can provide support for continued experimentation and learning with followup events. Our events often include:

  • Introduction circle, where everyone has a chance to answer some open questions, know who's there, make connections, and begin to learn how to facilitate a participatory gathering.
  • Learning discussion of grazing management with hosts/managers. Challenges and opportunities, addressing various issues with grazing planning: plant recovery, vigor, reproduction, invasive species, soil health principles, infrastructure such as fencing and water.
  • Soil health demos such as bread vs flour, slake test, infiltration---all of which can be done and shared by participants. Rainfall simulator demo. Soil health principles, ecosystem processes, the forms of sunlight energy--not just abstract information, but specific, hands-on, grounded in real experience. The contributions that grasslands can make to effective carbon and water cycling, and to regional sustainability.
  • Looking at land and soil with eyes and shovel. Rhizosphere, litter, participatory observations (in small groups if participation is > 30).
  • Monitoring activities suitable for non-experts such as infiltration, surface transects, visual soil assessments.
  • Partners and local resources for people wanting to learn, needing more technical assistance, or access to programs.
  • Demos of livestock concentration or "inclusion zone:" before and after observations of short-term high-density trampling as well as low-stress stockmanship.
  • Shared learning questions that allow people to reflect on their own learning, different perspectives, and witness the learning of others.

See also the similar Land Listeners workshop.

One common and popular format: the Rancher-to-Rancher network can help you set up a small, no-risk learning site trial on your land, say a couple of acres or less, where you could concentrate livestock for a few hours or a day, and give it a substantial recovery period from grazing.  This could be a public event, or not. Our support could be help in planning the trial to work with your needs, some monitoring of the soil surface and water infiltration.

We have been funded mainly by the 11th Hour project. To participate, contact one of our committee members:

Joe Morris (San Juan Bautista) 831-801-3798 (joe at morrisgrassfed dot com);

Richard King (Petaluma) 707-217-2308 rking1675 at gmail dot com;

Kent Reeves (San Joaquin Valley, Sierra Foothills) kengewa at hotmail dot com;

Peter Donovan (Soil Carbon Coalition, often traveling) 541-263-1888 managingwholes dot com at gmail dot com

Billy Freeman (Sierra Foothill Conservancy) bsfreema at gmail dot com

Some articles:

ALTA Magazine article on Rancher-to-Rancher network, May 2021

Rancho Jamul field day (March 2017)

R2R field day near Prather, California with Sierra Foothill Conservancy on March 19, 2016.

Short story on field demo at Hollister SVRA, 4/13.

Read more or download our project description and intro here.

With rancher-to-rancher monitoring forms and cheat sheet here.

Graeme Hand explains some experiments in Australia:

Initial planning meeting: collective statement here.

Gathering at Rancho Jamul, San Diego County, March 2017