Reconciling holistic management practice and science (2015-)
This SSHRC Insight Grant-funded (2015-2019) work builds on my Australian post-doc, and was inspired by engagement with the resilience literature (Abson et al. in press) and push-back from experimental scientists about my policy endorsement of holistic management (Sherren et al. 2012). Holistic management (HM) is an approach to grazing decision-making based on explicit goal-setting and careful monitoring, often characterized by native pastures and high-intensity but short-duration rotational grazing. Science is thus far divided on its utility: experimental scientists see no benefits from the constituent practices in controlled experiments, while management-oriented agricultural scientists report benefits at the farm scale. To date, farmer experience and perceptions have been neglected. We have particular interest in understanding and resolving the schism (Sherren and Kent, 2017), particularly as relates to the potential utility of such approaches for climate adaptation in various regions.
This project will combine quantitative and qualitative social, policy and information science, grounded with insights from field ecology, spatial and agricultural science. The project will have scholarly and practical impacts: drawing a comprehensive picture of a polarized field of study; establishing the value of qualitative methods and farmer perceptions in agricultural science; and, exploring HM as a viable climate adaptation strategy across several regions. This will include case study work in the Canadian Prairies (led by co-applicant John Parkins with collaborator Ed Bork), bibliometrics and policy analysis (with collaborator Bertrum MacDonald), engagement with HM trainers and trainees, along with an OECD-funded investigation of HM in the Falklands.
Sherren, K. and Kent. C. 2017. Who’s afraid of Allan Savory? Scientometric polarization on Holistic Management as competing understandings. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
Abson, D., Sherren, K and Fischer, J. In press. The resilience of Australian agricultural landscapes characterized by land sparing versus land sharing. Agricultural Resilience: Perspectives from Ecology and Economics, Invited chapter, BES Ecological Reviews book series, Cambridge University Press and the British Ecological Society. [This chapter was submitted and accepted in 2014; production delays suggest release in early 2018]
Sherren, K., J. Fischer, I. Fazey. 2012. Managing the grazing landscape: Insights for agricultural adaptation from a mid-drought photo-elicitation study in the Australian sheep-wheat belt. Agricultural Systems Vol. 106, No. 1, pp. 72-83.
Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2016. Who’s Afraid of Allan Savory? Probing the impact of one influential author. Poster presented at Society for Range Management Annual Meeting, February 2, 2016, Corpus Christi, Texas.
Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2017. The View from the Farm Sector: Discourse in Producer Organizations around Climate, Science and Agricultural Policy, 2010-2015. RHoMPAS Report 3, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, pp. 61.
Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2016. Rhetorical Analysis of Practitioner Discourse: Examining the impact in holistic management and permaculture. RHoMPAS Report 2, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, pp. 48.
Kent, C. and Sherren, K. 2015. Who’s Afraid of Allan Savory? Probing the impact of one influential author. RHoMPAS Report 1, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, pp. 52.
Sarbpreet Singh, MREM candidate 2017, has joined the team as a research associate in the summer of 2017. He is undertaking research on discourse around rotational grazing and climate change in farming magazines, as well as developing a glossary of rotational grazing terminology.
Carlisle Kent, joint MREM/MLIS graduate 2015, undertook the bibliometric work and other research assistance for her summer internship in 2015, followed by social media research on rhetoric in HM and permaculture for her final project. She completed an analysis of policy engagement by farming bodies to understand how they perceive climate change and related grazing issues in spring 2016, and now works at at the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority.
Ruoqian (Joy) Wang, was funded by the Mitacs Globalink program to visit Dalhousie in Summer 2015 to analyze Australian ecology data to establish whether any vegetation changes have resulted from different grazing practices. She put Google Earth Pro, specifically the historical images option, to great use. She completed her undergraduate degree at Sichuan University in China, has now returned to Dalhousie for her MES and is working on detecting anthropogenic change in forested wetlands, working me with and Karen Harper.