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 bitterly 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, producer experience and perceptions have been neglected, but also untested in appropriate ways. My new project combines quantitative and qualitative social and information science methods, grounded with insights from agricultural science, to help resolve the schism: drawing a comprehensive picture of a polarized field of study; establishing the value of qualitative methods and producer perceptions in agricultural science; and, exploring HM as a viable climate adaptation strategy for the Canadian Prairies.

We have begun with some bibliometric work to understand the structure of the holistic management literature, and its many variants, which is being led by joint Masters of Resource and Environmental Management/Master of Library and Information Studies student Carlisle Kent as her summer internship. She is based out of Anatoliy Gruzd’s Social Media Lab at Ryerson – thanks, Anatoliy!

We are recruiting for other student roles, including one to be based at the University of Alberta, with John Parkins and Edward Bork, to study Prairie HM trainers, their students, non-HM producers and experts/scholars using quantitative methods and cognitive mapping to understand and compare world views and decision-making. Please contact one of us if you are interested.