Skip to main content

Holistic management - part 1: introduction

Has everyone heard of Holistic Management? Its a technique for land management developed by Allan Savory. I first came across it when I watched a video of a presentation he gave.

eight acres: holistic management - part 1: introduction

 I can't find the exact one now, but there are a few on Youtube that give a good introduction. I've included one below, (which you can find here if you're reading this in email or RSS feed).

I also went to a workshop with Allan's son Roger back in 2013.  He is based in Queensland now and has a company called Savory Grassland Management.  Anyway, it was a one day workshop and really gave me a lot to think about, and since then I had been planning on getting the book (Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making), but never quite got around to it until Fiona from Life at Arbordale Farm texted me last year to say she had found TWO copies at the Lifeline book sale for $7 each.  And so I finally got the book and that is a very long introduction to this post, which I intend to be a series reviewing each section of the book, which goes into more detail about the concepts covered in the course I attended.

Holistic management began as a technique for management of land, but Allan thinks its useful more broadly as a management tool.  Personally I think its more suited to land management specifically and would probably be more useful and less confusing if we just acknowledged that instead of trying to make it fit other situations.  I find the framework to be a little over-complicated, and it reminds me of when someone has had such a clever idea that they can't dumb it down enough to explain it to other people.  Allan is a smart guy and he's really come up with some important and unique ways of understanding land management in dry ("brittle") climates.  The uptake of holistic management is disappointingly low considering how powerful it could be in climates that desperately need it (as I'll explain later).

I am hoping to summarise the key points of each chapter here every few weeks to make sure I understand them, make them more accessible, to get you interested and encourage you to find out more for yourself.  The following image from the book is an overview of the holistic management framework.  It won't make much sense at the moment, but gives you an idea of the topics that I'll go over in future posts.  Holistic Management incorporates very similar ideas to permaculture, Peter Andrews and Joel Salatin, but it is specific to dry climates, which are a challenge to conventional land management practices.

I think this book really deserves to be read in detail, which each section considered carefully and insights discussed.  I will do this over the next few months as I finish reading the sections and try applying what I learn.  I know my Pete won't read the book, but if I can pick out key points I can get him familiar with the concepts and interested in trying these ideas at Cheslyn Rise.

The Holistic Management Model (from Holistic Management, Savory, A (1999)

Have you heard of Allan Savory and Holistic Management?  Have you read the book or tried any of the techniques?  What do you think?

(I've included some Amazon affiliate links below to the books mentioned in this post - if you're in email or RSS you'll have to click over to my blog to see the links)



  1. Hi Liz, I have watched at least one of Alan Savory's presentations on Youtube though it was probably over a couple of years ago now, so to be honest i can't remember much other than that I thought it was really good.

  2. I'm so glad you're going to do an in depth review of this book. I ran across the title some time ago and put it on my Amazon wish list, but it never seems to come to the top of the list. Maybe it will now! I'm always interested in gleaning whatever tidbits I can from others.

    Some years we have wet summers, some years they are dry. This is a droughty summer, so I'm worried about water and keeping all our vegetation alive. I'll be interested in watching his videos.

  3. I watched a video of his, which was more about promoting Savoy's work, as it was relatively new then. Gauging by the diagram, it looks way more complicated than any of the permaculture diagrams I've seen, illustrating the 12 principles. I'm always interested in learning new things though. So maybe you can translate a little more, as you get to reading the book :)

  4. Even though he focuses on brittle climates I am hoping to apply some of his ideas in NZ.

  5. I have the book and have watched quite a few videos but at 75 and with memory problems I have found it difficult coming to grips with the how to implement aspect.

    I'm on 23 acres of hilly land, mostly in pasture, and also have the issue of scepticism from family members. I think that Holistic Planning, including setting the holistic goal and learning to manage stock/pastures holistically, to be keys to our success in the long run.

    Looking forward to sharing more of your journey.

  6. Hello liz! I recently read Allan Savorys holistic management and began doing the same thing as you (Writing about the chapters and sections) in an attempt to better understand and internalize the information in my personal journal. I happened across your blog and am heartened to learn that I'm not the only one finding it slightly difficult to swallow. I very much like your point about it being such a clever idea that its difficult to dumb down. Although it seems like there are people trying. ( is an organization that's trying to utilize and spread the ideas in a more user-friendly way. Though my interest is in land management and regeneration, I am currently not in charge of or responsible for any land, and so I am currently attempting to apply the principles of holistic management to my personal life. I think this is possible, though whether or not it is more trouble than its worth is yet to be seen. But the idea of a holistic goal something anyone can benefit from, and a way of thinking that includes the essential environmental process that support us is essential for the survival of humanity. Now whether or not you need holistic management to achieve that way of thinking is perhaps debatable.

    Anyway i found your blog post very interesting and refreshing. So thank you.
    warmest regards. Matthew McWitz


Post a Comment

Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at

Popular posts from this blog

How to make coconut yoghurt

Lately I have been cutting back on eating dairy.  I know, I know, we own two house cows!  But I am trying to heal inflammation (bad skin) and dairy is one of the possible triggers, so as a last resort and after much resistance, I decided I had better try to cut back.  Its been hard because I eat a LOT of cheese, and cook with butter, and love to eat yoghurt (and have written extensively about making yoghurt).  I had to just give up cheese completely, switch to macadamia oil and the only yoghurt alternative was coconut yoghurt.  I tried it and I like it, but only a spoonful on some fruit here and there because it is expensive!

The brand I can get here is $3 for 200 mL containers.  I was making yoghurt from powdered milk for about 50c/L.  So I was thinking there must be a way to make coconut yoghurt, but I didn't feel like mucking around and wasting heaps of coconut milk trying to get it right....  and then Biome Eco Store sent me a Mad Millie Coconut Yoghurt Kit to try.  The kit is…

What to do with eight acres

Behind the scenes of my blog I can see the search terms that led people to find my blog.  It can be quite interesting to look through them occasionally and see what people are looking for.  Most of them involve chicken tractors, but another question that comes up regularly is “what can you do with eight acres?” or “how much land is eight acres?”.  Today I will try to answer this question.

Of course it is a very broad question, there are lots and lots of things you can do with eight acres, but I’m going to assume that you want to live there, feed your family and maybe make a little extra money.  I make that assumption because that’s what I know about, if you want to do something else with your eight acres, you will need to look somewhere else.

If you haven’t chosen your land yet, here a few things to look for.  Focus on the things you can’t change and try to choose the best property you can find in your price range.  Look for clean water in dams, bores or wells, either on the property …

We don't have any cling wrap either

Last week I wrote about how we don't have a microwave and I really don't miss it.  So continuing the theme of "weird things about my kitchen", we also don't have any plastic cling wrap or paper towels.  And we haven't had them for so long I can hardly remember why we ever needed them.

I always thought that cling wrap was wasteful.  Not just from an environmental perspective, but I also didn't like spending money on something that I only used once.  When I was at uni and took sandwiches for lunch, I used to bring home the cling wrap and use it again until it didn't stick anymore.  One year when we did Plastic Free July (I can't remember when exactly - here's what I wrote last year) we decided to stop using cling wrap.  I used up the last of it recently when we were painting (its really hard to renovate without creating waste) - its handy for wrapping up paintbrushes and sealing paint temporarily, however I do not use it in the kitchen.

The pape…