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Holistic management - part 3: holistic goal

The book Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making (affiliate link) sets out a guide to developing a holistic goal for your farm or business.  (See my introduction to Holistic Management here, and part 2: four key insights for the reasons why holistic management is important.)

What is a holistic goal?
Often we find ourselves working towards something that is ultimately going to cause the destruction of other things that we cherish.  For example if we focus on making money, we may stop spending time with family and community or on hobbies that we enjoy because we are always working.  Setting a holistic goal allows us to consider everything that we find important and work towards optimising the outcomes so that we don't inadvertently compromise something that we value.

eight acres: holistic management - Part 3: holistic goal setting

Having defined the holistic goal, every subsequent decision can be tested against the goal.  This ensures that all courses of action will advance towards the goal and take into account the whole of the farm or business.

A holistic goal, as defined by Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making, has four parts - a statement of purpose, quality of life definition, an understanding of the means of production and a list of future resources that are needed to achieve this purpose. I'm going to share with you what Pete and I have initially drafted as our holistic goal, however the final wording may be refined as I read the rest of the book.

I found that the book was a little short on examples (and long on description) of holistic goal.  I did find some good resources online which helped with the goal (here and here).

Statement of purpose
To produce enough food for ourselves and a surplus to share locally, to develop knowledge and skills that we can use and share as widely as possible, to provide enough income that we can minimise the need for off-farm work, to nurture our creativity and enjoyment of nature and working hard together.

Quality of life (Things that are important to us)

  • debt-free
  • minimal off-farm work
  • positive relationships with neighbours and wider community
  • technically and mentally challenging, yet enjoyable work

Means of production (Things that we can make)

  • Beef cattle (live animals and meat)
  • Bees and bee products (hives, honey and beeswax)
  • Soap and salves (products and workshops)
  • Chickens (live animals and eggs)?
  • Some kind of produce?

Future resource base (Things that we can use)

  • Perennial pasture
  • Dams and bore water
  • Biodiversity (trees and animals)
  • Perspective of neighbours/community (hardworking and productive)
  • Perspective of customers (quality products, good service)

That's what we have so far!  I think its a good idea to at least try to draft a few ideas at this stage of the book, so that you can put the rest of the chapters in context.  And then come back to the goal later.  Allan even writes that you will need to keep refining the goal over time as you get a better understanding of what you're trying to achieve.

Compared to a permaculture goal statement
When starting a permaculture design, the first step is defining a goal statement (see info from Milkwood here).  The goal statement describes what you're hoping to get from your design, its a vision of the final outcome.  I think that the holistic goal is broader, its a goal for the whole property, rather than a specific design.  The holistic goal is similar to the statement of purpose in the holistic goal.  The extra parts of the holistic goal help you to get into more detail.

Have you written am holistic goal?  Or a permaculture goal statement?  What resources did you find useful?

Below are some Amazon affiliate links to books related to Holistic Management.  If you would like to read my reviews of these books, see the following links:
Joel Salatin's books

Peter Andrew's books on Natural Sequence Farming

Permaculture Principles



  1. Liz your list of Quality of Life (things that are important to you) are the same for us and now at our middle age, we're able to tick off those things on the list. Being debt free has meant I can work minimal hours away from our farm/home, with Brian still actively enjoying his outside work, plus he's younger than me so he has a little further to wait. Over the past few years we have been slowly developing our products and services that we can sell from home. Working on developing a customer base, so that when we both decide to stop doing outside work for an employer, we'll be able to support ourselves and continue to enjoy what we do together. At your age it may seem like your plans are a long way off, but it can happen, and we're living proof of it. Life is good, but we have never had huge unrealistic expectations, so everything is a bonus.

  2. Great post Liz I like your goal and it is something we will look to do for our NZ property. Some of your ideals will likely make it onto our list too.


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