Zach Jones

Zachary Jones

Paths, Paradigms and Traditions

Zachary Jones almost became a PE teacher. In modern terminology, a Health Enhancement (K12) teacher. Fortunately for him and others, Zach didn't get his teaching certificate and followed a different path. He returned to the family ranch south of Harlowton. “I realized I wanted to come back.” His wife, Shannon, has two education degrees and taught for three years in Harlowton. She now is leading yoga classes (from the Eastern tradition), helping Zach on the Jones Ranch, and learning Holistic Management next to her husband.

Jones has been increasingly involved in Holistic Management for the past three years. Intent and enthusiastic about HM, Zachary says, “I was exposed to the concepts and we implemented some of them on the ranch. But without a community to support the ideas, the projects fizzled.”

Now, Zachary and wife Shannon are members of a Management Club with two other couples. They are committed to HM, have begun their own formal training, and are bringing HM programs to Harlowton, Montana.“There is more acceptance of Holistic Management than when my Dad got started. These are paradigm-breaking concepts. They are 180 degrees from usual ranching. But, twenty years have made a difference. Holistic Management is beginning to attract wider audiences and participation.”

Bill Jones helped form Holistic Management International (formerly the Savory Center) in 1984. The ideas which compose HM have been around for many years. But, Allan Savory brought together land management, human decision making, and financial information to develop Holistic (Resource) Management.

Savory began his own work in Zimbabwe (once Rhodesia) in the 1970s. He was a Member of Parliament and, for a time, opposition leader in the Zimbabwean civil war. Savory had managed National Game Reserves and recognized some of the causes of degradation and desertification. But when he was A guerrilla tracker during the civil war years, Savory paid special attention to the landscapes and animal congregation. Savory “concluded that the spread of deserts, the loss of wildlife, and the human impoverishment that always resulted were related to the way people made decisions, whether or not those people lived or worked on the land.” He was eventually able to use his learnings on game preserves and his own property, and Holistic Management grew out of his work.

Holistic Management International ( is a non-profit organization which certifies educators, provides consultants, and distributes information “to heal damaged land and increase the productivity of working lands.”

Zach has already taken a year-long range management program which included trips to HM ranches in Lander, WY, Cimarron, CO, and San Jose, CA. Now, he has begun HMI's two-year certified educator program which involves taking intensive workshops, consulting and mediation work with learning communities, and writing case studies. Besides these recent trips, the Joneses traveled recently to New Zealand for three weeks and saw HM in a quite different setting.

Jones says that Holistic Management seeks to achieve “the triple bottom line of economic, environmental and social sustainability. All ranching decisions need to take these three factors into consideration; hence the term Holistic.Only then will we truly be managing responsibly. Without addressing root causes, we're just treating symptoms.”

The Jones Ranch - Two Dot Land and Livestock - just finished hosting two 4-day seminars. South African, Ian Mitchell-Innes, a Certified Educator, worked with a group of 14 to look at Managing the Whole in Decision Making from November 9 to 12. “This seminar focused on the ecological system processes, decision making, and defining the whole we are managing.”

Another group of 19 led my Mitchell-Innes gathered from November 17 to 20 and focused on Grazing Planning and Animal Behavior. “A brittle environment like ours must have animals to eat forage, disturb the soil surface, and distribute nutrients in the form of manure and urine on it. The government and others have promoted TOTAL REST and the removal of ruminants which leads to desertification.” While overgrazing can give the same result, the former situation is a more likely cause.

“We need more animals grazing, not less. The herd effect is paramount! (Predators even have value. But, we have killed them off. The government buys $3 million-dollar helicopters to 'take care of' predators.) Recognizing the lack of ruminant pack hunting predators we must manage to stimulate the herd effect on our land by increasing herd size/density. Animal impacts are necessary to make the land produce more, store more water in the soil, decrease bare ground, produce more community wealth, etc...”

Jones says that in this country we are used to grazing a few dozen cattle on a section. “But, the land can be reminded how it once produced more.Form follows function.”

Do the cattle appreciate more company on the range? “They love it.”

How do these ideas sit with the general ranching community? “They're too busy driving tractors, buying fuel, checking animals, putting out supplements. But, that's what we have been taught.”

“We check our cows regularly when we move them. And, that is often. We use less supplements. But, supplements can temporarily be used to replace lacking components in your forage.  We must remember though, are we treating a symptom or the root cause of a situation?  That is, the forage is lacking minerals and nutrients because the mineral cycle and energy flow systems are not optimized.”

Holistic Management teaches ranchers how to match biological requirements of animals with the environment. The Joneses have been calving in the middle of May for the past three years. “Lower inputs produce smaller animals when they go to market. But, we earn more by spending less in hay, grain, pellets, and Crystalyx, labor, depreciation, you name it.”

“Holistic Management is the way we need to operate in the future. We sustain ourselves environmentally, socially, and financially. It's irresponsible to do things otherwise.”

How common is holistic management practice? “Thirty million acreas are managed holistically. But, that's out of 2 billion arable acres in the world. Still, HM ranches are spread all over the world.”

Holistic Management seminars at the Jones Ranch attracted participants from Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Canada, and Australia mainly by word of mouth and brochures. Capacity for 4-day seminars is a maximum of 20. But, summer 1-day events will be open to many more participants.

Zach Jones believes that, “All traditions should be challenged.”

Jones is doing that with Holistic Management. “We have increased the carrying capacity of the ranch 2 1/2 times what it was twenty years ago. But, we still in no way have maximized the potential of our land.”

Two Dot Land and Livestock celebrates 100 years in existence this summer. “The Centennial is going to be a pretty big deal. We are inviting friends and neighbors. Businesses and all our old employees.”

One tradition lives on. A new tradition - Holistic Management - is just beginning.