Over April 13th-14th we hosted workshops on water and livestock management. Takota Coen of Coen Farm in Alberta, who had previously come out this January for an evening on holistic land design, presented the workshops.

Takota’s experience in organic farming and land management comes from stewarding his family’s farm, where they raise and market a variety of pasture-based animals and forest-garden berries and teas. With a background in permaculture and holistic management, Takota works with landowners across Canada who struggle with the complexity of designing and managing land in a regenerative and financially sustainable manner. The workshops drew on techniques used at the Coen family farm to demonstrate successful applications of these principles on a large scale.

Photo credit: Katie McInnes, Pilot Mound Sentinel Courier

Saturday’s workshop on Cold Climate Water Resiliency discussed principles and processes to build more effective and efficient water cycles within a land base. Topics included dugout, dam and swale design and placement, strategic water and snow harvesting, gravity water reticulation and flood irrigation systems. Participants were also introduced to a contour-mapping program to assist with the design of their own land.

Sunday’s workshop on Livestock Management was based on the same principles and processes of permaculture and holistic land management, examining the integration of various animals into cropping and gardening rotations. Identifying and directing the energies of wild and domesticated animals and designing for functional interactions between them- including crop and composting goals- was the major focus of the day. Techniques on how to layer tasks such as weeding, tilling, fertilizing and aerating into the animal systems and the land’s context were also discussed.

Over 25 people from across the province attended the weekend, discussing their backgrounds and goals over coffee and potlucks. Everyone shared the desire to increase the long-term health and productivity of their land. There was quite the variety of people: small businesses and homesteads, established grazing operations and young farmers just starting out.

Participants both familiar with and new to these principles left the weekend inspired to manage their land according to patterns found in nature, incorporating the diversity and resilience of ecosystems within their own businesses and farms.