I'm currently undertaking a Winston Churchill Memorial Fund Travel Fellowship (http://www.wcmt.org.uk/) around the USA and Australia looking at Holistic Farm Management.
HM isn't really well known about in Europe but as a farm and ranch management technique it is growing in other parts of the world. The aim of this trip is to see what concepts are relavent to farming and the public in general.
Holistic Management is quite a difficult concept to explain in a few short words so I'll do my best and try and explain the essentials as I see it:
Firstly my approach to it is as a result of long been unhappy about the trenchlines drawn between different interests when it comes to talking about the environment and food production. Debates about this are turning increasingly dichotomous so for example we end up thinking about things like conservation land vs farmland, or organic vs conventional, or GM vs non GM. I could go on... but really its too boring!
The point is farming, whilst not natural, operates in an environment that is a Whole. Scientific thinking encourages us to think mechanically and with science we reduce things to a hypothesis to understand them. And as our mechanical scientific achievements (such as chemistry, machinery, breeding etc.) have developed we have had ever increasing problems in our non-mechanical environment - our ecology. We therefore need to make sure we design our farming to manage the whole not just from the perspective of narrow disciplines such as soil science, animal nutrition, economics etc.
I'll stop here before you think I'm some crazy deep thinking hippy! I'm not though - I'm just a farmer concerned that the debate about sustainability and agriculture is not being articulated enough by farmers.
HM encourages us to thing of our farm, our community etc. as not just a sum of parts with various boundaries defined by scientific disciplines but that everything is interconnected and that there wholes within wholes.
Everything effects each other - therefore we need to think and act Holistically. In accordance with the natural systems with with which we operate.
Follow my journey around the world and make your own mind up. I'm as confused sometimes about it as anyone, but please ask questions if you have them. Finally remember there is no one way of doing things - you gotta keep looking at the trade offs, but fundamentally think of this as a management framework that helps us make the right decisions in three ways: Economically, Ecologically and Socially.