Farm and Ranch Design Consultation Process

Vision, design and plan your regenerative enterprise

Bring regenerative and holistic design and planning into your farm or ranch

Our Farm and Ranch Design Consultation Process is a holistic process which integrates the ecological, social and economic aspects of your operation. We work with you to transform your operation into a resilient, productive, and profitable ecosystem.

Our Philosophy and Process

Our Farm and Ranch Design Consultation philosophy is based on fostering beneficial relationships between ourselves, our clients, the landscapes they steward, and the markets they serve. Trust, sincerity, and transparency are critical to the effectiveness of our consultation and design process due to the potentially sensitive information that we need to understand to best serve you, your operation, and your landscape.

As with all land based enterprises, the extensive amount of site and context specific information, needs to be inventoried and assessed with the whole in mind – Ecologically, Socially, and Economically. Our primary planning goal is to develop options that best match the unique qualities of your site with your lifestyle preferences (for Quality of Life, Forms of Production, and Future Resource Base).

Because cultivating healthy landscapes, communities, and businesses are multi-year—and often multi-generational—activities, we do not create ‘master plans’ for our clients. Rather we prefer to create initial design options, priorities, and strategies to get your land health and operation moving on an improving trajectory towards your stated goals. We embrace the concept of PLAN as the 24-letter word ‘plan-monitor-control-replan’ which engages us in an iterative process of planning and action that develops in unison and response to the feedback from our landscapes, communities, and finances.

We feel it is important to clarify our approach ahead of time because it sets the stage for engaging with you and your context as a multi-step process. After developing a thorough inventory to clarify the whole under management, we work with you to develop a rough overall plan, and outline a strategy for priority next steps and indicators to monitor to assess your progress and your operation’s trajectory. This process is very much a dynamic dialog which will range from creative brainstorming to selective filtering and vetting of concepts and systems to best fit your context. The more active you are in this process, the more effective and efficient it will be.

Our goal as consultants and designers is to work with you to identify the most effective actions to take at each stage that will move you rapidly toward your goals for land health, quality of life, and profitability. We measure our success by how quickly we become redundant in the planning and management of your landscape in that you now have the skills and insights necessary to continue moving your operation and lifestyle towards your stated goals. That said, we are passionate about developing long-term beneficial relationships with our clients and their operations where we can be called upon to re-visit your context and design a new strategy of priorities and next steps as your operation continues to evolve.

Stepwise Consultation and Design Process

farm and ranch process diagram

The rest of this document outlines the Farm and Ranch Design Consultation Process. This process iterates between research and desktop work, phone and email communications, and on-site assessment and investigations, which allows time for due diligence analysis and reflection on plans before acting in the field.

Phase 1: Remote Assessment, Inventory, and Online Consultation

Before ever visiting your site, we want to familiarize ourselves with the 1. Climate and 2. Geography of the site. This includes both the biophysical climate and the social-financial climate of your operation. To accomplish this, we need to know the accurate location and boundaries of your site. Fill out our Farm and Ranch Design Consultation form and submit a map with your property location and boundaries to get started.

Upon successful payment and form submission, we begin by locating your site and reviewing your form. We begin preliminary remote assessment of the site’s biospheric 1. Climate and 2. Geography details. When ready, we then schedule our Online Consultation with you to discuss your project in more detail and address any questions/concerns. During this video consultation, we’ll also cover the Scope of Work for our initial On-site Consultation. This Scope of Work allows us to provide you with a checklist of items to prepare, and an accurate budget estimate for the site visit based on the necessary duration and timing of the site visit.

Phase 2: On-site Consultation

Following our Online Consultation, we’ll send you an On-site Consultation Proposal containing a specific Scope of Work and budget estimate. Upon acceptance of this proposal and payment of a deposit, we schedule a site visit.

The initial On-site Consultation covers the Scope of Work determined during the Online Consultation and usually includes an ecosystem health assessment, ground truthing of site inventory, and proposed options for site design and development for each item on the Regrarian® Platform based on your stated goals and needs.

During the consultation, initial concept drawings are drafted and options discussed to inform the next steps of planning and design. Initial recommendations for priority research, site investigation, and implementation are made during the consultation. As a wrap up, we identify the design and planning items that need to be further fleshed out and assessed on the desktop or hired out to specific professionals (i.e. surveyors, lawyers, etc.) (Phase 3). An estimate of hours and budget needed to complete these items is provided at the end of the site visit and/or delivered via email within 1 week following the consult.

Frequently, a multiple site visit approach for assessment and design is necessary prior to any major implementation activities due to the detailed site investigations needed for earthworks and accurate forestry layouts. In general a phased implementation over several years is best both financially and operationally. This is often a 3-5 year process depending on the Scope of Work.

Phase 3: Pattern Analysis and Concept Development

Upon completion of an On-site Consultation, the initial Scope of Work for Pattern Analysis and Concept Development is drafted. Phase 3 begins our detailed design and planning activities and can include

  • Desktop design and planning work: drafting, mapping, financial planning, operational timelines, etc.
  • Hired Professional Services: Surveyors (i.e. topographic), Attorneys, Renewable Energy specialists, Architects, etc.
  • Phone and email communications: progress updates and project coordination
  • Online Consultations: review and analysis of plans and documents developed

During this phase both client and consultant engage in priority research and investigations specific to the operation and collaborate on developing initial concept planning scenarios and optimizing an action plan. Duration of Phase 3 varies based on the complexity of the project, budget, and access to needed professional services. This phase clearly prescribes action points for your operation and defines any needed Site Investigations and Measurements in order to prepare a Scope of Work and proposal for Phase 4.

Phase 4: Site Investigation and Measurements

During the Site Investigation and Measurements site visit, we review the initial design and take ground truth measurements as part of a feasibility study for any proposed installations of significance. We double check the site resources, layout and plans for any oversights and define areas of impact, areas to stockpile resources, etc. We also continue the site inventory and refinement of design scenarios to fit them to the your specific context as it evolves.

At this point, we are planning for implementation and checking in on the effects of the seasons, weather, disturbances, etc. to improve our understanding of the processes active on your site. You may have already altered management and taken other actions based on our first visit, so we assess the effects of those actions and work with you to continue to calibrate your management and monitoring. We further refine materials lists, quantities, suppliers, and the implementation timeline and prioritization system developed in Phase 3.

As a wrap up for Phase 4, we review the site investigations and measurements taken and define the actions needed for analysis of this information leading to a plan for the next steps in installation and site development. This defines the Scope of Work and proposal for Phase 5.

Phase 5: On-Going Design and Development Support

During this phase, we continue to collaborate with you to further detail out and develop the design, planning, and management options for your operation based on your needs and requests. We’re also available to schedule site visits for monitoring and assessment and to guide and assist with layout and installation of systems such as water and access earthworks, forestry systems, fencing, etc.

During Phase 5 we basically iterate between Phases 3 and 4, conducting research, planning, and design followed by site investigations, determination of appropriate actions and guidance to implement those actions. In addition, we provide continual support on an as needed basis. Through this iteration we embody the concept of PLAN as the 24-letter word ‘plan-monitor-control-replan’.

By this point, we expect to have a good working relationship with you and your operation, so that communications and expectations are clear. We work with you to determine a Scope of Work and budget estimate for each iteration along the way.

Note: All Consulting and design time is billed hourly or daily. Budget estimates are based on the expected number of hours needed to complete a task. Estimates are not binding and clients are billed for actual # of hours required to complete each task. If for any reason a task is dramatically more complicated than estimated, we will inform you at the earliest point possible to discuss the new expected budget estimate for that item and determine if you’d like us to continue working on that item.

Regrarians® Design Platform

Darren Doherty and the work of the Doherty family have greatly influenced the way that we approach broad acre and production landscapes so much so that we use their trademarked Regrarians® Platform design process as our exclusive “go to” framework when analyzing and preparing property reports. The Regrarians® Platform is based off the “Keyline Scale of Permanence” developed by the late, great Australian agricultural designer and farmer, P.A. Yeomans as outlined in his 1958 classic, The Challenge of Landscape.

The platform becomes our catch-all and guiding light when analyzing a landscape. The different categories trend from more permanent and hard to change to least permanent and easy to change. This platform runs us through a stepwise planning process that serves as a checklist to ensure all important components of farm and homestead planning are assessed, analyzed, and organized into an easy-to-reference format.

1. CLIMATE – You, Enterprise, Risk, Weather

Most often we hear ‘climate’ and only think about the weather. While weather is important to a site, equally important is the “weather between one’s ears” – the mind. Coupled with community dynamics, and now you’ve got some serious fronts to contend with.

By incorporating the oftentimes emotional human element first, and by focusing on the Decision Makers (DMs) and their own visions, goals, and responsibilities, we only then can begin to understand and design appropriately to meet the project’s vision and goals. These climatic factors essentially create a “rules of the game” to follow.

2. GEOGRAPHY – Landform, Components, Proximity

Geography deals with the physical landforms and elements of your site and surrounding landscape, but also includes population centers analysis, site regulations, and non-DM community dynamics. We develop and analyze foundational maps and overlays here.

3. WATER – Storage, Harvesting, Reticulation

Design and development of a site’s water supply, storage and distribution systems are critical to operational flexibility and resilience. While a site’s water budget may be relatively fixed, we can apply human creativity to optimize its potential uses. We consider all forms of existing and potential water supplies then design ways to integrate them into each operation for long term management and resilience.

4. ACCESS – Roads, Tracks, Trails, Markets, Utilities, People

Access serves as the blood supply for your farm or ranch. It conveys you, animals, materials, supplies, and sometimes emergency equipment to where it’s needed. We examine and design effective, multipurpose roads, trails, and corridors to ensure a safe, efficient and enjoyable site experience.

5. FORESTRY – Blocks, Shelter, Savanna, Orchards, Natural

Forestry roots us in the long term perennialization of landscapes. Trees serve critical functions in the landscape and provide us with a wide range of useful products. Forestry supports other vegetation systems; framing pasture and cropping systems in ways that buffer and balance microclimates. Our team will help design Forestry systems that synergize with grazing and cropping practices, create long term revenue opportunities, and enhance the park-like aesthetic of production ecosystems.

6. STRUCTURES – Homes, Sheds, Portable, Yards

Too often, a site unfolds first from the placement of the home or main structure, requiring all other elements to perform in less-than-ideal conditions. By arriving at the placement of structures after Climate, Geography, Water, Access, and Forestry, we ensure that the site functions according to the enterprise needs, and not the needs of the structures. We focus on designing durable, multi-function structures or portable infrastructure to maintain flexibility and minimize cost.

7. FENCING – Permanent, Electric, Cross, Living

Today’s Fencing is not your granddad’s fence. With lightweight, portable, and even solar powered electric fencing, the rules on fencing are revolutionizing how to approach modern farming and husbandry. Our team will help design appropriate and economical fencing options that meet your site and enterprise needs.

8. SOIL – Planned Grazing, Minerals, Fertility, Crops

Far too often ignored and denigrated, dirt, or more appropriately Soil, is the building block and backbone of our survival. Easily created, and easily destroyed, soil is a malleable resource that is enhanced through proper management and appropriate tools. We will design a soil management plan that integrates with your enterprises to cover bare soil, improve water infiltration, and withstand drought.

9. ECONOMY – Analysis, Strategy, Value Chain

Using existing businesses and industry tools and resources, we will help you analyze your markets, opportunities, and strategies to help you succeed. A sensitive subject for everyone, it’s crucial that we honestly analyze your current bleeds from the system to properly address and stop them.

We also offer budget analysis, financial planning, branding, direct marketing, and online commerce solutions that fit your style, budget, and needs.

10. ENERGY – Photosynthesis, Generation, Storage

The foundation of Energy returns to a perennialization of the landscape with green vegetation collecting sunlight for as many hours per year as possible. To meet modern human needs, energy generation and storage include a wide array of options including electricity, solid and liquid fuels, mechanical and gravitational energy, and more. Our team will work with a range of renewable energy specialists to design a suite of energy options that meet our three criteria of efficiency, durability and integration.

Summary

With an understanding of the existing state and future vision of your operation for each item in the Regrarian® Platform, we develop initial concepts and prescriptions for your operation. Often for large landscapes we begin by focusing on ‘Water and Wire’ to improve capacity and flexibility in management of plant, animal, and soil performance. This is frequently the lowest cost path to increased land health and profitability, which then sets the stage for further development of agroforestry systems, on-site infrastructure, and stacked enterprise opportunities.

Getting Started

If you would like to begin this process, please respond by completing our online Farm and Ranch Design Consultation Form and submitting a deposit for Phase 1 via PayPal.

Please contact us with any questions or concerns!

With Gratitude,
Ecology Artisans