The Honourable Judith Guichon (centre)

The Honourable Judith Guichon (centre)

Holistic visions of the future

Lieutenant Governor tours Clear Sky, speaks on a subject that’s close to her heart

  • Sep. 12, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Trish Barnes

Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, visited Clear Sky Holistic Living Centre last Friday, for a special event that brought together ranchers and others interested in grassland restoration. Guided by Clear Sky’s Catherine Pawasarat and Michelle Heinz, Guichon toured the centre’s Food Forest and Grassland Reclamation projects.

Guichon then shared her thoughts about ranching and Holistic Management (HM), a subject close to her heart.

“If we had not had the Holistic Management model in place when my late husband died, I would have lost the ranch,” Guichon said. Guichon’s family began practicing HM on its Nicola Valley ranch (and tenured Crown range) in the 1970s.

First, they learned the HM principles from Allan Savory, the method’s originator. Then, they introduced HM to ranchers in B.C. by offering workshops themselves. (Guichon’s daughter is now one of Canada’s only bilingual HM consultants.)

Holistic Management is a resource management framework that addresses the ‘wholes’ that make up a working system: People, land-base and money.

“The main thing about holistic management is planning,” Guichon said. “We spent time considering what we’d like to see if we were to come back in 100 years.”

Catherine Pawasarat, Clear Sky’s Chief Visionary Officer, explained why the meditation and retreat centre can benefit from healthy grasslands on its Bull River site, and how holistic management tools can help.

“What we thought of as ‘pristine’ nature nine years ago when we moved here turned out to be in pretty bad shape,” Pawasarat said. “We didn’t see anything wrong at first, but we learned the land had been overgrazed.”

Pawasarat and her colleagues saw reclamation efforts would help meet the ‘quadruple bottom line’ of Clear Sky’s sustainability mandate, enhancing financial, environmental, social and spiritual values of the land.

The group established a grassland reclamation research plot with the help of local landscape architect Leslie Lowe. They have since hosted workshops about grassland reclamation for community members. (Lowe also helped them establish a one-acre ‘food forest’ — 850 food perennials, including fruit and nut trees, exotic berries, and vegetables.)

As for Guichon, even though her duties as Queen’s representative in British Columbia keep her busy most days a year, she’s still a rancher — and HM advocate — at heart. She even sent HRH Prince Charles a copy of Holistic Management and received a hand-written thank-you note from him.

“There are no ‘retired’ ranchers,” Guichon said. “There are just old ranchers and older ranchers.”

She praised ranchers as being dedicated land stewards and encouraged everyone to be bolder in their approach to better land use.

“Our biggest mistake is that we are tentative,” Guichon said. “We’re so afraid of making mistakes on the land that we dabble.

“You’ve got to be brave to move forward.”

For Clear Sky Centre, the next step forward might include hosting a workshop with consensus-building consultant Jeff Goebel, of Triangle Associates.

“Jeff specializes in building consensus—resolving dilemmas between ‘resource wealth’ versus ‘resource scarcity’ perspectives,” Pawasarat said.

In the meantime, the Clear Sky team will be tending the Food Forest, settling into its new digs — an annualized geo-solar building they built this year — and offering meditation retreats in September and October.

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Clear Sky will also offer a Food Forest workshop on October 5 – 6, and a Permaculture Design course from October 13 to 26.

For more information, visit