Jim Howell, certified educator and consultant for Allan Savory Holistic Management, visited the Trigg Ranch in August 2003 and wrote an article that was published in the Allan Savory Center’s “In Practice” the following February.
Jim writes, “It was a pleasure to meet a ranching family with so many positive things going for them. With people and financial issues well under control, Rick and Kristen are well-poised to begin working on the ecological side of things. With locally adapted cattle, the support of the entire family, a healthy financial cushion, and a strong desire to improve, the Trigg Ranch really is bursting with possibility.”
Tough Challenges, Big Possibilities on the Trigg Ranch
by Jim Howell
First published in “In Practice” by the The Savory Center
Conscious management toward a triple bottom line, where decisions are simultaneously evaluated in light of social, financial, and ecological soundness toward a holistic goal, is a concept unique to holistic management. This is the Land and Livestock section, so most of what appears here is weighted toward discussions of grass, soil, sunshine, rain, and grazing planning all the ecology stuff. However, as Allan Savory realized several decades ago, an ecologically regenerating ranch is ultimately doomed to fail if expenses exceed income, and family members, ranch staff, etc. are pulling in opposite directions. In many, if not most, situations, the people and money issues are actually the most daunting challenges. Sorting out relationships, clarifying and articulating shared values, developing disciplined financial habits, and climbing out of a draining debt load are not only challenging pursuits for many of us, they are painfully dreaded pursuits. It’s just way more fun to build fence, move cows, and watch the grass grow.
With that said, it’s encouraging, eye-opening, and inspiring to come across a ranching family that is heads and tails above the norm in the social and financial realms. I recently had the chance to visit such a family on the Trigg Ranch, just north of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Rick and Kristen Holmes (and daughters Caitlin and Hilary) are the managers and part owners of the ranch. Both are currently enrolled in the Savory Center’s Ranch and Rangeland Manager’s Training Program. We met last summer when my wife, Daniela, and I hosted the first session of their program at our ranch in western Colorado. I’ve been trying to get down for a visit ever since, and finally worked it into my winter schedule last February.
Kristen’s maiden name is Trigg, and her ancestors founded the ranch in 1918. Her grandfather, Steve Trigg Sr., his father D.C., and Steve’s brothers partnered on the vast XIT Ranch in the Texas Panhandle in the early years of the 20th century. They were some of the first cattlemen to introduce Black Angus cattle into the West, upgrading the native Texas Longhorns into a more marketable brand of beef. During World War I, they hit a good lick peddling their black-hided cattle to the federal government, and when circumstances led to the dissolution of their XIT lease, the brothers headed straight west to the current location of the Trigg Ranch to start new lives. Originally 238,000 acres (96,300 ha), the surviving lineage of Steve Sr. still holds title to just under 50,000 (20,200 ha). The ranch was carved out of the famous (and enormous) Bell Ranch, which still lies to the north and west, and a big chunk of it was part of the massive Pablo Montoya Spanish Land Grant. Like lots of New Mexico, it’s an area rich in tradition and colorful local history. The Trigg’s have taken the time and made the effort to capture their own history on the ranch. Numerous photo albums of the old days, and a memoir written by Kristen’s Aunt Adaline, document scores of important events, memorable stories, and daily ranch life through the years.