Skip to content

Hjertaas instructing Holistic Management at University of Manitoba

Blain Hjertaas is pioneering the way for Holistic Management education in Canadian universities.

Blain Hjertaas is pioneering the way for Holistic Management education in Canadian universities.

The Redvers-area farmer is instructing a full three-credit Introductory Holistic Management course in the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Manitoba.

It is the first time a course like this has ever been offered in a Canadian University, and from its initial success, other universities are taking notice.

"Right now there is talk going on with the University of Guelph," says Hjertaas. "There is another fellow who lives in Southern Ontario who is qualified to teach at that level, so he would be doing that course if they decide to go ahead."

As a Certified Holistic Management Educator, Hjertaas is one of only nine people in Canada qualified to instruct the course. When the university approached him to teach it, he agreed without hesitation.

"I was excited," says Hjertaas, with a smile.

Hjertaas began the course in January with a one-day lecture on the University of Manitoba campus, by giving his 18-student class an introduction to Holistic Management. They also received their lesson plans, and direction as to where Hjertaas wanted the students to go with their learning.

The course is run in a distant education style. Instead of meeting with the students on a weekly basis for a couple hours, he meets with them twice during the semester and once after for an on-farm tour.

"Basically, they meet with the Dean [of the Faculty of Agriculture] for a few minutes every week," Hjertaas explains. "He collects their assignments [and] tells them what their next lesson is. If they have any questions about the assignment he tries to do it, and if he can't he phones me and I answer it. He sends the completed assignments to me and I grade them and send them back."

Hjertaas went back to the university in early March for his second full-day lecture, and he's invited the students to his farm west of Redvers in June to see firsthand how Holistic Management can benefit a farming operation.

"We'll do a little bit of reviewing of how to test decisions, then we will look at two pieces of land - one continuous grazed and one that we graze," Hjertaas says. "They haven't really learned any grazing [or] land management stuff, so this is going to be more [where] they can actually see a farm in action. They can see that [Holistic Management] does work."

Students taking the Introductory to Holistic Management course appear eager to learn, according to Hjertaas' observations

"I guess how I would characterize it from just one exposure is, most of the students [are] very concerned about global warming, ecosystems, food production, sustainability - all those kind of things - and they're looking for answers. They don't see the conventional farming system as the answer. They see [the conventional farming system] as [it's] going to collapse very shortly," says Hjertaas.

"They're not sure whether [the answer] is organic; they're not sure whether it's Holistic [Management]. They don't know, but they're willing to look. They're willing to look at something different."

Hjertaas is impressed with the students' willingness to learn about alternative practices to conventional farming. He notes only a third of the students in his class come from a farming background, but adds this education is just as important for urbanites, as actions of people in larger populations affect what happens in rural areas.

"Every action that we have does have an effect somewhere," he says.

The course material Hjertaas is teaching his students is different from what he would teach a group of farmers.

"Part is [the same], but this is just an introductory course to Holistic Management," Hjertaas explains. "All this is is learning about goals, what you're trying to accomplish in your life."

He used the example of farming. If a person is going to go farming, why is he or she doing it? What does the person hope to accomplish?

"If you don't know that, what are you doing? You have to know that stuff," he says. "Farmers will learn that part too, but farmers will also learn the financial planning, the grazing planning, the crop planning and all those things, too. We don't get into any of that."

The students can take many things away from this course, but there is one big life lesson Hjertaas wants the students to learn - "an ability to think things through better - to look at the big picture [and] see the whole."

"Before they decide to do something, [I hope] they are able to think about how they fit into that whole and test their decisions to see whether they are moving toward their goal."

Hjertaas completed his training as a Holistic Management Educator last winter, after completing two years of intensive training. His desire to receive his certification grew after he witnessed significant changes in his land quality after he began applying Holistic Management practices on his farm almost a decade ago.

For more information on Holistic Management, visit

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks