Is There One Right Answer?

When I was working for the Bureau of Land Management and stationed at Utah State University, a friend and I started an internship program called “Tehabi.” It gave students the background and experience they needed to work for land management agencies like the National Park Service, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, and helped short-staffed offices get work done. Just as importantly, Tehabi increased the number of ideas about how to solve a problem by putting people together who had different backgrounds and education.

One of the things we taught students was that there was always more than one right answer. We’d seen too often how opportunities were missed by trying to solve a problem in only one way, and had also seen that when people sat down, talked, and shared their ideas, that they could come up with lots of different, very good solutions. Our motto celebrated the idea that good ideas came from changing our minds. It was printed on the mugs we gave students:

We cannot solve our problems using the same level of intellect we used to create them.

– Albert Einstein

The motto and the idea that there is always more than one right answer is something I’ve carried into all the work I’ve done since. For example: If we can’t get rid of weeds with herbicides, and ranchers don’t like goats – well teach their cattle to eat the weeds. Or – if you can’t find a publication that provides the grazing information you need, why not start one? That’s how On Pasture came to be!

There are also multiple right answers for grazing management, as both James Matthew Craighead and John Marble point out this week. They describe a recipe for success that includes having a good grasp of how plants and animals grow, and setting goals that work for our own operations.

As you read these stories, think about what resources you might need to help you improve your grazing management. Feel free to drop me a line about your needs, and I’ll work on getting you information. And for assistance planning, developing goals, and even finding financial assistance, check out your local Natural Resource Conservation Service office. They have all kinds of resources to help.

Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “Is There One Right Answer?

  1. So much is owed to so few who have the courage to share. If you ask a 60 year old practicing farmer you will get a worthy reply as they too are still keen to learn. They know what the meaning of ‘enough’ is and from my own experience, so few ask the ‘why’ question. Curiosity is what centurions have in common.

  2. Hi Kathy,

    We need an article on the reality of working with the NRCS. Just about every publication on farming recommends contacting the NRCS for assistance. So far, I have never seen an article explaining the difficulties of accessing this assistance, i.e. how long it will take(years, in my case) how much paper work is required, limitations on available practices, the waiting list for technical service providers etc., etc.
    If I had known this ahead of time, it would have saved me lots of time and frustration. Maybe my experience is not widespread, but I suspect it is the norm.

  3. So often “zealot” thinkers are marginalized by the “experts”. Our voice is silenced and the process of discovering new solutions is lost on the whole. Intimidation is the vehicle of saving the old way that doesn’t work given a new set of parameters. Why do they get away with it? How do we challenge without using an editorial?

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