"Convening people is the most important thing you can do"
In 2008, Sallie serendipitously met Carol Newell and Joel Solomon at Play BIG, an annual gathering convened by Marian Moore of investor/philanthropists interested in activating their whole portfolio fully in alignment with their mission. Carol’s pioneering approach to radical activation of wealth inspired this gathering and she partnered with Joel to fuel sustainable economic development in British Columbia for two decades.
Sallie posed the question to the pair, “What is the most important thing you did in your work in Canada?” Without skipping a beat, they both replied, “convening people”. The duo eventually founded Hollyhock, a renowned retreat center that hosts gatherings to inspire personal growth and social transformation.
The conversation with Carol and Joel changed everything for Sallie. She thought, “I have a convening space. I have land. I know people who want to learn and connect. I can do this.”
She held the first workshop in 2010 and brought Ian Mitchell-Innes, a Holistic Management educator and expert in planned grazing, from South Africa to the US. California ranchers had been trying to get him to the states but RSVPs for workshops tended to be last minute or attendees would drop out and organizers would lose money. Sallie knew that the value of having Ian at the ranch--the opportunity to learn from him and to see the ranch through his eyes--far outweighed the expenses. If no one showed up, it would still be worth it.
It went well with a diverse group of about 50 California ranchers, and the event broke even financially. Manned by a group of volunteers that slept on Sallie’s floor with meals prepared by the ranch staff, this pilot workshop revealed the calling for and excitement around convenings.
The first few events were Holistic Management trainings--Ian led two, and a third was with Kirk Gadzia, another educator based out of New Mexico. These evolved into farming and animal health workshops and, at that point, Sallie knew she wanted to bring in other diverse voices to the ranch aside from ranchers. She began collaborating with others in and outside of the field and hosting gatherings annually--from pasture cropping and cheesemaking workshops to larger gatherings at the intersection of climate and soil carbon.
The calling for these events, especially around regenerative agriculture, continued to grow and in 2015 Elaine Patarini moved to the ranch and Sallie passed her off the organizing reins. A natural at ‘human herding’, Elaine brought with her a love to gather community and convene discussions centered on the interconnectedness of soil health and human health. With Sallie’s vision and Elaine’s education and innovation leadership, Paicines Ranch has become a prominent place to learn about regenerative agriculture, and even more importantly, a place to connect with the land, each other and ourselves.
Some of the past collaborators and speakers include: Dr. Christine Jones, Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta, Dr. David Johnson, Dr. Jill Clapperton, Dr. Kris Nichols, Colin Seis, Fred Provenza, Walter Jehne, Nikki Silvestri, Dr. Daphne Miller, Krystyn Leach, Doniga Markegard, Joe Morris, Peter Donovan, Didi Pershouse, Cindy Daley, and many others (visit our convening and workshop page to learn more about past events).
In 2019, the Paicines Ranch Learning Center was officially formed as 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to hold all of our programming and allow us to engage with a broader community of voices to create and participate in this work.