Remembering Stan Parsons

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I was sad to learn today of Stan’s passing and extend my deepest sympathy to Hazel, David, Deana and Ashleigh. 

I first me Stan in the 1970s when, in then what was Rhodesia, George Rudland (Minister of Agriculture) appointed Stan as the government’s economist to the Charter Trials. Also appointed were Dr. John Clatworthy to represent the government monitoring the veld (range) and David Worthington manager of Charter Estates to monitor cattle performance. 

There was at the time great condemnation of my finding as a wildlife ecologist that livestock were essential to reversing desertification, and that this could be achieved by doubling the conventional stocking rates while replacing conventional grazing practices with a planning process I had adapted from centuries of military planning. Universities, research stations, government agencies and cattlemen’s organizations were up in arms about it. 

George Rudland had publicly challenged me to an international trial to end the controversy once and for all. The arrangement was that Worthington would lay out three approximately equal blocks of land to compare the grazing recommended by range scientists with what I was advising. On one block the management was as recommended by government, universities, etc. and on two blocks we doubled the stocking rate and used the planning process I had developed to reverse desertification

One block was called “poor man Savory” the other “rich man Savory” because I said it did not even require money to start improving the land (because most ranches are overcapitalized). On the Poor Man block I was to generate the money from the land before any further development, while on the Rich Man block I could put in any development, regardless of cost, if I needed.

Stan’s task as the government’s economist was to monitor the results. And the agreement between me and Rudland was that if I showed I could double the stocking rate, make more profit and improve the land, then he would change the government policy, teaching at agricultural colleges and government extension service advice. And if the results did not substantiate all I claimed, then I was to shut down my consulting practice and stop misleading people. To this I readily agreed and it was to lead to a wonderful partnership with Stan.

After documenting that both the planned grazing blocks (Rich and Poor Man) were more profitable than the government control (even when we allowed the government to change the rules and increase their stocking rate!) Stan left the university and went to South Africa, where he joined me as a partner in my South African business. Where the government agencies, colleges and universities refused to accept the results and claim it was a failure, as many still do forty years later, Stan thankfully did not behave like that, which I greatly appreciated.

This was to lead to Stan following me to the US where I also brought him into partnership and a couple of wonderful fun years teaching together till Stan decided he wanted to branch off on his own. I have never enjoyed teaching so much with anyone as I did with Stan as he taught economics and I taught ecology and planned grazing. Stan was an exceptional born teacher and went on to help many ranchers.

I will always remember the incredible partnership Hazel, Stan, Jody and I had in those early years in America. 

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