Remembering Tony Lovell


Tony Arthur Lovell would have turned 60 years old this month. He’s not here to celebrate it with us, but his legacy and contribution to the advancement of Holistic Management globally will forever live on. 

Tony loved the land and animals profoundly, and he had a keen talent for business, finances and investment, which is a rare combination. 

Tony grew up on a dairy farm in Queensland, Australia and throughout his life he owned a number of cattle operations. When his children started horse riding in 2000, he purchased a 300-acre old dairy farm on the Gold Coast. It was on this family farm that Tony became more interested in breeding and land management.

In 2001 he met the late Bruce Ward – one of our finest HM educators ever and a dear friend of mine – and embraced Holistic Management immediately, almost intuitively as he quickly understood both the business and agricultural merit of managing holistically. A couple of years later, attending a conference in Australia, he heard Allan Savory say ‘if you think this stuff’s important, if you think it matters, if you think it needs to be done, get off your bum and do something about it.’ He never looked back. On the 13th of April, 2004 Tony emailed Bruce Ward with the idea of starting SLM, one of the most influential large-scale HM initiatives in Australia. He treasured his partnership and friendship with Bruce.

SLM was committed to “bringing money from the city back into the bush,” to regenerate it for generations to come. He successfully raised over 100 million dollars of capital from pension funds, and in June of 2012 SLM started operations. Their first property was acquired in December 2012 and the adventure began for both Bruce and Tony. His positive outlook on life – even after some of the longest, toughest and driest years on record, with both financial and ecological pressure – he would just say ‘it’s been character building’. Tony believed Nature was forgiving and would gift us with great abundance if we only listened to Her. He did, and continued this positive outlook on life right until the end.

Nature is incredibly forgiving. When we get out of her way, stop fighting her, and listen to what she has been screaming at us, her capacity to heal will never cease to amaze and inspire me.

Tony was sharp, generous, intelligent, brave, quick-witted, resilient, extremely hard-working, and impatient with mediocrity. He always had big ideas, or would take a good idea and improve it, always wanting to scale them up, add more zeros, more impact. An avid reader and incredibly quick learner, he had the ability to articulate complex concepts with a razor sharp clarity. He never stopped thinking about what he could do to improve the land, not just in Australia, but on a global level. He was so passionate about this ‘stuff”, traveling to see those succeeding to learn more, engaging researchers, thought leaders, doers, longing for a breakthrough. 

He was of crucial support to me in “translating” Savory Institute’s value proposition to the Virgin Earth Challenge advisors during the many meetings they held with the finalists through the years. I had the pleasure to travel and work with Tony all over the world. He joined several of the international ranch tours Jim and I used to lead in the late 90s and early 2000s and almost all Savory conferences. He was so curious! And his big ideas never stopped pouring. 

I laughed and learned so much with him. He was a loyal friend and an incredible mentor to me, until his last days. He would listen to my sometimes crazy ideas and say “Daniela… come to the dark side” and presented me with the ”brutal facts,” which in time, made me (and my businesses) more robust and cannier.

Do it, but add a few more zeros.

It’s hard to comprehend how his brilliant mind worked. After his passing, his daughter April (who kindly helped me with this letter) found a notebook of his. It detailed the sheer number and scale of ideas that he had. I hope I can help implement some of them. 

Ultimately, as sharp a businessman as he was, his work to advance HM in Australia, and in the world of finance and policy, was driven by his deep care about the planet and the future, and his immeasurable love for his children and grandchildren. 

The future - the reason we do the things we do.”

You will be missed, Tony. Happy 60th birthday wherever you are! I know you are watching down on us… having a chuckle.

Tony Lovell standing next to a fence
Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Daniela Ibarra-Howell

Daniela is CEO and co-founder of the Savory Institute. An agronomist with over 25 years of international experience, she has led the design and implementation of Savory’s revolutionary, entrepreneurial, grassroots, network-based strategy to reverse desertification and tackle the systemic food, water, and climate change crises.
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