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Ranney Ranch

Ranching Apprenticeship in Corona, New Mexico

The Ranney Ranch is a family owned cow-calf ranching operation that sits at 6200′ in the high mesa country of central New Mexico. The ranch sells young, range-finished beef direct to consumers who value how their food choices impact the environment. The ranch is AGA (American Grassfed Association) and AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) and has been marketing 100% grassfed/grassfinished beef since 2003. Currently, the ranch runs a herd of approximately 200 mother cows. Owners are George, Edward, Nancy Ranney, their spouses and offspring. Melvin Johnson manages the ranch; he and his wife Esther have been with the ranch since 1984 and raised their four children here. The Ranney Ranch team is committed to the ecologic, financial, and family health of the Ranney Ranch and to the health of the Corona ranching community. Ranchers and landowners in the Gallo Canyon have worked together over the past decade on ranching enterprises and on alternative energy development. The Ranney Ranch sponsors ranch tours, workshops, and offers guidance to a new generation of ranchers and land managers.

Start Date: Approximately May 15, 2017

Application Deadline: December 1, 2016

The Ranch

Ranney Ranch
The Ranney Ranch has been in the family since 1968, when George and Nancy Ranney bought two adjoining ranches along the Gallo Canyon near the town of Corona, New Mexico. Over the years they practiced sound conservation practices and developed an Angus/Black Baldy herd, gaining a solid local reputation for fine replacement heifers and breeding stock bulls.

The mid 1990's witnessed an ominous shift to drier times across the Southwest and by 2002, when the next generation took the reins, the ranch could no longer sustain the livestock numbers of the lush 1970s and 1980s. A new management program, "planned rotational grazing", was implemented in 2003 under the guidance of Kirk Gadzia, Resource Management Services, and in short order, even during extreme drought years in the Corona area, the ranch witnessed a remarkable resurgence of native grassland species and the recovery of soils and pastures. Formal monitoring occurs twice yearly but pastures are continually evaluated for forage health and capacity as the herd moves across the ranch. The ranch is in its second five year round of the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) which requires intensive monitoring.In the past three years, the Ranney Ranch has been able to increased its livestock carrying capacity to pre-drought numbers and has shown that its management practices serve to regenerate soils, increase water retention potential and store significant quantities of soil carbon. The increased biodiversity has brought health to the soil, resilience in the face of drought, and the opportunity to market unique grassfed beef.

The Mentors

The apprentice at Ranney Ranch will work primarily with Melvin Johnson in day-to-day operations, and with Nancy Ranney on longer-term marketing and planning. Both are deeply committed to mentoring the next generation of ranchers in sound ecological and business practices geared towards the overall resilience of Southwestern grasslands and the communities who steward them.

Melvin Johnson is a fourth generation New Mexico rancher. He and his wife, Esther, came to the Ranney Ranch in 1984 and raised their four children here. Melvin has served on his local Soil and Water Conservation board for 20 years and is presently Vice-chair for Region 6 of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts. He has attended the Graham School of Husbandry and the Noble School of Grazing. He has managed the Ranney Ranch for thirty-two years along with having his own herd.

Nancy Ranney manages the Ranney Ranch for the Ranney family. In 2003 she put in place a restorative grazing plan, based on planned rotational grazing, and started the Ranney Ranch Grassfed Beef program. She is committed to running the ranch on the soundest, most humane, ecologically resilient principles. She works with Melvin Johnson, ranch manager, to develop ranch grazing plans and conservation programs. She also coordinates ranch workshops and retreats. She is on the board of the Quivira Coalition and is President of the Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance. She frequently speaks to groups on the health and environmental benefits of regenerative land management and grassfed beef. Nancy has a master's degree in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University and a background in land planning.

The Apprenticeship

horse ears
The Ranney Ranch offers a professional training opportunity for aspiring agrarians committed to a life and career at the intersection of conservation and sustainable agriculture. The apprentice will receive hands-on experience with a cow-calf and grass-finishing operation, including intensive pasture management, low-stress animal handling, animal husbandry, herding, biological monitoring, land stewardship and direct marketing beef.

The apprentice will work closely six days a week with Melvin on a variety of ranching tasks including: daily cattle care: feeding, health monitoring, and pasture movements; moving cattle on horseback; building and maintaining ranch infrastructure (fences, water pipelines, vehicles); pasture planning; analyzing and planning for nutritional needs of cattle at each stage of grass finishing process; monitoring forage quality and utilization. The apprentice will also work with Nancy on maintaining certified humane handling practices and direct marketing grassfed beef.

Ideally the apprenitice will have experience in:
Horse handling/riding
Working with beef cattle
Pipeline/general well work

Ideally the apprentice will be able to:
Lift up to 50 lbs
Back up a trailer
Handle a horse
Survive in a dusty hot environment

Basic riding skills are required, including some experience handling horses. Basic knowledge of home repair/carpentry skills are preferred.

Enthusiasm and a sincere commitment to sustainable agriculture and food production are important and applicants with livestock and some ranch/farm experience are preferred. Physical strength and stamina are required.

This apprenticeship is physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenging. The apprentice will be the only apprentice and one of very few employees at the Ranney Ranch.

If accepted, from March to November of 2016 you will:
  • Work outside much of the time, often engaged in monotonous and extremely physical activities.
  • Live in a rural place, near a small town with few amenities or neighbors.
  • Live in close proximity to your mentors and respect their homes and property.
  • Work closely with a small team, day after day.
  • Work closely with your mentors daily, adding independent tasks as skills and ability allow.
  • Maintain high work quality standards even when working independently.
  • Have one day off a week to attend to personal matters during your apprenticeship.
  • Receive a stipend of approximately $1500 per month.
  • Learn a tremendous amount about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, how a small-scale sustainable agriculture operation works, and if a career in agriculture is really for you.

    Stipend: The monthly stipend will be paid at the end of each month, and can be directly deposited to your bank. The stipend may or may not cover monthly expenses for the apprentice based on his or her needs and lifestyle. The position does not allow time for a second job, so the apprentice should consider his or her budgetary needs before applying to this position.

    Housing: The apprentice will live in a house at the ranch headquarters. Heat, water and internet (phone) are included in housing and are not additional expenses for the apprentice - though we do ask that you be conscientious of your energy use. Housing can accommodate a partner or spouse.

    Time Off: The apprentice will have one fixed day off a week. If an apprentice needs additional days for specific activities, he or she should let the mentors know as soon as possible. Be aware that the ranch and the herd dictate workflow over the course of the apprenticeship.

    Food: The apprentice will receive partial board in the form of access to the ranch's beef. The apprentice will be responsible for his or her own meals.

    Quivira Coalition Activities: The apprentice is required to attend the annual Quivira Coalition conference, held each November in Albuquerque, NM; conference and hotel fees are covered by the Quivira Coalition. In addition to the conference, the apprentice will participate in an Holistic Management International webinar series geared Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Series. Apprentices are also required to write several reports during their apprenticeship; these reports will go through the NAP Coordinator at Quivira, and be posted on the Quivira website.

    NO Smoking or Drugs: No smoking or drugs on ranch, range, vehicles, housing - the ranch is a completely non-smoking, no-drug environment.

    NO Partying: No partying. Having a beer/glass of wine or two after work is just fine.

    Health Insurance: The ranching lifestyle has inherent dangers. While personal health insurance is not required to participate in the apprenticeship program, it is strongly encouraged. The ranch carries Workman's Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job. But if the apprentice is injured on his or her day off, gets sick, or has or develops chronic conditions like allergies, these types of issues should be covered by personal health insurance.

    Ranch Vehicles: All of the ranch vehicles are standard transmission. Apprentices will need to know how to drive stick-shift. Previous experience with backing up trailers is not required, but greatly appreciated.

    Personal Vehicle: While there are no instances (or very few) when an apprentice would be asked to use a personal vehicle around the ranch, the apprentice will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle in order to run personal errands such as purchasing groceries and travel on days off.

    Living in Corona, New Mexico: The Ranney Ranch is a fifteen minute drive from the small town of Corona, and an hour and a half drive from the towns of Santa Rosa to the northeast, and Moriarty to the northwest. The nearest grocery stores are in Ruidoso, hour and a half to the south and Edgewood, hour and forty-five minutes to the northwest. The climate is arid, with summer highs of 90 degrees and cool nights. Winter is often extremely cold (down to below zero at night). It is an open landscape of mesas, grassland, and canyons. Sparsely populated with an economy focused on agriculture, the area's culture is rural and tight-knit. The town of Corona has a mini-mart with gas, an excellent library, several churches and no grocery.

Application Process

Apply: Submit a completed application via the online form or by email by December 1, 2016. The application requires a current resume, three references, and thoughtful responses to a short series of questions. Your application will be carefully reviewed and we will contact you if you are selected for an interview.

Interviews: The New Agrarian Program has a two-phase interview process. Interviews will be scheduled with top candidates between December 7 and December 21. These interviews will last approximately one and a half hours on Google Hangouts.

Three of these candidates will be asked to travel to the ranch for an overnight work visit and interview between January 8 and January 25. A travel stipend will be provided to help with travel expenses.

Award: The top candidate will be offered the apprenticeship position by February 1, 2017.