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The James Ranch Artisan Cheese

8-Month Dairy & Cheese-Making Apprenticeship in Durango, Colorado

Application Cycle: Fall
Apprenticeship Start-Date: March

James Ranch Artisan Cheese Website


Dan and Becca James met at the University of Washington, and lived in Seattle for several years before deciding to return to Dan's childhood home on the James Ranch in Durango, and to a life in agriculture. After visiting cheese-makers and dairies in Europe and New Zealand, they moved back to Durango, where they started a 100% grass-based dairy and cheese making operation to utilize the best resource available on the James Ranch - grass. They sold their first cheese in 2003, and later added whey-fed, pastured pork to the product mix.

Their operation goes "beyond organic" in its management methods. They make decisions holistically, taking into account the impact of each decision on the land, air, water, wildlife, livestock, soil, microorganisms, local community, and the farmers' quality of life. Their Jersey cows are raised without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones or antibiotics; by following the cow's natural milking season, the James' gain more time to focus on their family in the winter months, thereby enhancing their quality of life. This kind of thinking pushes the James Ranch beyond sustainable agriculture into the realm of regenerative agriculture that actually builds soil, ecosystems, communities, and opportunities.

Doing exhaustive research, visiting farms both domestically and internationally, and starting slowly helped Dan and Becca build a successful business. They understand how important it is for new agrarians to have a strong start-up skill-set, as they face the daunting task of starting an enterprise from scratch. Helping to train this next generation of producers, and giving them an excellent head-start in their endeavors is a great privilege and joy for Dan and Becca. They are committed to passing on the knowledge they have gained to help create farmers and food producers who can operate in such a way as to sustain themselves, and help us all move toward a healthier food production system.