New Agrarian Voices

Learn about the impressions and experiences of each year's cohort of apprentices in their own words.





Cyrus Johnson, APPRENTICE, Sather Farm and Ranch, Montana

May 2022

Every farmer or rancher I’ve worked for has always impressed me with their resourcefulness. They take grass, soil and sun and turn it into beef or lamb or chicken. They fix tractors with baling wire and duct tape. They use WD-40 like it’s Dr. Bronners, with 18+ distinct uses. I’ve seen farmers build entire chicken coops with 10 bent nails, a rock, and sheer willpower. 

I like that for a lot of reasons: 

Farming can teach a lot of lessons about thrift, and recycling. Living in a remote area and working with a limited budget requires that things be reused until they absolutely can’t be reused any longer. 

Farmers are the ultimate jacks-of-all-trades. To be a farmer or rancher you have to be a stockgrower, agronomist, entomologist, veterinarian, machinist, mechanic, business person, builder, truck driver and a thousand other things.

Farmers and ranchers are proud people. Rightfully so, because most of the things they have, they maintain, make, or fix themselves. That sense of pride relates itself to the way farmers and ranchers care for their things, land and animals. That sense of pride is something I really strive to cultivate in myself.

That pride translates itself into a land ethic that is unique to people who earn a living or subsist off the land they live on. There is a reciprocity between farmers and land, and farmers and animals: I take care of you so you can take care of me.

This is what I am looking to get from my apprenticeship at Sather Farm and Ranch. I want to learn that magical ability that farmers and ranchers have: to see the potential in every little thing, and then help those things achieve that potential. Every blade of grass has the potential to become meat, every soil microbe has the potential to feed the grass, every piece of equipment can be fixed, every tool can be repurposed. To the untrained eye it may seem like farmers are creating great food, fuel, and fiber out of “nothing”, but I think the trick is that they can see the “something” in the “nothing” where others can’t. I call it “farmer-vision”.

That’s what I am trying to figure out, and I can tell I’m getting better. I’ve worked in agriculture in one way or another for a few years now, and I’ve come a long way, but it’s not one of those things where you either have it or you don’t. That’s so exciting! I have a lifetime of improvement to do on my farmer-vision skills. The NAP program is a great way to make a big jump in both the practical skills needed to sharpen farmer-vision, but also makes space to fill in the gaps with theory and fine-tuning specific skills. So I am grateful to be out here, and I am so dang excited for what’s to come!

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