New Agrarian Voices

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





Lauren Beshears, APPRENTICE, Veebaray, Montana

Final Reflection
November 2022

Summarizing the important lessons and events of 8 months of hiking, driving, and riding all over 16,000 acres of ranch land can be challenging.  I spent a lot of time observing the little details (finding a dung beetle or rattlesnake den, watching out for sections of fence that needed repair or replacing) as well as a lot of time contemplating some bigger concepts (how could we make this operation more profitable, or what could we be doing differently to utilize time and labor more efficiently when it comes to managing grazing).  In between many hours out on the rolling hills or navigating deep coulees – while trusting my horse not to misstep and send us both down a cliff – I also was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take a step back and learn from other perspectives.  Both the Quivira program and other organizations and businesses in Montana allowed me to travel to various workshops and seminars where I had my eyes opened even further to the incredible potential of goals like rebuilding soil health or developing a mastery of stockmanship.  

Equally valuable to me were the days where my manager and I took some time to “WOTB” – work on the business, rather than just in it.  It’s amazing how easy it is to get caught up in the day to day routine of checking livestock, putting out mineral, fixing fence, fixing other basic repairs around the ranch – and before you know it, a month has flown by and you haven’t stopped to strategize about the big picture of the operation.  I found that it was really helpful to establish the habit of making time to take a broader look at the health of the operation and make sure that we were prepared for upcoming seasonal tasks well in advance.  It was also valuable to get feedback and ideas from multiple people with different viewpoints and experience.  Getting into the practice of looking at the ranch operation from a broader perspective reminded me to take some time to look at the rest of my life from a different view, as well, and for that I am thankful.

When considering what your apprenticeship will look like, its easy to imagine the concrete things – I will learn how to build fence, drive a tractor, herd cows, etc.  In fact I did spend a lot of time on “hard skills” that I am thankful I got the chance to develop – putting up high tensile fencing, roping calves at branding, and constantly working on my stockmanship skills (both on foot and on horseback).  However, I feel that some of the most important lessons I learned, or improved on, were ones that are a lot harder to put into words.  Reminding myself to slow down, take a step back, and regroup when the cattle move is not going at all according to plan (in one case, due to truck drivers arriving late and cattle balking at a gate, we were still trying to get new cattle into their pasture when the sun had already gone down and the only light we had was from our cell phone flashlights).  Another lesson was to be thorough and consider all the factors in a scenario – whether it be designing a water trap or planning where to move the herd to next, there is usually much more to be considered than what immediately jumps out at you.  Personally, I had to remind myself constantly that we all screw up, and I had to stop immediately beating myself up mentally every time I made a mistake.  I work hard, have very high goals, and have a very strong sense of direction and accountability towards achieving those goals – so its easy for me to get frustrated when I feel like I’m not performing at the standard that I should be.  While that is by no means an excuse for me to try or care less, I did have to learn to cut myself a little slack and focus more on the fact that I was learning from a mistake than the fact that I made a mistake at all.  

My next step is to find a position where I can assume more responsibilities and leadership.  While I had worked on other ranches before this apprenticeship, I wanted to take the time to make a point of this being a learning opportunity – giving myself time to build a solid foundation and make the mistakes I needed to make to learn.  I am hoping to find a place on another operation that prioritizes regenerative methods, that will allow me to continue to grow both my work skills and ability to plan and execute ranch operations.  While I am very fond of Montana after living here for 6 years, I am not limiting myself at this point in my career, so there is a wide range of potential for my next position.  One of the great things about ranching is that everyone’s operation is at least a little different – depending on class and species of livestock, geography, size of operation, marketing, and many other things, there is a huge variety for me to choose from for where to continue my journey.

The time that I have spent at the Veebaray Ranch has been extremely valuable to me, in many ways.  It gave me the chance to fill in some basic holes in my ranching knowledge, take the time to explore other skills that I had not yet been able to investigate, meet a great variety of people contributing to the agricultural industry, and develop more confidence in my own abilities to plan and execute on a larger scale.  From walking a path through chest deep snow so the cows can get to the barn, to spending hours in the saddle gathering a couple thousand acres of trees and gullies, this job was an experience in patience, persistence, creativity, and keen observation.  I still have only touched the tip of the iceberg in both the cattle industry and the regenerative agriculture community but I am looking forward to all that I can learn and accomplish in the future.

May 2022

I have always loved anything to do with animals – raising, training, feeding, healing, or simply observing.  When I was growing up I believed this love would lead me to become a veterinarian, and initially that is the path I chose in education.  After a couple years of getting my pre-vet school requirements fulfilled, I realized that while I still wanted to have a life deeply involved with animals, I also was interested in the idea of owning my own land and actually partaking in the overall management of livestock, not solely the medical aspect.  I finished my degree in Animal Science and also completed enough welding classes in community college in order to be able to support myself while building a base to start my own operation from.  The last several years have been a combination of welding to pay the bills and further my education while transitioning to spending more time working directly in the cattle industry so that I can have enough knowledge and experience to eventually run my own operation.

As I began to learn more about methods to ranch successfully and profitably, I consistently heard about various regenerative practices – soil health building, fitting the livestock to the operation instead of the other way around, and overall considering different ways to do things in order to make an operation a success.  My main incentive for applying for an apprenticeship through Quivira was to find a position that would provide not only hands-on experience, but the opportunity to slow down, ask questions, and place a real emphasis on learning (not only achieving a set task as quickly as possible).  The chance offered through Quivira to learn about all aspects of successfully running a regenerative agriculture business – from budgeting to high intensity grazing, from marketing to animal husbandry – appealed to me on every level.  My long term goal is to own and operate a grass-finished beef operation.  However, having already made a few inquiries into the starting process, I know that there are a lot of mountains to climb – financial, environmental, etc – to achieve this goal.  I plan to use this experience to develop a solid, thorough foundation for myself to build my future on, while at the same time using my work ethic and passion for constant improvement to be the best possible asset I can be to the ranch I am working for.

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