New Agrarian VoicesLearn about the impressions and experiences of each year's cohort of apprentices in their own words.
Kara Stanhope, APPRENTICE, Oxbow Cattle Company
When I joined the New Agrarian Program, although I read the fine print and did my homework on the program and my operation, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. And had I known things that I know now, maybe I wouldn’t have applied. But because I did decide to apply for the program, and I am now finishing up my first year, I would say this has been one of the best experiences of my life. For my career and even personal relationships, NAP jumpstarted so many positive things during my apprenticeship. The New Agrarian Program is a one-of-a-kind program that gave me so much access to resources like highly esteemed individuals in the ag industry as well as in different fields, educational opportunities to expand my agrarian skill set like soil health or grazing seminars, and an awesome built-in community of apprentices, mentors, coordinators, and connections to agriculture beyond the program. I am so thankful that I got to Oxbow Cattle Company through the program. I have never worked so hard in my life as I have here, but I also have never felt more rewarded from the work that I do. I was truly lucky to have fallen into the Oxbow team. I can’t speak enough kind words about my mentors and how much they have done for me in my professional and personal career. I did not expect to become so close with my mentors and build such an amazing relationship. Along with the connection, I have learned an immense amount of things to add to my agriculture resume. I learned so much about manage intensive grazing and how important it is to take care of the land. Mother Earth is such a powerful force and we have done such harmful things to it. Through intentional grazing, we can do our small part in restoring land and really caring for it. In the process of grazing, I became well-versed in plant identification and soil health and how it plays into when to move animals based on the time of year, the forage quality, and what is most palatable. Along with that I actually was able to use a skill from high school in my day-to-day routine and that is “ranch calculus”. I can now calculate how much grass a specific animal unit needs per day, how long they can stay in a paddock, and how much forage we are allotted in certain places. Besides the basics of regenerative ranching and manage intensive grazing, I got the opportunity to help run a beef business. Being able to work with other businesses and interacting with the people in my community was such a benefit to my apprenticeship. Our market is an honor system, which comes with a lot of trust from our customers and trust from us as producers. Everyone I talk to in our market just raves about how much they enjoy our beef and how neat it is to be entrusted with the integrity that goes along with shopping somewhere without people managing it all the time. It was very rewarding to help feed so many people nourishing, clean,100% grass-fed/ finished beef. From the beef that we raise I was shown the importance of understanding where good food comes from and how wholesome beef feeds the body and soul. Now I am very aware of what fuels me and I am really in tune with my body based on what goes into it. With so many things I have learned during my time at Oxbow I am sure that my future will always be agriculture. I am not sure exactly where in the industry I belong but I know that it is really what I want to do. I have so many more things to learn and experience in my agricultural career. I am very interested in genetics and breeding and would like to explore that side of production. And potentially get into the stock contracting business to be in more of a social setting and have the ability to travel more while being involved in a sport that I love. Overall, my apprenticeship has been a very positive experience. When I look back on my time at Oxbow and in the New Agrarian Program it really has been nothing but a appreciative adventure. There are so many highlights from this journey but I would have to say that one of the most memorable ones was going to the Whitt Hibbard Stockmanship Clinic. It was so much fun to get together with the other apprentices and coordinators and get away from our operations to get to build our skill sets in livestock handling. The clinic was very informative and such an awesome opportunity for us to further our stockmanship. Another highlight from Oxbow was just getting to make friends in the ranching community around us and getting to enjoy their company at brandings, helping out at their ranches, community parties, and events. With highs also come lows and challenges, especially being in such a time-consuming profession. There were times during my apprenticeship when I experienced burnout and felt like there was no end to the work we were doing. It was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel at certain times. But in those times of doubt or exhaustion, it was really nice to have the other apprentices and coordinators. It was relieving to know the other people in the program who were also dealing with similar things, and feeling comfortable sharing what we were all going through. Another thing that got me through a strenuous time was just looking forward to the little things. Even if it was just looking forward to something like the weekend or activities with my friends or family, finding the excitement in the small parts of life when the daily grind of work got tough was really key. In conclusion, my overall journey as an apprentice was such a rewarding, knowledgeable, humbling, fun, challenging, and truly one-of-a-kind venture. The New Agrarian Program was not at all what I expected but it exceeded expectations with flying colors and I am very excited to see my future as a proud agrarian.
REFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH
A sense of community is so important to a meaningful life and I believe contributes the most to a purposeful life. To share ideas and beliefs with people you trust is key to feeling fulfilled. Having a person or a group of people to rely on to go to in a time of need, celebration, or comfort is what makes the journey all worth it. During this apprenticeship I hope to gain a network of friends and colleagues to commune with. Having access to people who are all in a very similar stage in life is such a unique resource, that is very unlike many other jobs or apprenticeships. Surrounding yourself with a tribe to share the good, the bad and the ugly with makes the ebbs and flows of the whole experience much more comforting. Throughout this apprenticeship, I hope I can make connections with new people to guide me through this journey and potentially carry those friendships into the future. The New Agrarian Program name carries a lot of weight and is a door opening opportunity to get in touch with great people who share similar outlooks on agriculture and aligning lifestyles. I became interested in agriculture because food is very important to me and a way to enjoy life through flavor. And knowing how to raise and care for the things that feed me should not only be meaningful to me, but to everyone. With this apprenticeship I wish to gain more knowledge in all things agriculture. I hope to expand on the regenerative practices of ranching and really understand why and how it is done. In addition, extending my horsemanship and stockmanship to go hand in hand with the ways of regenerative, low stress ranching, is another set of skills I am eager to improve on. And through all that, get to know the people who are really making a difference in the agriculture community. After this program I hope to look back at all the things I learned and relationships that I made and feel even more proud to be a part of this group and the agriculture industry.