New Agrarian Voices

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





Cooper Dias, APPRENTICE, San Juan Ranch, CO

First Reflections
April 2023

Over the past several years I have discovered a passion for rangeland ecosystems as well as grass based cattle and sheep production. For a long time I have been interested in natural resource management and conservation. I began looking into ways to get involved in agriculture after learning of the potential properly executed practices had not only to prevent ecological degradation but to restore health to native flora and fauna. To me agriculture appeared to be a good way to become directly involved with my surrounding environment, community and the food that I consume. Books like Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and Wes Jackson’s New Roots for Agriculture have driven me to continue to search for a balance between production and conservation and to find the scale at which this is most efficient. 

I have also been drawn to ranching as a career for the rural lifestyle. I have observed that although people are further apart geographically in rural communities, they often tend to be closer and more tight knit. I am grateful for the opportunities working in agriculture has offered me to meet new people and learn different ways of going about raising livestock. 

After a few ranching and agriculturally related jobs I have come to the apprenticeship program to develop new skills and improve upon what I have learned up to this point. This year at the San Juan Ranch I hope to better understand how to implement practical rangeland monitoring procedures, further my stockman and horsemanship abilities, and learn the intricacies of selling cattle and grass-finished beef. I am particularly looking to gain insight into how a ranching business can be run without relying upon the commodity market. I have found the role at which genetics play in livestock production as well as their importance in land use very interesting. I would like to learn more about regionally adapted cattle and sheep and their potential to balance efficient resource use with weight gain and carcass quality. There appears to be many approaches to biological monitoring, many of which are impractical and time consuming. I intend to learn the best practices and procedures which can be regularly performed by most ranchers so as to be sure management is trending towards the desired future landscape. The art of stockmanship and stock handling has also been a steep learning curve and I am eager to continue to develop my skills in this area. I would like to work towards a capability to achieve good range management through proper stockmanship not only for the ecological benefits, but also for the livestock and people involved too.

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