C4 Farms is a direct to consumer beef operation located in North Central New Mexico in the town of Tierra Amarilla. Over the course of a season, an apprentice at C4 Farms will gain experience in irrigating, managing and implementing a grazing plan, monitoring cattle growth, monitoring soil moisture and pasture conditions, marketing of retail cuts, and selecting animals for harvest.
C4 Farms was started in 2012 on 15 acres of leased irrigated pasture. That very first year we grazed 25 cow/calf pairs from June to November than sold the calves and cows. Our profit was almost null for the amount of work we did. This prompted us to figure out how we could be as productive and profitable as possible with the resources we have. In 2013 we decided to graze yearlings. We purchased 30 head of cattle from a local rancher and friend. Our quest to be as productive and profitable as possible introduced us to grass-fed beef and direct marketing. Halfway through the grazing season we received interest from a few friends and acquaintances on purchasing sides of beef.
Our first sales came to us and we sold 4 head in 2013 direct to the consumer. We kept 10 of the yearlings we had bought that year to finish and sell direct market in 2014 and sold the other 11 at the sale barn. Since then we have been steadily acquiring more leased acres, growing the herd, and building a direct to consumer beef business through online sales with a delivery service to Santa Fe, Albuquerque and the surrounding towns.
Today C4 Farms is operated on about 450 irrigated acres of perennial pastures and roughly 5500 acres of native rangeland. We have a mother cow herd of 90 head whose calves we retain to grow, finish, and direct market. We’ve been increasing the number of calves retained every year and our 2020 calf crop will be the first year we retain all of the calves we produce.
Soil health is the top priority of our operation. We implement an intensive rotational grazing system aimed at leaving adequate stubble as to not inhibit root growth. All of our pastures consist of perennial species. We converted most of our acreage from flood irrigation to sprinkler irrigation which has allowed us to conserve water while being able to water longer through the growing season. This has allowed us to maintain live growing plants later into the growing season keeping living roots growing in the soil. We do not use any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides on any of our pastures. We are also in the process of planning an on-farm compost facility so we can use the waste from our processing company to compost and put back on the land.
Our typical year is as follows: Winter is spent feeding cows, breaking ice, and keeping salt, mineral and protein supplement available. Spring time, about the time the apprentice arrives on site, the workload picks up as calving begins on April 1st and we start preparing to start irrigating the first week of May. Irrigating is time consuming as we use a combination of sprinklers and flood over 450 acres. In spring, full winter feeding turns to supplemental feeding as pastures start to grow and we continue supplemental feed until pastures have grown enough to full graze (this typically occurs in mid May).
Summertime is spent irrigating, setting up hot-wire for our rotational grazing system where cattle are being moved every day to every couple days depending on conditions. We start butchering the beginning of July and do so until mid November. Every week animals are selected and transported to the butcher. We sell retail cuts of beef year round and deliver every Thursday to every town on the route from Tierra Amarilla to Los Lunas, NM.
In college I took Ranch Economics and one of the first things our professor said in that class was “it’s still possible to make a living farming and ranching, but you can’t do it if you have to buy the land.” That statement stuck with me as I never heard anyone ever talk about farming or ranching for a living. I started out with our operation as a side gig, something to boost our income and maybe provide me with some funds to continue team roping competitively. The more I worked with farmers and ranchers trying to sell conservation practices and methods to promote soil health, improve production, and overall profitability, the more I wanted my own operation to conduct these practices myself and really put my money where my mouth was.
My Name is Tommy Casados and I was raised on my family’s cow/calf and irrigated timothy hay ranch in Tierra Amarilla, NM. After graduating high school, I attended New Mexico State University where I received a bachelor’s degree in Range Science. While in school I was accepted into the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service Student Career Experience Program and worked two summers and one winter vacation.
Upon graduation I was offered a full time permanent position as a Rangeland Management Specialist in the Fort Sumner, NM Field Office. From 2007 to 2017 I worked in various offices as a range specialist and soil conservationist. Through the resources available to NRCS employees and the experience working with farmers and ranchers, those 10 years have greatly shaped the direction I’ve taken with our operation.
I am joining the New Agrarian program as a mentor in order to provide apprentices with the opportunity to see if farming is really a career they would like to pursue. I want to show and teach an apprentice that it is possible to farm for a living, and in turn gain some assistance as we continue to grow our operation. I will share my knowledge of both the commodity beef industry and direct to consumer beef production. My experience as a range management specialist and soil conservationist for the USDA has helped me direct our operation and I hope to share knowledge that can help an apprentice get into farming for themselves, for a living, and in a manner that puts the soil first.
What will an apprentice do?
Over the course of a season, an apprentice at C4 Farms will gain experience in irrigating, managing and implementing a grazing plan, monitoring cattle growth, monitoring soil moisture and pasture conditions, marketing of retail cuts, and selecting animals for harvest.
START TO END DAY:
Ideal start date is March 29, 2021 and the ideal end date November 20, 2021. However, we have some flexibility around start and end dates and encourage individuals with alternate schedules to apply.
Nuts & Bolts
Who would be the main mentor and what is their primary role on the ranch?: Tommy is the lead on farming, production, and marketing. His wife, Jessica, will be the assistant mentor. Jessica handles orders, customer service, and inventory.
Stipend: The stipend is determined each year by available funds. Typically the take home pay is around $750 monthly after taxes and deductions for housing, utilities, etc. The stipend may or may not cover monthly expenses for the apprentice based on his or her needs and lifestyle. The position does not allow time for a second job, so the apprentice should consider his or her budgetary needs before applying to this position. This is a single position and we are unable to accommodate couples, or families at this time.
Time off : Sundays will be days off. Flexible with additional time off during business week.
Visitors: Apprentice will be allowed to have visitors however we do not allow extended periods of stay (more than three days). We can be flexible with extenuating circumstances.
Housing: Housing provided is a full size camper. Has a full kitchen, heat and a/c, and bedroom.
Food: Apprentice will be provided with $125 beef credit per month.
Pets: Cats and dogs are allowed. No horses.
All the fun stuff: Tobacco and alcohol use are permitted on site.
Health Insurance: The ranching lifestyle has inherent dangers. While personal health insurance is not required to participate in the apprenticeship program, it is strongly encouraged. C4 Farms carries Workman’s Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job. But if the apprentice is injured on his or her day off, gets sick, or has or develops chronic conditions like allergies, these types of issues should be covered by personal health insurance.
Ranch Vehicles: Apprentice will use ranch vehicles for work. Most vehicles are manuals.
Personal Vehicle: A personal vehicle is highly recommended for apprentice independence on their time off but is not required for the apprenticeship.
Services available to the apprentice:
- Washer and dryer: available at our home, shared with us and our 4 children.
- Internet connection: WiFi Available in apprentice quarters.
- What is cell phone service like on your ranch? What is the best provider for cell phone service? Service is good. Verizon and AT&T are best providers.
- Are there any additional items the apprentice will need for the duration of the apprenticeship? The camper will be fully furnished. Apprentices are welcome to bring their own coffee mugs, utensils, bed sheets and towels, but these items are available if need be.
Quivira Coalition Activities: This apprenticeship is offered through Quivira Coalition’s New Agrarian Program. The full cohort of apprentices on regenerative ranches and farms across the west will attend an April orientation, participate in supplemental education provided in partnership with Holistic Management International, and attend the annual Quivira Conference, hosted with Holistic Management International and the American Grassfed Association, in November. Apprentices are also required to write several reports during their apprenticeship; these reports will go through the NAP Coordinator at Quivira, and be posted on the Quivira website.
Living in Tierra Amarilla: C4 Farms is located in the Rural Community of Tierra Amarilla in the historic village of Ensenada, NM. Ensenada consists of roughly 65 homes spread across various acres of irrigated pastures. The farm is irrigated by the Rio Brazos which is half a mile from the farm headquarters. The town of Chama is 15 miles north and is home to a few restaurants, a grocery store, and one bar.
COVID – 19: We ask that the apprentice furnish a negative test within one week of start date if we are still living with restrictions.
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