Charter RanchEight-Month Regenerative Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship near Billings, Montana
The Charter Ranch is a cow/calf, yearling operation – with some unique endeavors — like a healthy soil initiative Steve started to help sequester carbon; a worm farm to help build the soil; and locally minded drive to purchase materials needed at the ranch in Billings. The ranch is located 20 miles north of Billings, MT. The ranch was first introduced to holistic resource management in the 1980s. Steve and Jeanne Charter were instrumental in creating the first center for holistic resource management in the country and help spread and implement those ideas. Annika and Ressa Charter attended the ranching for profit schools and participated in executive link. Through Ranching for Profit we were introduced to Nicole Masters who set us up on a regenerative program that we continue to implement. Over the years we have hosted dozens of ranch tours to share what we are doing with the broader public.
Meet the mentors
Our Ranching Philosophy
Our ranch thinks it is essential to have people on the land who know how to execute regenerative agriculture and know how to educate the broader public why regenerative agriculture is so important. We also think it is crucial to bring the outside world into regenerative agriculture so we have advocates going forward and they develop a love for our grasslands and the animals that occupy it. Charter Livestock would strive to be an excellent mentor through our past experiences and our passion for our lifestyle. Our goal is to try and figure out a way to ranch that is both profitable and friendly to the environment. A ranch that builds soil, sequesters carbon and raises healthy happy hardworking families while sharing our knowledge with anyone who is interested. We believe that the current agricultural model is not serving us well and this is a possible way forward for agriculture and food producers.
- · Time controlled grazing
- · Bio-stimulants applied directly to land
- · Bio-stimulants passed through livestock
- · Key-line yeoman plowing
- · No till inter-seeding of cover crops for grazing
- · Creating vermicast through worm beds to be applied to soil
- · Introducing more plants to increase diversity
- · Exploring alternative direct marketing to keep our beef sales closer to our local area
Desired and required apprentice skills:
- Some horseback riding experience
- General knowledge of machinery/vehicle maintenance
- Some heavy equipment experience
- Social media knowledge/website development
- Willingness to learn
- Strong work ethic
- Some experience of driving a stick shift
- Sense of humor!
Steve Charter: Steve Charter is 3 generation rancher. He is the chief executive of the ranch and majority owner. He is responsible for the ranch operating as a whole and leads and facilitates most of the big projects going in at the Ranch.. Steve Charter is an excellent horseman and cattleman. He is the most knowledgeable in the regenerative practices of the ranch and has been the driving force to adapt new practices. Steve will help the apprentice on day to day activities in the beginning and will be the predominant educator on ranch activities.
Annika Charter-Williams: Annika Charter-Williams is a 4th generation rancher. She lives on the ranch with her husband, Michael, and their two children. Annika keeps up with the books and finances of the ranch. She has been the driving force behind Charter Ranch’s involvement in local foods and the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub. She also helps her husband run a seperate used equipment business. While multiple people will be involved in ranch operations and working with the apprentice, Annika will predominantly oversee the apprentice, and be the main contact between the apprentice, the ranch and Quivira.
Michael Williams: Michael Williams is the resident mechanic for the Charter Ranch. He repairs and maintains all ranch equipment and vehicles. The shop that he runs his used equipment business out of is located on the ranch and most mechanical work is done out of his shop. He will only be involved when it comes to showing maintenance and repairs of ranch equipment and vehicles.
Ressa Charter: Ressa Charter is a 4th generation rancher. He and his family also live on the ranch. He has a job off the ranch but a job that is flexible and allows him to still be part of day to day activities. He will help apprentices on various large projects throughout the year.
What an apprentice will learn:
- operating equipment
- some maintenance and repairs on equipment and vehicles
- upkeep of worm beds and vermicast
- low stress livestock handling (encompasses most everything in how we handle our cattle)
- time controlled grazing
- direct marketing through the Yellowstone Valley Foodhub
- fence building and repair
- water development and upkeep
- some key line plowing and interseeding practices
- knowledge of beef and dairy cow husbandry
Start Date: April 2020
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months to 12 months Stipend: $800/month including assistance with food.
General work hours: 7:30 a.m – 5:00 p.m. Some days will require early mornings (5:00am) and late ending times (well after dark).
Housing: An apprentice would have a bunk house that has two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and one bathroom that would be a shared living space. The cow camp, which is 25 miles from the home ranch has primitive accommodations. There is a Wilson camp sheep wagon. An apprentice would possibly stay up there for a few days to a week at the longest.
Internet availability: Internet availability at main ranch house. On days off or in the evenings the apprentice is welcome to hook up to wifi. Cell phone service is good and always available at the home base for the ranch (Verizon Wireless). Our summer pasture has spotty connections but can usually find certain spots where service comes in
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.
Time off: The required 1 day off a week will be Sundays unless the apprentice would like to specifically request a different day. This day may change depending on any big ranch events that we would require all hands on deck. This will be discussed in advance and another day that week will be chosen between the apprentice and Annika.
Visitors policy: Visitors will be allowed on a case by case basis. Visitation will be contingent on ranch schedule and arranged in advance with Annika. Visitiations will be limited in the number of guests allowed and the duration of the stay. Meaning choose your guests wisely! We want this to be an enjoyable experience for the apprentice that they can share with their loved ones but first and foremost this is a work position that we hope the apprentice will remain dedicated to and see visitors as a privilege.
Food: There will be opportunities for shared meals with family on the ranch. We would also supply beef from the ranch and a small weekly or biweekly order of greens, seasonal vegetables and bread through the Yellowstone Valley Food Hub. There will also be raw milk from ranch dairy cow.
Pets: Pets may be permitted on a case by case basis.
Tobacco and alcohol use: Tobacco use is permitted but not in buildings. Legal and appropriate alcohol use is ok outside of work hours.
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. The farm 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: The apprentice will be allowed to use ranch vehicles for all ranch work activities. This is a privilege that can be taken away if the apprentice proves inept at taking care of vehicles or being careless while driving around ranch.
Personal vehicle: While apprentices will not be asked to use a personal vehicle for work purposes, the apprentice will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle on their days off in order to run personal errands such as purchasing groceries and for travel.
Laundry: The shared bunkhouse has its own washer and dryer.
Additional items an apprentice should bring: Bedding, towels, cookware, dishes, silverware and basic cleaning supplies are all provided. The apprentice will be expected to keep the bunk house clean and tidy.
Living at the Charter Ranch: The Charter Ranch is located 20 miles north of Billings, Montana, the largest city in the state. There is an active local foods and regenerative ranching and farming community in Billings and the surrounding area along with many outdoor recreation opportunities and public lands. A person who finds themselves at the Charter Ranch will have time for solitude and reflection to enjoy the prairie west but will also have close access to a growing, vibrant city and plenty of recreational activities only a few hours drive away.
The Charter Ranch will not be accepting applications for the 2021 season. They are keeping their 2020 apprentices for a second year. Please check back in October of 2021.
Susan Elder, Apprentice
“And so here I am. Back with grass and animals. How did I become interested in agriculture? I guess Land has been talking to me for a while now — I figured it was high time I learned how best to listen and respond. And this is what I hope for my time in this apprenticeship — that I continue to open my ear to Land’s voice, realizing my part in the whole, and learn how to respond with ready hands and heart.” -Excerpt from the New Agrarian Voices Blog
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