New Agrarian Voices

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

Christopher Mellen, APPRENTICE, Round River Resource Management, CO

My Pursuit of Regenerative Agriculture Happiness

It was a dark and stormy night riddled with the sounds of raindrops sprinkling down on the tin roof of the hospital. Muffled screams were heard just above me as a dim light broke through behind me. Suddenly, I was pulled vertically with jerk not even Jamaican Chicken could make. A painful slap awakened all my senses and brought forth the shrillest sound I had ever heard. Luckily, it was just me breathing fresh air for the first time with only one thing on my mind—Regenerative Agriculture!

Well, I wish that was the true story, but it wasn’t really that dramatic for me. I was born in Colorado Springs and my dad Pastored a small church of around 300-500 people. A good number of them came from rural areas and we would visit their various farms and milk the cows and ride horses. I grew up on fresh unpasteurized cow’s milk while growing up in Colorado Springs.

My Dad is the oldest of 12 kids and grew up on a farm. Whenever, we would visit the grandparents in Kansas, we would definitely visit the farm, milk the cows, play on the hay, and of course go cow tipping with the uncles (as a teenager), and enjoy the company of my 25 cousins and the Mellen family.

One day my dad and mom sold our house, packed two suitcases each with myself and three other siblings and headed off as missionaries to Hong Kong (then part of Britain; now part of China). It was definitely a transition from small city life and farms to nothing but concrete buildings and busy bodies all day long. There were even the sounds of horns honking in the middle of the night.

After some years living there, I headed back to the USA for College. I ended up in a tiny little town called Branson, MO and attended College of the Ozarks, which had a student body of a whopping 1,200 people, and agriculture was their bread and butter. Many of my friends there grew up on a farm or a ranch in deep rural areas. Being my home was 10,000 miles away, my friends naturally would invite me back to their farms and/or ranches. We would ride horses and sometimes bail hay. I fell in love with the simple, hardworking, lifestyle of family ranching/farming. I learned how to ride a horse properly and eventually one of my friend’s dad wanted me to ride the trouble horses and break them in a bit more.

Upon graduating, I returned to Hong Kong to temporarily help my dad set up and English Tutoring business. I proudly wore my cowboy gear in Hong Kong hoping one day to return to the USA and work on a ranch… but life slowly slipped away, and I was swallowed bit by bit by the city; like a snake eating an antelope.  I longed for the rural lifestyle where the deer and the antelope play. I began to evaluate my life and what I had known as a kid and in my youth and my college days.

I decided to move back to Colorado to work on a ranch or something. No one would hire me because I had no experience. My Bachelor of Science degree with a major in English was useless on a ranch. I worked Landscaping instead hoping it could turn into something more like moving cattle or herding sheep. I decided to visit this Ranch I always pass on the way to work. There I was introduced to Julie Ott who runs the egg business and market at the James Ranch. She told me I needed to research Allan Savory, Quivira Coalition, HMI, and a whole host of other things, then come back to her.

I went to work and explored everything. I read every paper that Allan Savory published and watched his Ted Talk. I was blown away on how desertified land can be brought back to life. I was mesmerized and in awe. My heart came alive and I wanted to learn this process. I went back to the James Ranch and met with Julie. Eventually, I was introduced to David James (the Patriarch) and I was hopeful that maybe he would hire me now. Instead, he told me that if I wanted to work for him, I would need to do an internship. He mentioned specifically Round River Resource Management Ltd. I applied and Louis Martin encouraged me to go to the “Regenerate Conference.” Then, I was denied an intern position. Marcos beat me out, but I didn’t give up, and here I am writing this long paper as you now decide to double check how many pages I actually wrote.

I’ve always been interested in agriculture since my childhood but circumstances and life and being kind of directionless took me a bit longer to finally decide to do something about it. And as I work and learn in this internship, it’s pretty clear I was born to bring dead land back to life and to bring dead hearts back to life.

I am hoping to learn how the business side of a cattle ranch works, and what it really involves. I like the model Louis Martin has; he does not own the cattle or the land, yet he manages cattle on leased land and uses this model to regenerate the land. I am hoping at the end of this internship I will have learned all the various skills on the Skills Chart and be able to have mastered most of them. I hope to have a better connection to the land and a better understanding of how to protect and nurture the land as well as how to build an effective business by managing the land and animals.

One day I envision managing a ranch where broken children can come and heal, regenerate, and rejuvenate their hearts, and they do this while learning how to heal, and regenerate and rejuvenate the broken land as well. I was born to bring dead land back to life and dead hearts back to life. I am learning the skills to manage the land and the herds. I hope this internship helps me learn the necessary skills and knowledge to move towards becoming one with the land. 

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