New Agrarian Voices

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

 

 

 

 

Christopher Mellen 

1st and 2nd Year APPRENTICE

Round River Resource Management, CO

Interview with Taylor Sanders, NAP Colorado Manager
June 2021

Taylor: What does a typical day look like? Is there a general rhythm even if days fluctuate?

Christopher: Well, my alarm goes off at 5am and I get up and work out for 30-40 minutes. I eat and read, sometimes Bible reading or just praying. Then, I get ready for the day. I take my dog for a walk and open the chicken coop. If I have time, I’ll read some farming books- Joel Salatin, Dave Pratt, Greg Judy. Then, at 8am I meet with Marcos and Louis to discuss what happened yesterday and expectations for today. On Mondays, we set expectations for the week. 

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I drive down to the BX, about 50 miles from Rush to leased land and see what we have going on with our grazing chart to try to make an assessment. I’ll prep the next couple paddocks and make sure the wire is hot. If we need to move cattle, I’ll take my border collie and he’ll help move them with me, but a lot of times with the cattle down there, it could be as simple as moving the mineral and they’ll all follow me to the next paddock. I troubleshoot fixing stock tanks and do general maintenance. If I get off early, I’ll join in what’s happening at the main ranch.

Tuesday and Thursday I stay at Brett Grey. I’ll do whatever needs to get done, from tagging calves to castrating to prepping other paddocks, pounding fence posts, and making sure mineral is filled. There are 4 different owners of this cattle, so we have to tag all the calves carefully.

We use Asana to record all of our tasks and we record tags, deaths, and other issues.

On any given day, things can change depending on what’s going on. 

 

T: What items do you always take with you to your work day?

C: I have no idea what’s gonna happen out there, so I take everything. When going to the BX, I take two gallons of water, a cooler with snacks and food, toilet paper, a satchel with tools, and a barbed wire fencing tool. I’ll load up the truck with all the fencing materials, hammer, and staples because I have to invent ways to fix a lot of things. I love that part of my job; I get to look at something and come up with a MacGyver fix for it.

 

T: What is your favorite place on the ranch?

C: My bed, just kidding! I would have to say it is the head of the creek, when I’m standing on a hill overlooking it. There’s too many flies down there, but I love looking at it. It’s so pristine and beautiful. 

 

T: What do you like to do on your day off? 

C: I’ll help Louis with his garden or practice welding. We do 12 days on, 2 days off. My sister lives in Colorado Springs, so on one of my days off, I’ll go to the grocery store and do things in town and hang out with her for the rest of the day. 

 

T: Do you listen to music/podcasts while you work? Do you have a song/artist/podcast that gets you through the more monotonous tasks?

C: I do when I’m working by myself, but not when I’m moving cattle or working with others. When I’m pounding posts, I’ll listen to audiobooks about regenerative agriculture. I’ll listen to the Working Cows podcast or Quivira Coalition’s Down to Earth podcast. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes the audio Bible. One podcast I really like is Hardcore History; it just goes for 4 hours talking about history. I like to be educated and I always want to be learning. I try to make the most of my time.

 

T: How are you getting to know the community around you?

C: I really need to figure out how to try to build community. I started going to this church, but it’s mostly senior citizens, an old fashioned church, but they enjoy having me around. I like community to grow naturally. I’m an hour away from Colorado Springs and 45 minutes to Limon, but even then the cities aren’t super conducive to meeting people my age. I’d rather not be in town on a weeknight anyway. I’m going to take this time to focus and do what I do with excellence: that’s one thing I pride myself in.

 

T: What is a skill you have learned that you now feel confident in?

C: Fixing any kind of fence, it doesn’t matter what kind it is. We drove through an electric fence one time and it took out the post it was attached to. I went and got an old fashioned post hole digger. I tamped it with a shovel handle and it was like it never happened. I of course told Louis, because I’m super honest about my mistakes. Also, I’ve learned how to create a grazing plan and how to do the math for that. It can get complex but I have been able to learn it. It takes skill to look at a pasture and know the utilization. Another thing is being able to look at a cow and know if something’s not right with them.

 

T: What is something about your job that challenges you? 

C: Communicating with my mentor is sometimes difficult because I don’t know the terms for tools or ranching things, or I’ll get east and west mixed up, for example. Especially when I have to call him and tell him something over the phone and describe something to get his direction. I also find it difficult to not know exactly what is going to happen that day, or when it changes. That comes with letting go of control. I’m getting better at that. Living by myself has been challenging. I am an extrovert and hanging out with people gives me a lot of energy, but the people I work with are introverts. Some days are harder than others, but it’s temporary. It’s just training. 

 

T: What are you looking forward to in the rest of the season?

C: I’m looking forward to getting to hang out with other apprentices. I’m looking forward to maybe having a conference, and the soil workshops. 

 

T: Any other thoughts about your daily life on the ranch? 

C: I believe I was made for hard labor. I burn about 900 calories a day. There’s something about it- I just love being out in the open, getting all that Vitamin D. It’s a far cry from how I grew up in Hong Kong.

 

2nd year Apprentice
November 2021

Hope and Change

The last two years of life in much of the world has been filled with uncertainty, chaos, and fear. The pandemic has brought out the best and worst in people. Last year I arrived at the Brett Gray Ranch in rush, Colorado a couple of days after California lockdown in 2020, and I began my journey as an apprentice. With so much going on in 2020 I did not know what the future would hold for me, but I knew, I wanted to grow and learn everything I could about ranching and regenerative agriculture. I began my journey bye screwing up repeatedly. 

as a first-year apprentice I was green and had no idea of what I was getting myself into. I am fairly sure my mentors also had no idea what they were getting themselves into. I am incredibly grateful and appreciate if of the fact that my mentors had a great deal of patience and still have a great deal of patience dealing with me. I could not ask to be in a better place nor have better people I am surrounded with on this journey of hope and change.

As a second-year apprentice I have been reflecting back on how my first year has deferred from my second year. There are different things that I have decided to share because it is important to be able to compare and contrast the significant difference that as second year has given me. My first year was filled with doubts and second guessing and questioning whether I made the right decision to pursue regenerative agriculture as a career. There were occasionally nights where I would lie in bed with tears coming down my cheeks because I could not perform my duties correctly.

I remember not being able to move cattle correctly. I remember several times Marcos drawing out a map in the dirt with the stick showing me how I am supposed to be behind the cattle. I remember expressing to Louis how apologetic I was four making a move more difficult. Little by little I got better and better. It was not an overnight success, but I worked and worked and tried to watch videos on how to move cattle. And even though this year I am not an expert at moving cattle, my mentor tells me I am 1000% better.

My first year was littered with learning and making small and big mistakes. I have driven my quad through electric fence and had broken it. I had left gates open where cattle could meander on into a paddock that they are not supposed to be in. I’ve broken equipment and caused unnecessary problems, yet my attitude was “It’s okay. I’m an intern and I’m just learning so I’m okay.” that was something I would tell myself repeatedly. I had an attitude of wanting to learn but wanting to have grace for all the mistakes I was making.

Gradually I learned and became better and better with only making small mistakes. and then one day my mentor sat down with me and asked if I would be willing to drive down to the other ranch that we manage about sixty miles away and learn how to manage that ranch and with his supervision. When he asked me to do that, I was more than willing to accept that responsibility. And there was a shift in my mind and in my heart that I am not just learning anymore, and that I am not just able to make mistakes and get away with it anymore. Now, I am actually responsible for an operation and if things go well, I can celebrate, but if things go badly, I could lose my job. This was a fantastic opportunity that was also a scary opportunity; and that is all part of growing, progressing, and becoming better and better as time goes on. If I do the same things and have the same job and I make less mistakes, then what is the point? The point of an apprenticeship is to learn and gain skills and put those skills into action while taking up more responsibility and then teaching others how to do what I could not do before.

This shift that took place in my heart and in my mind set of being responsible for something did not stop me from making mistakes. I got stuck down at our other ranch because it had rained, and I did not know that it rained so much. I had a stock trailer on my truck, and I figured if I could unhook the trailer then I could reposition the truck and pull the trailer out. After several attempts I finally gave up and called my mentor and he told me to leave the stock trailer and come back. What I did not know at the time was that I had broken the clutch as well as burned out the clutch.

I was stressed out many times because of the responsibility in wanting to prove that I belong in this industry, but the problem was I still lacked a lot of experience and I took on the mindset that I need to learn things quickly and in a timely fashion so I can progress faster to catch up with all the years that I missed out on ranching. I became obsessed with finishing things quickly and that led to me mate mistakes that I would normally not make. and even though my mentor still had grace and patience with me I knew it was running thin because he told me it was running thin. 

I remember that day well. I loaded bulls to take out to the pasture because it was breeding season. It was a Sunday morning, and I was up early being a dependable wonderful worker who took the initiative to get things done. I wanted to make an impression that I am up early; I am doing what needs to be done; the boss does not even have to worry about a thing. And then I got a text as I was pulling out to go to the pasture from the pens. We have three or four turnoffs that are small roads so trucks can leave and take this or that route back to the road. I missed all of them because I was texting and when I ran out of road, and I knew that I had to turn but the turn that was coming up was quite sharp in the trailer would not make it I decided to go on the grass. The only problem was that I failed to notice the huge drop-off that was not meant for a trailer, but I had cleared it a couple of times with the truck. I decided to take the plunge and literally became stuck while the trailer was actually dangling my truck in the air. I could not unhook the gooseneck from the tongue and regrettably had to call my mentor to help me. He was not happy at all, and I knew that that could be the last straw for him.

See, he had given me more responsibility and while I was doing OK with managing that responsibility, I was moving quickly an trying to run when I should only be jogging. And we had to have a heart to heart about the mistakes that I would make. Because I would go months with doing everything so well and so wonderfully or so I thought I did and I did not hear anything different, yet somehow or another I would just make a big mistake. I would not think properly or critically and would get myself into a jam because I just wanted to have the experience that I did not have already to where I could be happy about my progress. I remember telling my mentor that if I had an apprentice who was performing like me then I would not know if I could trust him or not, and that was difficult to admit that I am not as strong as I think I am. It is not something that men advertise. 

My mentor encouraged me to slow down, think about the situation and use holistic management principles to make decisions, and think critically and creatively about what needs done next and what priority I should place on the tasks that need completed. he reminded me that I do not have to complete every task that day and that there is always tomorrow. I am so grateful for my mentor and his words of timely advice filled with prudence and wisdom That has guided me this far.

So, the one main thing I have learned this year is that it is OK to slow down. I have learned that it is okay to not rush or be in a hurry and that I do not have to finish everything that is on the list for today. This lesson has gone deep with me to where I am not worried about what is happening tomorrow nor am I worried about what is going to happen today. I have learned to live one day at a time and while I am living in that particular day, I am learning to live one moment at a time and being present in that moment fully before moving on to the next moment.

My mind and my heart are at peace knowing that it is OK to not finish everything, but to get as much as I can done without making mistakes. the good news is I have not made a major mistake since I left that trailer stuck while that gooseneck dangled the truck from the air. I have learned that I cannot rush experience and there are things that I cannot learn unless I experienced them.

I have learned that trying to complete tasks and finish what I need to do so that I can move on to the next task so I can move on to the next task so I can finish work and then be happy is not a way to live life. This year I have learned to slow down and enjoy every single moment that life brings to me whether it is good, bad, ugly, happy, sad, wonderful, full of excitement, and love. I have learned to embrace whatever is in front of me. there is no task or problem too big or too small that I cannot manage or solve No if I cannot finish it or solve it today there is always tomorrow. 

So, in the last two years I have changed in diverse ways. My first year I started working the ranch at three hundred pounds. This year I am working the ranch at two hundred pounds. My first year I could not do anything right and kept messing up and thought that I was not made to be in this field. This year I have been managing a 25,000-acre ranch with the supervision of my mentors and no I belong in this field. I know that overtime I will continue to succeed and increase in my ability as a rancher in regenerative agriculture. I am grateful for my mentors and the Quivira Coalition and the New Agrarian Program For giving me the opportunity to come in with no experience and spend two years learning life and living it now full of experience. In the midst of all this change the future is bright and I am full of hope

 

March 2021

What do you know now, that you wish you had known when you started your first year?

After completing a solid, fun, crazy, wonderful, and intense personal growth year as a 1st Year Apprentice, I am amazed at how much I have learned and grown in a short, yet long 8 month. If there was anything, I wished I would have wanted to have known before I jumped headfirst into my 1st Year Apprenticeship would have to be Cows are completely harmless if you use good Stockmanship.

I have been chased by bulls, and cows and even calves. I’ve been kicked in the gut, attacked while tagging a calf, and chased up a fence multiple times. Why were these delicious, beloved bovines coming at me like I was a piece of protein cake? Well, because they use “the force” and could sense, I was terrified of them when I first started. 

Sorting yearlings was particularly scary for me. When a yearling comes running down an alley full speed ahead like a mean machine, and I am the guy who is tasked with opening the gate for that snarling, drooling creature, I’d rather become a farmer. And when I led a group of cows from the alley to the chute for palpating, they somehow knew, I am the guy who will run away first. They always knew and it baffled me.  

If I had known what stockmanship was before I had done my 1st Year Apprenticeship, I would have watched videos and maybe taken a class before I came. Instead, I bobbed and weaved with on-the-job training. As I learned to relax and give pressure when needed and when to back off, the cows fell in love with me and mooed lovingly with thanks. As I became comfortable with practice and execution, I was no longer afraid, but rather lovingly led all cattle from the alley to the chute with ease and peace. 

After the 1st Year Apprenticeship, I am ready for the next set of yearlings to be processed. I am ready for the stockmanship challenge.  

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. 

FINAL REFLECTIONS
November 2020

The year 2020 will go down in history as possibly one of the craziest, yet most wonderful and beautiful years of my entire life. It all started when I got accepted to Round River Resource Management to be an apprentice at the Brett Gray ranch in Rush CO. I was super-duper ecstatic and began making plans to drive from California to Colorado to start my apprenticeship on site by March 23rd, 2020. I was happy that I was accepted and looking forward to learning everything I could about regenerative agriculture, but I had no idea what I was really getting into, having never worked on a ranch in this capacity before. 

I love driving and I love road trips, so I was excited to hit the road. Normally, I take my time driving. I stop and look at sites. I visit friends along the way. This time was much different. See, COVID-19 decided to rear its ugly head and cause a shutdown of the state of California. I left the day before everything shut down. I drove through a couple of snow storms, an ice storm, and an all-out blizzard at one point. I made it to my sisters in Colorado Springs with a couple days to spare before I had to start work at the ranch. 

When I finally started work, I believe I was completely useless and, on a few occasions, I think I was actually hindering what was happening rather than learning or helping the situation. In my first formal review with my mentor, Louis Martin, he expressed to me that my first 2 weeks working he thought he had made a huge mistake in hiring me. I remember on some nights coming home just crying because I felt so weak. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right and like I wasn’t cut out to be a manager in regenerative agriculture. I mean, I was only an apprentice with high hopes and high dreams to become a manager of regenerative agriculture bringing deadland back to life and living the rest of my life happily ever after with those around me. I did have big dreams. I still have big dreams. But those haunting first weeks of my apprenticeship brought me down to nothing. However, the good thing about being nothing and knowing how horrible I am at basic ranching skills and how much I don’t know at all, was to my advantage because I was able to start from the ground up and build a firm foundation that my mentors were laying out. 

I remember at one point after messing up again, I told Louis how weak I felt how horrible I felt about my lack of skills or lack of knowledge or lack of observation. In that first month, I had been attacked by a cow while I was trying to tag her calf. She chased me around the quad (four-wheeler), and at one point even came over the quad. I was terrified working in the pens with 1000-pound creatures who seemed to just want to run me over. I remember when we got 1500 yearlings in to sort them, I had to stand at the end of the alley opening a gate. All I remember is the yearlings coming full speed down the alley and just slamming on their brakes because I was there and they were not supposed to go through my gate. I was literally terrified out of my mind thinking…this is how I die.

I desperately wanted to learn as quickly as possible how to move cattle correctly and how to not be terrified in the alley or when giving vaccines or branding or castrating. I wanted to be excellent at everything I did and was told to do. If I were fixing a fence whether it be splicing new barbed wire or splicing new high tensile wire, I would make sure that it was done right. I was taught from an early age onward that excellence is how I live my life. Even though in that first month or two where I felt like I was doing such a poor job and felt like I was doing more harm than good, I was not going to give up. I kept striving to be excellent in everything that I did. 

Little by little I could see myself getting better and better at things that I used to be completely and utterly horrible at. Little by little I began to see skills and knowledge that I never had, take root in my heart and in my mind. Every day I would wake up ready to face whatever obstacles came my way. I was ready to become better and better and be excellent as well. 

I had two great mentors this season. One was a second-year apprentice, Marcos Baez. He taught me so much about stockmanship about pressure on the cows in the pens as well as using pressure when we move the cattle. He took time out of our moves just to show me what I was doing wrong. I am not one to be so proud as to hate being corrected, so I welcomed the corrections. If I was doing something wrong then I wanted to know about it. I didn’t want anyone to passively and politely explain to me what I was doing wrong, I wanted to hear the truth and I wanted to hear it directly so that I could address it directly. Thank God for Louis Martin and Marcos Baez. Even to this day, they are still direct with me and tell me what I am doing well and what I am doing wrong. 

I remember the worst day that I had working. It all started the day before, when I was asked to go with my colleague to drive in some T posts in gaps in the fence where the yearlings might get out. My colleague had to take off early that day and I was kind of grudgingly pounding the posts on my own and (to be honest) I had a bit of an attitude. There was a gate that was a bit torn up and I remember thinking I should do a temporary fix with a post until I  could come and fix the gate more permanently. However, because of my attitude, I let it slide and kind of did not hold true to my mantra of doing everything with excellence. The next day when I went to check the cattle, half of the 1500 yearlings had gone through that gate and into a paddock we don’t normally use. I saw half of the yearlings on two different sides of the creek running through the paddock and there was no way I was going to be able to get them in by myself. I had to call the boss. After Louis helped me get all of the yearlings back into where they should be, I began beating myself up. I was not paying attention to where I was going on my quad and I drove right through a high tensile wire electric fence line and broke it. It just so happened to be there was a herd of cattle in that pasture. I went back to headquarters to find some fencing supplies to fix the fence I had just driven through. 

Meanwhile, while that is happening, my mentor calls me and tells me that he picked up all the sick and lame yearlings that we treated who were in a small pasture next to the pens. He had picked them up almost at the perimeter of the ranch which means they had walked quite a ways probably trying to catch up with their friends the other yearlings who I had just put back into the paddock that they escaped from. Louis asked me why these cattle were all the way over there and I had realized that a couple of days before I had pulled  a dead yearling out of that small pasture and I had left the gate open…  

I can remember that day vividly. I messed everything up and it all began by compromising my work ethic and being excellent. I created a whole host of problems that I then had to deal with. I caused myself and my colleagues more stress than I needed to. I learned a valuable lesson that day as I skipped lunch and skipped dinner trying to resolve everything before the sun went down. The valuable lesson I learned is to never work begrudgingly or with an attitude because that will compromise the excellence that comes from what my hands and brain and heart and body can produce. 

What I value above any kind of work or learning are relationships. I believe that relationships are the most important part of why anybody does what they do. Relationships are the keys to success or failure. My mentor, Louis Martin, told me that all problems that occur in life are people problems. All problems are caused by people, but how I respond to those problems can mean the difference between success and failure. 

And I can tell you right now that I am succeeding big time. One of the big reasons I am succeeding is because I had mentors who were patient with me, who were understanding and who gave me good, solid, direct feedback. They did not sugarcoat anything.  I would not trade my experience for anything. I came here with the intention of learning how to manage a ranch in regenerative agriculture. In the beginning it was so rough and difficult, I don’t think I could have gotten to where I am right now without having great relationships with my mentors.   

Right now, what I really think I have learned from this apprenticeship is how to think holistically. I used to think in parts, and I would address an issue only in its part not in the whole. Now I understand that when I make decisions, no matter what decisions they are, I have to consider the whole picture, not just part of it. That has really challenged the way that I was taught to make decisions. Like I said before, I am here to learn and grow so I do not mind changing the way I have normally done things. 

My stockmanship is rocking and awesome. At least that is what I tell myself every day. It has improved significantly to the point that I was able to move 1,500 yearlings all by myself. I am not afraid of the cows anymore. I am still a little afraid of bulls, which I think is healthy. But I understand how to apply pressure and how to release that pressure, so I do not stress out the animal. I have become highly skilled at fixing any kind of fence. I have lost over 50 pounds since I started working in March. I am much healthier and have heaps of experience in daily chores and daily tasks and I feel much closer to reaching the goal that I set to one day become a manager of regenerative ranch. 

My mentor, Louis Martin, has been extremely helpful and proactive in helping me reach my goal. He has allowed me to take up a managerial position with supervision of our developed 25,000-acre ranch down in Boone, CO. I go down there three times a week, driving 1.5 hours each direction. I check on the cattle and I prepare the next pastures for the cattle. I ride fence and fix anything that is wrong with the fencing and troubleshoot water issues or electricity issues. I plan the grazing and the moves with supervision from Marcos and Louis.  

In the short time that I have had this apprenticeship, I have learned so much so quickly and so deeply. I credit my mentors for being patient and understanding and teaching me the ins and outs of regenerative agriculture. I came in as green as I could be…I have messed up plenty, but my victories have been more than my mistakes. I know 2020 has been a very stretching and growing and even sometimes horrible year for many people. For me, however, 2020 has been the best year of my entire life. I grew up in a foreign country and lived in the city most of my life. But I never gave up on my dream of becoming a rancher. It has taken a lot of sacrifice and a lot of change in the way I think and the way I am used to doing things. But these last 7 to 8 months have produced the most fruit in my life that I could ever even dream was possible. And I credit that to my mentors, to my Father God, and to myself being willing to change, accept criticism, and grow from my mistakes. I cannot thank the Quivira Coalition enough for having this program where apprentices can come to a ranch and learn and grow and in change the world one farm or one ranch at a time.        

This year has been a year of phenomenal change. But this year has been the most joyful, excellent, wonderful, stupendous, crazy, awesome, greatest, most excellent year I have ever experienced in my life. I am so excited to continue as a second-year apprentice through the Quivira Coalition as well as keeping the same mentors that I have. I get to manage an actual ranch with supervision and make the decisions as if I were an actual regenerative agriculture ranch manager–of course with supervision.

To me, this is the greatest opportunity anyone can ask for or be granted. I wish more people who have a heart for agriculture and a passion for agriculture would apply to become apprentices at a ranch somewhere. This apprenticeship has been one of the greatest jobs in my entire life. I have a teaching background. I used to be a teacher. Perhaps one day I will become a mentor and have a ranch of my own or continue to stay on with Round River. I would love nothing more than to teach young people about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, because that can only happen when the land is managed properly. 

I have so many things that I could share, and I could go on and on and on some more. All I know is I applied to become an apprentice and my entire life changed. My entire thinking changed. I became a better steward of the land and I have a better understanding of how holistic management works. I would not change this experience for the world. And I am excited to continue to press on and push myself even more to become an excellent steward of the land and to manage the land with great relationships and with a passion for life. I will continue to be excellent in everything I do.            

                         

 

 

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