Cold Mountain Ranch is on the Crystal River, 3 miles south of Carbondale, CO. The ranch has been in the family since the 1920’s. Marj’s grandfather bought the ranch in 1924 and in 1941 Marj’s parents, Bob and Ditty Perry began ranching with Ditty’s brothers and eventually bought them out. In 1986, Marj and Bill bought the neighboring ranch from immigrants from Aosta, Italy, and were later able to purchase 400 acres of the Mount Sopris Hereford Ranch that Marj grew up on.
Our goal is to grow natural beef with as light a footprint as we can; to improve the land and soil and cattle genetics. We raise Hereford Red Angus cross using both Hereford and Balancer bulls. We also breed our heifers to Red Angus for calving ease. Traits we look for are productivity, disposition, adaptability to our climate, and elevation; and sell our calves private treaty.
We have 4 main pastures. We calve on 1-2 of them in March and then move the cows to rocky ground to let the grass grow. We replant about one field a year, about a 10-year rotation, to alfalfa with a cover crop of oats as the orchard grass slowly crowds out the alfalfa. We have improved our pastures, especially since we started rotational grazing with electric fencing, and hope to see more improvement. We’ve had several soil tests and they are decent but can be improved. This fall we will install a center pivot on the Desandre parcel. We utilize every form of irrigation: flood, side roll, gatedpipe and soon center pivot. We feed hay on our pastures for manure and impact.
At the end of June, we move the cattle on horseback through town and to the forest grazing permit. The cattle join other permittee’s cattle in the forest and are on a large landscape rotation. A second bunch of cattle are trucked to another forest grazing permit up the Crystal and follow a similar pattern. As fall approaches, they are moved to areas near where they started. In mid-October, we move them home to graze hayfields and pasture until feeding starts. We work cattle on foot or horseback.
- Rotational grazing
- Soil testing and monitoring
- Feeding hay on pasture for manure and impact
- Plan to incorporate Vence collaring system into the grazing lease
Marj Perry and Bill Fales
Marj was born on the Mt. Sopris Hereford Ranch (which we own about 400 acres of). Her parents raised purebred and commercial Hereford cattle and horses. Bill was born on the East Coast and came for a summer job on the hay crew in 1973 and never looked back. He went from Harvard to CU to mechanics school. We’ve been ranching together ever since; for Marj’s father until 1985 and on our own after that.
We seem to be drawn to political issues and have worked to prevent oil and gas drilling on our grazing permit, to improve stream flow through the Colorado Water Trust, to work with our local Cattlemen’s Association and environmental groups. Our ranch is conserved. Bill was one of the founders of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and served on the county Open Space and Trails board for 13 years.
Marj works on weed management all summer, is concerned with wildlife issues, especially the negative effect of too much recreation, and has been on the local nordic skiing board for years.
We have one employee, Oliver. The apprentice will primarily work with Oliver and Bill. Marj can always use help in the garden and on weeds. Both our daughters, their husbands, and 2 grandchildren live on the ranch and help out as they can.
What will an apprentice do?
The apprentice will participate in calving, cattle management, operating machinery dependent on individual (harrow, rake), responsible for the irrigation of certain fields, fencing both barb wire and electric at home and in the forest, vaccinating, branding, back and front of the chute, record keeping, riding, sorting pairs, haying (2 cuttings), fall gathering, maintaining equipment, spend some time controlling invasive species, and help in the garden.
What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?
Required skills include honesty and the ability to do and enjoy manual labor.
What skills and traits are desired in an apprentice?
Desired skills include enthusiasm, attention to detail and care about any job, willing to ask questions, listen, and communicate. Desire to learn. Some experience with horses, driving a pickup and trailer, cooking skills, and chainsaw experience.
Skills that An Apprentice would expect to acquire:
- Irrigation skills
- Livestock handling
- Livestock husbandry
- Electric and permanent fencing
- Horsemanship skills
- Pasture management
- Haying skills
- Mechanical Skills
- Learn to identify native and invasive species
Nuts & Bolts
Start Date: March through the end of October
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 mos.
Stipend: $2000/month minus $400 rent, utilities, internet, minus withholdings for state and federal taxes.
General work hours: The hours change with the sun, but we average an 8-hour day. Out at daylight in March to check the cows and tag new calves. Occasionally out in the dark with a calving problem. Things pick up in April as we clean ditches, harrow, and we’re still feeding until late May. May is the toughest month for hours. We’re feeding cows, and irrigating is started. We start at daylight on the few days we move cattle a long way to avoid the heat and traffic. Haying starts in late June or early July. Then the workload should be more even. The second hay cutting starts in September, followed by riding the forest to gather cows.
Housing: Small one-bedroom apartment off our garage with internet, and full kitchen. A washing machine is in the apartment, and clotheslines for drying outside. It has a good view of Mt. Sopris.
Internet availability: Internet is available in apprentice housing (a little slow)
Cell Service: Service is good at the ranch.
Time off: Two days off per week, with the caveat that irrigation water needs to move twice a day. A trade is possible.
Visitors: The apprentice will be allowed to have visitors. We ask the visitors to abide by the same rules as the apprentice, including no smoking, no cats, and to take care of the place.
Food: Some beef and garden vegetables will be provided, and some meals (maybe 3 dinners/week).
Pets: No cats, open to discussing a dog and horse.
Horse Use: We will work with a willing beginner, not required but very useful to use horses, even if inexperienced.
All the fun stuff: Alcohol is permitted on your own time if it doesn’t affect your work. We have a NO smoking, vaping ranch. Cannabis is permitted on your own time and if it doesn’t affect your work, and not indoors.
Guns: Guns are permitted if stored safely, however NO recreational shooting.
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. We carry Workmen’s Compensation to cover injuries that occur while on the job, though we strongly encourage safe behavior at all times and hope such an incident will not occur.
Ranch Vehicles: Apprentice will use ranch vehicles and machinery for work.
Personal Vehicle: A personal vehicle is highly recommended for apprentice independence on their time off and to get to town for free time activities/errands.
Living at Cold Mountain Ranch:
Carbondale is 3 miles away. It was a coal town and is a vibrant quirky, artsy community today. There is live music in the park in summer, a mountain fair in July, and Potato days. The town of Aspen is a 32-mile drive away, and the town of Glenwood Springs is a 13-mile drive down the valley. The nearest airport is 30 miles away.
- Grocery shopping: There is a supermarket in Carbondale
- Dining: There are lots of restaurants in Carbondale
- Entertainment: There’s a movie theater, and many forms of recreation, including a farmer’s group that has get-togethers, and a weekly rodeo. Mt. Sopris dominates the valley, and there is hiking, biking, and fishing.
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 Zoom calls, complete skills checklists with their mentors, and attend the annual REGENERATE Conference in November. Apprentices are also required to write several reports during their apprenticeship that will be posted in the New Agrarian Voices blog on the Quivira website.