C&R RanchEight-Month (November - June) Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship in Paskenta, California
C & R Ranch, LLC is a small cattle ranch operating on two properties in northern California. Since 2009, Charlotte and Roy Ekland have embarked on the development of an integrated beef operation dedicated to producing grass fed/grass finished beef with sustainable ranching practices; improving the health, tilth and water retention capacity of the soils; planting both native and domesticated perennial grasses; expanding and preserving wildlife habitat; and employing the principles of Holistic Management. In addition to raising a finished beef product, the Eklands are developing a herd of pure bred Bonsmara cattle. Developed in South Africa, the Bonsmara breed was selected for its genetic capacity to feed during periods of high summer temperatures and to thrive on low quality feed stocks while producing lean-yet-tender, high quality beef without finishing in a feedlot.
Our ranching philosophy:
In 2009, the Eklands purchased 340 acres (the “Paskenta Ranch”) at the western edge of the Sacramento Valley about 120 miles northwest of Sacramento, California. The ranch lies within the rain shadow of the Coast Range, and consists of rolling hills with a partial cover of California blue oaks. The soil is unsuitable for tillage and crop production. Annual rainfall averages about 20 inches, all of which falls between November and April. With climate change, the region faces increasing variability of annual precipitation and rising mean temperatures during the dry summer and fall months. The ranch lies outside of the Sacramento Valley aquifer, and grass production for grazing depends entirely upon the winter rains.
In 2017, the Ekland’s purchased a second property of 140 acres of which 120 are irrigated. The Los Molinos, or summer ranch lies, 30 miles to the northeast of the winter ranch on the eastern boundary of the Sacramento Valley. The land is flat and graded to slope. The soil is suitable for grazing and some tree crops. Winter rains average 28 – 30 inches. The property holds shares in a local water district which provides irrigation water from an adjacent canal from mid-April to mid-October. Traditional flood irrigation delivers the water to the land. Historically, the water district has provided a volume of water adequate to sustain the perennial grass forage over the six month irrigation season. The district, and the ranch and orchard properties that depend upon it, face increasing challenges as the drought cycles increase in length and severity. With current water deliveries, the carrying capacity of the ranch over the summer averages between 80 and 90 head.
For the past 150 years, the pastures lands of the northern Sacramento Valley have supported extensive grazing of sheep and cattle during the 6 months of the winter rains. When the Ekland’s purchased the Paskenta Ranch, the property suffered from over-grazing and significant erosion on the unprotected slopes. There were no improvements other than a stock pond and a perimeter fence, both of which dated from the 1950’s. Over the past ten years, the Ekland’s have undertaken an ambitious renovation and restoration program that includes the following elements:
- Renovation of pasture areas, replacing short season, annual grasses with mixed species of perennial grasses where appropriate;
- Establishing plantings of trees, shrubs and native grasses to improve wildlife habitat in key drainages and environmentally sensitive areas;
- Constructing cross fencing and installing water lines and water systems essential for rotational grazing and improved pasture management;
- Construction of the basic infrastructure of corrals and barns necessary for rational, low stress herd management.
The Ekland’s firmly believe that our success as ranchers should be measured by the health of the soils as reflected in the bio-diversity of the pastures and those areas dedicated to wildlife. A biologically diverse environment will foster and support healthy livestock. If we successfully husband the soil and the land, we will be rewarded with economic success and the daily pleasure of living in a rich and varied landscape.
Attributes desired in an apprentice:
This apprenticeship is a professional training program for people ready to make a commitment to a life in agriculture. It is open to both entry level individuals with no prior agricultural experience or those who have some hands-on experience on farms and/or ranches. Enthusiasm, physical strength, stamina, and a willingness to learn from your mentors are required. The apprenticeship is physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenging. The apprentice and mentors work together closely.
What will an apprentice do at C&R Ranch?
The apprentice will participate as a full member of their ranching family. The activities on the ranch will provide opportunities to acquire specific skills necessary for a future career in production agriculture. From the following types of activities, the apprentice will development competence and a working knowledge of ranching practices anchored in the principles of regenerative agriculture.
Pasture Management and Soil Health:
Activities: Planning and monitoring pasture rotations using the Savory Institute grazing chart; paddock design and management with electric fencing; moving the cattle in paddock rotations; monitoring grazing intensity to sustain adequate forage growth; adjusting herd density; soil samples and the interpretation of soil analysis data; participating in the Point Blue Conservation Science Rangeland Monitoring Network; no-till planting of fall cover crops.
Cattle and Herd Management:
Activities: Computerized record keeping for tracking individual animals from birth or acquisition to the point of sale; animal husbandry (calving, vaccination, castration, dehorning, branding, tagging); disease management; breeding management by age group; controlling body condition for optimal reproductive performance; calculating feed consumption and supplemental feeding during dry periods.
Activities: Determining optimal condition of the grass/forage prior to cutting; training in the safe use of a swather, side-delivery rake and other haying equipment; transporting and stacking hay bales.
Farm Equipment and Safety:
Activities: Training in the safe use of tractors, ATV’s and the farm vehicles; safe operation of a seed drill, harrow, rotary mower, trailers and haying equipment; safe movement of feed stocks from hay barn to field.
Farm Shop and Tool Safety:
Activities: Outfitting and organizing a farm shop; safe use of power tools used in metal working and basic carpentry; on-farm maintenance and repair of water systems, electrical circuits and cattle managing equipment
Activities: Design and construction of permanent fences, both barbed wire and field fencing (woven wire); fitting, shaping and welding of pipe braces for fence construction; design and construction of farm outbuildings.
Activities: Living on a budget; participating in meal preparation for shared meals; cooking lessons for those interested. Home cooked meals are an essential part of healthy living on a budget, particularly in rural areas.
Roy and Charlotte: Charlotte and Roy Ekland have lived in northern California for the past 30 years. Graduates of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, they served as Peace Corps volunteers in Guatemala in the late 1960’s. Charlotte received her Master’s degree from the University of Rochester and later went on to earn her PhD from the University of California (Davis). Roy received a law degree from a local law school in Chico, California.
Roy and Charlotte spent three years with their two children in rural Costa Rica. Roy directed a rural development program on the Nicoya Peninsula. Charlotte taught ESL at the University of Costa Rica (Liberia). Upon their return, they settled in Salinas, California, where Charlotte taught in the bi-lingual program in a predominantly Hispanic school district. After working with a local community college, Roy started his own company in international horticulture. They moved to Chico, California, to be closer to Charlotte’s family. Until her retirement, Charlotte worked at California State University, Chico, where she taught in the Latin American Studies Program. There, she directed a student intern program that took upper division students on six-week internships to the Yucatan and other areas of Mexico.
Roy took the company he founded in 1982 through several permutations. By the time that he sold it in 2018, he had developed a specialization in the intellectual property management of strawberry and other small fruit varieties. It continues to this day as the premier company in its field under its new management.
Roy grew up on a small farm in central Washington State. Charlotte was raised in the San Francisco Bay area. Their purchase of the Paskenta ranch in 2009 gave them an opportunity to improve and regenerate highly degraded land and natural habitat. As their experience deepened, they soon came to realize that these goals could best be achieved by implementing a holistic management model of livestock production.
Holistic management practices necessitate installing and taking down miles of electric fence and moving livestock through pasture rotations in a timely fashion. While it is hard, repetitive work, it is also deeply rewarding to see the changes in the vitality of the land. C&R Ranch has improved under Charlotte and Roy’s management; however, they need to rotate their animals more quickly and to experiment with other regenerative practices. With the help of an apprentice, they can accelerate the process of soil regeneration and restore biological diversity to the land.
Charlotte and Roy are deeply concerned about the aging of farmers and the lack of opportunities for young people to gain experience in production agriculture. They hope to introduce their apprentice not only to the principles and practices of regenerative agriculture but to their application on the ground. They feel that it is vitally important to for ranchers who are utilizing ecologically sound practices to pass on their knowledge and experience to a critical mass of future ranchers and farmers. The young people that they mentor today will contribute to the resilience of our lands in the face of climate change and environmental degradation.
What an apprentice will learn:
The apprentice will work closely with Roy and Charlotte on a variety of ranching tasks including: daily cattle care: feeding, health monitoring, and pasture movements; building and maintaining ranch infrastructure (fences, water pipelines, vehicles); pasture planning; analyzing and planning for nutritional needs of cattle at each stage of grass finishing process; monitoring forage quality and utilization; maintaining CattleMax records and the Savory Grazing Chart; financial analysis and decision making.
Start Date: November 2021
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months
Expected work hours: On average the job will be 6 days a week, 40 hours total. However, workdays are quite variable according to the tasks to be done and other factors such as the weather.
Stipend: The monthly stipend is determined each year, based on available funding; it is typically about a net of $1,000 per month. A portion of the stipend is paid every two weeks and will be directly deposited to apprentice’s bank. 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. The apprentice should consider his or her budgetary needs before applying to this position.
Housing: The Eklands will provide a one bedroom – one bath house that is located on the Paskenta ranch. The unit will be fully furnished, including dishes, cookware, towels, sheets, etc. The Ekland’s will provide utilities, water, and garbage pickup. Please note: housing can be provided only for the apprentice. Spouses, significant others, and/or children cannot be accommodated on the ranch.
Communications: The Eklands will provide WIFI to the house and a small TV. The apprentice will be responsible for maintaining his/her own cell phone service. Please note that reception for all three of these services is limited on the ranch.
Quivira Coalition Activities: This apprenticeship is offered through Quivira Coalition’s New Agrarian Program, but follows a different schedule from the majority of other apprenticeship opportunities. The apprentice is expected to attend the annual Regenerate Conference, hosted with Holistic Management International and the American Grassfed Association, in Albuquerque in November. In 2020, due to Covid-19, the conference was hosted virtually. Quivira hopes that it will be able to resume in-person gatherings again by the fall of 2021. If limitations arising from the pandemic continue, Quivira will continue to maintain virtual contact with the apprentices and mentors. The apprentice will have access to supplemental education calls that were conducted and recorded by Quivira earlier in 2020 and 2021. All apprentices are also required to write several short reports during their apprenticeship. These reports will go through the NAP Coordinator at Quivira and be posted on the Quivira website.
Time off: The apprentice will have one fixed day off a week. If an apprentice needs additional days for specific activities, he or she should let the mentors know as soon as possible. Additional days off cannot be guaranteed. Please note that the ranch and the cattle dictate workflow over the course of the apprenticeship.
Visitors and Family: Occasionally having 1-2 guests over is fine. Prior notice to the Eklands requested for overnight guests.
Food: The apprentice will receive partial board in the form of access to the ranch’s beef. In addition, he or she will eat lunch and share three to four dinners a week with the family. Planning and preparing the meals will be a shared activity.
Languages: English is the primary language but the Ekland’s are also fluent in Spanish.
Pets: We are not equipped to accommodate horses, and prefer not to have cats on the property because of bird predation. Prior approval must be given before brining any other pets.
Drugs and alcohol: No smoking or drugs are permitted on the ranch, range, vehicles, or housing – the ranch is a completely non-smoking, drug-free environment. No partying. Having a beer/glass of wine or two after work is just fine.
Health Care and Health Insurance: The apprentice is expected to arrive fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and to receive booster shots if recommended by the county health department. Please note that many ranching activities are inherently dangerous. The ranch carries Workman’s Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job. While personal health insurance is not required to participate in the apprenticeship program, it is strongly encouraged. If the apprentice is injured on his or her day off, gets sick, or has or develops chronic conditions like allergies, these medical issues should be covered by personal health insurance.
Ranch vehicles: All ranch vehicles have automatic transmissions. Previous experience with backing up trailers is not required, but greatly appreciated.
Personal vehicle: The apprentice is not expected to use a personal vehicle around the ranch. He/she will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle in order to run personal errands such as purchasing groceries and travel on days off.
Laundry: The apprentice’s house will have both a washer and a dryer. However, the apprentice should take water conservation into consideration when doing laundry.
Items an apprentice should bring: The Eklands will provide a clothing allowance of $500 which can be used to purchase all-leather work boots, rubber corral/barn boots, a lined canvas jacket and vest, and water repellent leather work gloves after their arrival. The apprentice should bring their own work pants, down jacket and vest, hats, scarves, gloves, casual clothing, and toiletries. There are many outdoor recreational activities available in northern California. The apprentice may want to read up on the region and bring hiking or camping gear.
The northern Sacramento Valley: The C&R Ranch (Paskenta) ranges in elevation from 625 feet to 960 feet elevation. To the immediate west, the Coast Range rises to peaks in excess of 8,000 feet. Twenty miles to the east, the Sacramento River courses 450 miles from north to south, drawing from a massive watershed encompassing the northern Sierra Nevada, the southern Cascades, the Trinity Alps and the Coast Range. The floor of the Sacramento Valley descends gradually from 565 feet at Redding in the north to sea level at the Sacramento Delta where the river empties into San Francisco Bay.
The Sacramento Valley is typified by an interior valley, Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cold, rainy winters. Winter temperatures rarely go below 22o F. Significant snowfall may accumulate above 4,500 feet elevation. The Paskenta Ranch will occasionally receive snow in mid-winter but it rarely remains on the ground for more than a day.
The Paskenta Ranch lies 17 miles west of the town of Corning. Corning has grocery stores, drug stores, some small clothing stores, hardware stores, gas stations and several restaurants.
Red Bluff, 28 miles east and north of the ranch, has a population of 14,000. The Red Bluff Bull and Gelding Sale in January and the Round-up Rodeo in April provide both entertainment and information for local ranchers. Red Bluff has a Home Depot, a Walmart Superstore, pharmacies and several large grocery stores. It also has a hospital and other health services.
Chico, California is located 37 miles from the Paskenta Ranch on the eastern side of the Sacramento Valley near the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It takes an hour to travel from the ranch to Chico. With a population of over 100,000, Chico is a small city with the cultural, educational and health service amenities of a regional center. The California State University, Chico hosts many cultural events during the academic year. Chico is also home of the Sierra Nevada Brewery which provides a venue for many resident and visiting musical groups.
The North State is a destination for many outdoor adventures: hiking, boating, backpacking, etc. Here are a few destinations to keep in mind: Yola Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness, Mendocino National Forest, The Trinity Alps, Lassen Volcanic National Park, and the Sacramento River.
“My mentor Charlotte loves to remind me that “it’s not a cake.” When we plan our grazing rotations and the cows end up moving earlier than expected—it’s not cake. When our fences aren’t perfectly straight and taught—it’s not a cake. When the cows do get past the fence and start munching on future paddocks—again, not a cake. In all the little details, like a teaspoon more of baking powder or a few too many stirs, that could ruin a cake, ranching (luckily) doesn’t have as stringent of a recipe.” -Excerpt from New Agrarian Voices Blog
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