The High Lonesome Ranch is located in Western Colorado in the town of De Beque, 42 miles from Grand Junction. De Beque is a small community (population ~500) surrounded by Bureau of Land Management land, including the spectacular Wild Horse area. While The High Lonesome Ranch has been around for many years, our journey using regenerative practices began in July 2020. We are very much still evolving and finding what works in this context. We are passionate not only about stewardship, but also demonstrating the regenerative land management can improve the land for livestock, wildlife and people too.
The High Lonesome Ranch spans roughly 35,000 private acres as well at 180,000 acres of BLM leases that make the ranch contiguous. We currently operate on a very small percentage, about 5%, of our total acreage, with about half the ranch leased out. A big part of our story is a ranch wide fire in August 2020, just weeks after starting our regenerative grazing program. The Pine Gulch fire burned almost the whole ranch, leaving just patches to be grazed for the rest of the year. Following the fire BLM imposed a minimum 2 year moratorium on grazing, so we just started grazing our leases again in 2023.
We run a cow/calf program and a small but growing grass-fed beef business. Our cattle program focuses on 3 main aspects- grazing management, genetics, and economics. The apprentice would have the ability to be involved in all of these. We find ranching to be a very creative process so we hope to find an apprentice who is willing to think outside the box.
HLR has a small hay operation we plan to expand in 2024. The apprentice will be expected to support with the irrigation of these fields. Much of our irrigation infrastructure was damaged in flash flooding following the fire, so we are still recovering and repairing infrastructure for our hay program.
The High Lonesome Ranch is not owner-operated. The livestock and agriculture program is managed by a couple with support from two hands, making a dynamic team of four. There is also a Guest Ranch that the apprentice will not be expected to support.
- Mob Grazing- We move the herd every 1-3 days with electric fence
- Rest Periods- 10-14 months on average
- Bale Grazing
- No sub-therapeutic antibiotics, growth hormones, wormers, chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers
- Innovative seeding practices
- Haying/Grazing rotation
- Multi-species grazing
Melissa Makous and Dakota Glueck
Melissa is a first generation rancher originally from Southern California. She studied agroecology and food systems at UC Berkeley where she entered the ag world by way of urban community farming. Her love of animals drew her to ranching and she believes adaptive livestock management is crucial to restore grasslands and reverse desertification, revitalize rural economies and create healthy communities. Melissa will be the main point of contact for the apprentice. She loves geeking out on cattle genetics and low-stress livestock handling. Melissa also runs the grass-fed beef business.
Dakota Glueck is the Livestock and Ag Manager at HLR. He believes that through proper land management we can reverse the worse effects of climate disruption and productively sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide while restoring the vitality of the natural world and rural communities. You will likely spend truck rides to and from cattle with Dakota, talking about innovative post-fire reseeding techniques, plant/ecological communities, grazing management and more.
We also have a couple ranch hands who have a wealth of knowledge. The apprentice will be working with our whole team depending on the task. HLR has a Landscape & Maintenance department that works between the Guest Ranch and Ag departments. The L&M team is responsible for vehicle and equipment maintenance. They can support the apprentice in learning to operate a tractor, skid steer, and manual transmission trucks, as well as general vehicle maintenance if desired by the apprentice.
What will an apprentice do?
Most days during the season will likely start off with Dakota and/or Melissa doing cattle checks and electric fence work with the afternoon spent on projects. The apprentice will support the Ag team in various day-to-day operations. This includes calving, setting up electric fence, pasture observation, treating/working animals, cattle drives (potentially on horseback), irrigation, herd observation, record keeping, packing beef orders, marketing/social media (if desired), hauling animals, building fence, moving equipment, and more.
What skills and traits are required in an apprentice?
- Able to work alone or with a team
- Observant and willing to ask questions, especially when unsure
- General positive attitude, flexibility, and understanding
- Physically comfortable walking/hiking up steep terrain in hot weather
- Able to lift heavy things or ask for help
- Creative problem solving
- Able to work with a team from many backgrounds/walks of life
Skills that An Apprentice would expect to acquire:
- Safe use of equipment on the ranch- manual trucks, trailers, atvs, tractors, and skid steer
- Understanding of cattle health and body condition goals
- Balancing forage requirement with forage availability in the construction of paddocks
- Building electric polywire fencing and some permanent fence repair
- Light horseback riding, if desired
- How to assess pasture and range for ecological condition and feed quality
- Irrigation- ditches, wheel lines
- How to move, sort and load cattle using low-stress handling techniques
- Understanding the basics of a grass-fed beef business
- Our criteria for cattle genetics in our context
Nuts & Bolts
Start Date: April 1st – December 1st, 2024, flexible
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months, flexible
Stipend: $15.50/hr, 45 hrs/wk, housing included
General work hours: We begin our days between 7 and 8 am. Some days we require earlier starts. We generally work 8-9 hour days. During the season this may vary, with some days being 10 hours and some as little as 5 or 6 hours to makeup the difference.
Housing: Housing is provided on the ranch. There are several options, it just depends on what staff is where. You will likely be in a 21 ft camper fully equipped with a bathroom, fridge, stove/range. It can be hooked up near wi-fi. Laundry and full bathrooms are available for use as well. There are around 5 employees that live on site dispersed throughout the ranch, but you will likely not have any immediate neighbors. The kitchen will come stocked with basic appliances and utensils.
Internet availability: Wi-Fi is available in the housing areas and at most buildings on the ranch.
Cell Service: There is no cell service for any providers on the ranch.
Time off: Apprentices will have two consecutive days off per week. These may be during the week. Occasionally, we may ask you to switch your days off when we have cattle drives, working days, or other pressing projects that need all hands on deck. We definitely can accommodate additional time off such as 3 day weekends or traveling for family events, we just need as much heads up as possible.
Paid Holidays (double pay): New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Day. Sick Days (5 days paid) and Funeral Leave (3 days paid) available.
Visitors: Apprentices will be allowed to have visitors at their own discretion. If you would like to take additional time off to spend with visitors that will have to be coordinated.
Laundry: Available in the housing area
Food: We provide free staff beef. All other food will be the apprentice’s responsibility. There is a big garden space with deer fencing that apprentice can utilize. There are some apple, plum and other fruit trees in the garden as well.
Pets: A well behaved dog will be allowed. They must be able to follow you without leash, have good recall, and not harass livestock, other dogs, barn cats, or wildlife. A cat would also be allowed, though we have many cats running around for rodent control. There are many cats and dogs around the ranch that are not spayed/neutered.
Horse Use: We do most of our cattle moves on foot into adjacent paddocks so horses are only needed for longer drives. We will likely have a horse for a beginner to use and can assist with basic horsemanship. We do not use horses to brand or sort.
All the fun stuff: Tobacco and alcohol use in moderation are permitted at your housing area and in your off time. Smoking is prohibited inside, in ranch vehicles and out on the ranch.
Guns: Guns are allowed but not required and no employees regularly carry. Some employees may choose to carry when the probability of running into bears while on foot is high, but bear spray will also suffice.
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 a ranch vehicle for work.
Personal Vehicle: Due to the location of the ranch, a personal vehicle is required for apprentices to be able to travel for errands and free time activities.
Additional items an apprentice should bring: Most of us have one pair of good all-purpose leather boots that are waterproof. We work in muddy conditions and sometimes have to jump across creeks. Work gloves, a pocket knife, hat, sunscreen, large water bottle, light rain coat. We provide branded button down shirts if desired.
Living at The High Lonesome Ranch: Grocery shopping: The Country Store in De Beque has limited staples. Palisade has a grocery store 45 minutes away, with many options just 15 minutes further in Clifton/Grand Junction. Palisade also has amazing fruit and vegetable farms and is known for its vineyards, peaches and other stone fruit.
Dining: In De Beque- The Reckless Roadhouse (fun chef driven bar/restaurant, $$), The Country Store ($, deli with cheap sandwiches), Kum&Go (Gas Station pizza, etc.)
Entertainment: The Reckless Roadhouse has live music at least 2 days a week as well as karaoke, trivia, Halloween parties, etc. Palisade has tons of festivals throughout the year- two Bluegrass festivals, Peach Festival, Lavender Festival, Wine Fest and more.
Outdoors Activities: The area surrounding the ranch is known for its ample outdoor activities- tons of Mountain Biking, Gravel biking (trails on the ranch as well), skiing (Powderhorn Mountain is a 45 minute drive), rock climbing, hot springs (Glenwood Springs is 1 hour), Grand Mesa National Forest is 1 hour away (hiking, snow shoeing, dozens of lakes for fishing), and we are right on the Colorado River which many people fly fish or float the river for a fun day trip.
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.