New Agrarian Voices

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

Jeane Stafford, APPRENTICE, Shultz Ranch, MT

REFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH

My initial fascination with agriculture began early on in my childhood. Between my deep love for animals and growing up raising livestock on the family farm in northwestern Oregon, my interest in ranching grew. I’ve become especially interested in directly marketing grass fed beef to the consumer as well as the benefits of rotational grazing on the land and soil. Over the years, I have come to enjoy the type of work which comes from the agricultural way of life and working hard. Days where you might be dog tired at the end of a long day and maybe only checked half the projects off your list, but you feel satisfied with a job well done.

I am three generations removed from a time when my family owned their own sheep and cattle ranches so my level of experience has been limited up until starting this apprenticeship. However, my desire to learn and be a part of the ranching life style has been a great asset in this life changing endeavor and I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing learning experience. Since arriving at the Schultz Ranch in Grass Range, MT in mid-April, I have had a chance to experience and learn a plethora of knowledge. As the season progresses, I would like to continue adding more skills to my repertoire which will start me off on the right foot as I pursue a career in agriculture. Eventually, I would like to take on a managerial role on a ranch and perhaps one day, have the chance to own a ranch of my own. 

FINAL REFLECTION

Participating in the New Agrarian Apprenticeship program was one of the best life decisions I could have made. Coming into the program, I knew I was going to learn a great deal, but at the time, I didn’t know just how much that was going to be, or how rewarding the entire experience was going to be for me. 

I arrived at the Schultz Ranch located in Grass Range, Montana, in April during a snowstorm. They were in the middle of calving and ready for warmer days. I remember my second night on the ranch I was night calving with Johnnie, Nick and Marti Schultz’s 10 year old son. There were a couple of times I wasn’t sure the right thing to do, or how something worked, but Johnnie was more than thrilled to help me out. That was only the start. I’ve since done countless jobs where Johnnie, or one of the other two boys, has lended me a hand. It has amazed me how much I learned from everyone one the ranch, no matter their age.

My mentors, Nick and Marti Schultz, taught me a plethora of skills too. One of the skills I wanted to learn coming into the program was how to weld and Nick gave me every opportunity to teach me the basics and allowed me to work on a few welding projects that came up throughout the season. Some of the other things that I enjoyed learning during my time on the ranch were how to operate the different tractors and haying equipment, how to keep records, the different grass species found on the ranch, rotational grazing practices, and what to look for when selecting replacement heifers. One of the great things about learning from Nick and Marti was that I never felt like there was a question I couldn’t ask and they were both so eager, and willing, to help me learn. 

During the time I’ve been with the Schultzs, there have been a few challenges along with the good. One of my biggest challenges this year was that I always seemed to get stuck. Majority of the time, getting out wasn’t too difficult. There was just a little more walking involved to get help. However, we had a wet spring and when the tractor found a sink hole during the middle of farming and I experienced a whole new level of stuck. This difficult situation didn’t end when the tractor was pulled out. When the tractor got stuck, it was at such an uncomfortable angle for me that I ended up developing a fear that from then on anytime I was on a side hill, I was worried the tractor would tip over. This was a fear I had to face through the rest of farming season and throughout haying season. I knew it was all in my head, but it was a challenge I was going to have to face one way or another. To this day, I still have a hard time with being on side hills, but I’ve been able to push through the fear and build my confidence back. I believe this experience allowed me to connect and better help the horse I rode all summer.

The horse I had the pleasure to ride this year was one that spooked at just about everything when we were out riding, refused to cross creeks or go through thick brush or willow stands. Nick tasked me with working with her and it was one of my many highlights of the season. After only a few weeks of working with her, there was an instant where I jumped on her bareback with just a halter after about 20 yearling heifers blew through a fence after getting scared. We were in the creek keeping them from crossing and working them towards the opened gate. Since then, she’s been the horse that I’ve trusted to trail pairs through a couple acres of dense willow stands and to travel across a pasture without her spooking. Knowing that I’ve been able to help Nick out with a problem as well as be able to learn from this horse has been extremely rewarding along with all of the other things I have learned this year. I am confident that all of what I have learned this year will continue to develop and help me in my future. 

The tasks that I learned during the past 7 months have helped prepare me for my next step in life. From the Schultz Ranch in central Montana, I’m heading to North Dakota where I will be starting a new job as a vet assistant that primarily works with beef cattle. I believe that all what Nick has taught me about working cattle and having the opportunity to practice what I have learned helped me get this job and will continue to benefit me. I plan to run a few cows of my own in the near future and possibly get a few colts to train. With all of the new skills I have learned, I feel like my possibilities are endless and I’m excited to see what the future holds for my life in the agricultural community.  

I would like to thank Nick and Marti, who took the time to teach and explain why they do things the way they do them. Everyone might take a different approach to ranching and the areas which matter the most to them may vary, but it was nice to understand the logic behind the way the Schultz operate their ranch. I could bore people by listing all of the tasks I have learned how to do this season, but I think that’s one of the great parts about this program. You are fully immersed into this lifestyle and the day-to-day work that needs to be done. Every day is a little different and every season brings something new to look forward to. And now, my apprenticeship on the Schultz Ranch is coming to a close, but I’m ready more than ever to experience this new chapter of my life.

More Voices

New Agrarian Voices – Peter Feehan

New Agrarian Voices – Peter Feehan

Peter Feehan, APPRENTICE, Seacross Ranch, MTREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH I am certain that I am dedicating my life to agriculture. The specifics of this, however, are still unknown to me. I would like to have a regenerative farm or ranch. Where do I want to live?...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Tyler Vandermark

New Agrarian Voices – Tyler Vandermark

Tyler Vandermark, APPRENTICE, Indreland Ranch, MTREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH At 10 years old I knew I wanted to be an engineer just like my grandfather, whose towering presence and infinite knowledge enamored me. There was little doubt that I possessed the...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Susan Elder

New Agrarian Voices – Susan Elder

Susan Elder, APPRENTICE, Charter Ranch, MTREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH My path to working with Land has been a bit wandering. I’d like to capitalize “Land” because to me, Land is a character. Throughout the narrative of my life, Land has appeared (or I have...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Rex Rutledge

New Agrarian Voices – Rex Rutledge

Rex Rutledge, APPRENTICE, Seacross Ranch, MTREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH In college I jumbled around with a few different majors until I found biology. One of my first courses on my way to my biology degree was general ecology. I was hooked the very first day...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Natalie Berkman

New Agrarian Voices – Natalie Berkman

Natalie Berkman, APPRENTICE, Milton Ranch, MTREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH My experience in agriculture started in 10th grade when I realized the only job I was qualified for was working at a farm stand on the side of a busy road. I started the job with hesitance...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Megan Schmidgall

New Agrarian Voices – Megan Schmidgall

Megan Schmidgall, APPRENTICE, Chauvet Ranch, MTREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH As a typical youth of this generation I graduated from high school and went to college without knowing specifically what line of work I wanted to pursue. Instead of switching my degree...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Brady Lux

New Agrarian Voices – Brady Lux

Brady Lux, APPRENTICE, Moe Ranch, MTREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH Perhaps due to my being dyslexic and as a result a painfully slow reader I still haven’t got through the Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leapold that I started reading when I was a sophomore in high...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Sam Schmidt

New Agrarian Voices – Sam Schmidt

Sam Schmidt, APPRENTICE, San Juan Ranch, COREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH My becoming involved in agriculture began with the hard realization that the assumptions I had made about my life’s trajectory were wrong. I had just finished a one-and-a-half-year stint at a...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Noelle Mcdonough

New Agrarian Voices – Noelle Mcdonough

Noelle Mcdonough, APPRENTICE, San Juan Ranch, COREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH There were several forces at play that caused agriculture to find me and encouraged me to apply for the Quivira NAP apprenticeship at San Juan Ranch in Saguache, CO. Growing up in the...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Julia Loman

New Agrarian Voices – Julia Loman

Julia Loman, APPRENTICE, Richards Ranch, COREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH My interest in agriculture began in the city of Detroit, Michigan, of all places. Fresh out of college, I found myself helping out at a tiny urban garden and learning how to grow vegetables....

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Ian Trupin

New Agrarian Voices – Ian Trupin

Ian Trupin, APPRENTICE, XK Bar Ranch, COTAKE A PEEK INTO THE DAILY LIFE OF AN APPRENTICE BY READING THEIR RESPONSES TO THESE QUESTIONS.   What is something you do every day? I let the chickens out, collect eggs, feed them, and shut them in every day. Most of my...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Dylan Jones

New Agrarian Voices – Dylan Jones

Dylan Jones, APPRENTICE, Sol Ranch, NMTAKE A PEEK INTO THE DAILY LIFE OF AN APPRENTICE BY READING THEIR RESPONSES TO THESE QUESTIONS.   What is something you do every day? I wake up on the right side of the dirt, surrounded by beautiful country. What items do you...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – DeAnne Gabriel

New Agrarian Voices – DeAnne Gabriel

DeAnne Gabriel, APPRENTICE, Indian Ridge Farm, COREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH I am a woman who follows her heart. Every time I feel the pull of something new, I marvel at how lucky I am to get to go with the flow and see where it will take me. From a life of...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Dave LeFavre

New Agrarian Voices – Dave LeFavre

Dave LeFevre, APPRENTICE, Indian Ridge Farm, COREFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH Even though it has only been 3 weeks at Indian Ridge Farm it definitely feels like it’s been easily over a month! Every day has been filled with perfectly amazing sights and sounds,...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Christopher Mellen

New Agrarian Voices – Christopher Mellen

Christopher Mellen, APPRENTICE, Round River Resource Management, COMy 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...

read more
New Agrarian Voices – Charlotte Moore

New Agrarian Voices – Charlotte Moore

Charlotte, APPRENTICE, Tooley's Trees, NMReflections after the First Month   Before I wanted to be a farmer, I wanted to be a social worker. Understanding people, discovering why they are the way they are was one of my first passions in life. Quickly, I realized...

read more