New Agrarian Voices

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

Julia Loman, APPRENTICE, Richards Ranch, CO

REFLECTIONS 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. I discovered the joyous rush that comes from preparing garden beds, shoveling compost, and getting myself totally covered in soil. I felt immense pride upon seeing the first baby sprouts pop out of the ground, and tasted a carrot straight from the ground for the first time. At the time, I was working to maintain formal gardens– what I thought to be my dream job. However, something wasn’t lining up right for me, and with time I realized that I would much rather be growing food or restoring ecosystems than maintaining carefully manicured display gardens.

I deepened my agricultural knowledge at Allegheny Mountain Institute in rural Virginia, where I spent two growing seasons. It was there that I realized how much joy it gave me to fully commit my days to growing food and raising animals, and that I could handle the hard work. I discovered that I love how much creativity and problem solving is involved in farming, and that there are endless questions to be asked, with as many answers as there are people to answer them. I learned about the nuances of food production, different types of agriculture, and how systems come together. Particularly, I became fascinated by the way animals can close the loop by replenishing soil nutrients, and as we began rotating our handful of cows, that this quality could be used to improve the health of the land.

As a former biology major whose main interests were systems ecology and forestry, I realized that working on restoring ecosystems through agriculture could bring together many of my interests.

I chose to participate in the New Agrarian Program largely because of the commitment to land stewardship that ties together the ranches in the program. I knew I wanted an intensive learning experience in animal husbandry, but that ecological restoration is equally important to me. Richards Ranch, where I am apprenticing this year, hosts courses with the Savory Institute and is Ecological Outcome Verified (EOV); they monitor pastures closely and are involved with several research groups. Even better, they are still transitioning to regenerative practices, which means I can see parts of the ranch that are responding positively to new methods as well as problem areas that they are still troubleshooting. During the course of the season, I am looking forward to being exposed to all aspects of care for the cattle, sheep and pigs, and to become familiar with the main concerns and day-to-day (care) of these animals. I hope to come away with an understanding of how to implement rotational grazing to foster more ecological diversity and improve the resilience of the land. Eventually, I hope to manage an operation combining perennial food crops and rotationally grazed animals, and I believe I will have a solid foundation for that future once I complete the New Agrarian Program.

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