New Agrarian Voices

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

Marcos Baez, APPRENTICE, Round River Resource Management, CO

First Month Reflection

Regenerative agriculture has become a great passion of mine, and it has filled my life with purpose to create positive change and to do work that is meaningful and very much needed. In retrospect, I have been longing to live a life working outside, connected to nature and the land that surrounds me. Nevertheless, the pursuit to building a life around regenerative agriculture has been a long journey, and there is still plenty more to go in order for me to achieve my goals. I am confident that Quivira’s New Agrarian apprenticeship program will provide me with the confidence, tools, and knowledge that I require to reach my desired goals in agriculture.

Growing up in the capital city of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, I spent most of my weekends up in the mountains where I would spend my days on horseback or ATVs exploring the countryside. I would fantasize about being part of great cattle moves as seen on western movies, and this would plant a seed inside of me that would lay dormant and sprout many years later. Being part of a city family that has been removed from anything involving agriculture for many generations, an agrarian career, or lifestyle was never seen as a viable option to pursue. I allowed myself to be taken by the momentum of life, and found myself years later working long hours in a cubicle for a large corporation. For many, I was on track to have a successful, promising career, but deep inside I felt unfulfilled and wasted.

In an effort to escape the life I foresaw myself having, I started to research about the topic of homesteading and raising your own food in a healthy, humane way. With current practices and how capital-intensive it is to run a conventional agriculture farm, I knew it was not for me. So I decided to find alternatives, which led me to discover regenerative agriculture and to learn about successful practitioners. I found the works of Allan Savory, Joel Salatin, Andre Voisin, Greg Judy, and many others and spent the next two years consuming all the information available on the topic, while saving money from my corporate job which allowed me to find some land and make the jump.

Four years after a lot of learning and experimenting in regenerative agriculture, I have decided to find a mentor who will provide me with the confidence and technical skills that I am lacking. I have found that I am deeply passionate about grassland ecosystem management that takes into account the whole system. Now I am working to gain the skills required to holistically manage and regenerate extensive tracts of grasslands, while running a profitable business that affords me my desired quality of life.

Final Reflection

Quivira’s New Agrarian program has been such a worthwhile experience, and its effects will reverberate throughout the rest of my life. After completing the apprenticeship program, I feel that I am on a direct course to achieve the goals and build the life that I envision for myself. The positive impacts this program has provided include opened doors into mentor operations, facilitated relationships, and accelerated my learning necessary to creating the holistic context I visualize. I am confident that the New Agrarian Program is a pillar that will help me become a regenerative land and livestock manager. 

For the past six years, I have been on a journey trying to build a life and career around regenerative agriculture and land management without any agricultural or even rural background. Having been raised in a very urban environment, life’s momentum had me sitting in a cubicle staring at the rest of my life with dread. After looking into homesteading as a way to escape, I stumbled into the topic of regenerative agriculture. I ended up consuming all available media on the topic, volunteering at local farms, and saving money, until I felt I was ready to make a big jump. I bought some land and started my own small farmstead. After four years of many lessons learned, I felt I needed to find an experienced mentor. My experiences and knowledge showed me that I wanted to manage and impact extensive tracts of land with holistic grazing of herbivores. I felt I needed to learn from someone who was successfully doing it. Combined with other life events at the time, my family and I decided to sell our small farm and move west. With the goal of finding a mentor as soon as I arrived, it did not take me long to find out about Quivira’s New Agrarian Program. I was able to find a mentor operation that was exactly the type of business I dream of building. Fortunately, I was offered the position at this ranch. 

Working at this operation has been a very rewarding experience, and I have been able to build meaningful relationships that will last for a long time. The skills I have acquired throughout this year have given me confidence in myself. Confidence that with the right tools, I am actually capable of being successful in achieving my goals. This has to be the main take-away out of the program. For example, as someone that would like to have a positive impact on managed ecosystems with the use of herbivores, being able to move herds of more than one thousand animals alone with ease and excitement is invaluable. 

The challenges that I faced throughout the apprenticeship only highlighted the passion I have for this work, and built on my motivation to strive and work hard to achieve the future I wish to build for myself and my family. In order to be a part of this program without affecting my family life, which consists of my wife and young daughter, I had a four hour daily commute. This was definitely the biggest challenge for me. At first, I was worried that I would not be able to balance it without draining my energy and have it either affect my performance or my quality time with family. As time passed, I realized that my love and passion would be enough fuel. This was something I had not experienced in my life. Proving to myself what I was capable of doing as long as I felt a love for it was very eye opening. Waking up to go to work was just as exciting as driving back home to be with my family. After all, I am aware that I get to follow my dreams and passions instead of the alternative of sitting down in a cubicle all day. Another challenge I faced this year was going from a six-man team to just being my mentor and I. Being the newest member of the team, I felt nervous that I would not be able to meet expectations. Nevertheless, I doubled down and proved to myself (and hopefully my mentor) that the operation could be run with just the two of us. My goal going into the apprenticeship was to learn how to manage such an operation with a small team!

The lessons I have learned this year are numerous, but mainly this experience has given me a level of competence in which I now know what it is that I don’t know. As opposed to before starting the apprenticeship, I was not even aware of everything there is to learn. It is clear that this journey will never stop teaching me lessons, and opportunities for growth will always be available. Among other things, I have learned about good business practices and sound financial planning to ensure that the operation remains sustainable. My mentor has also showed me the value in investing in good education and the effects it can have on the team and overall business. 

The New Agrarian Program facilitated opening the door in to this operation, and now I have an opportunity to stay long-term, continue my education, while at the same time starting my own grazing enterprise within the ranch. This will allow my mentor to continue to share his knowledge, and now he will be able to mentor on the business side as well. We hope to continue to grow together and evolve our relationship into a partnership that will help the both of us reach our goals.

Quivira has shown tremendous support throughout the whole experience, and it has made me feel like they have my best interest in mind. I look forward to a continued relationship with the Quivira community, and to continue to grow alongside so many like-minded people. This program is very important and valuable for those that are not born into this life, and are looking for help to make such a big shift. I feel that I have been afforded all the possible tools I need to succeed, and now it is up to me to make it happen. 

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