New Agrarian Program

Supporting apprenticeship and mentorship in agriculture

ApprenticeshipsBecome a Mentor


The New Agrarian Program (NAP) partners with skilled ranchers and farmers to offer annual apprenticeships in regenerative agriculture. Our apprentices learn from expert practitioners in full-immersion professional settings.

This program specifically targets first-career professionals with a sincere commitment to life at the intersection of conservation and regenerative agriculture.

We also seek mentors who are dedicated stewards of the land; practice intentional, regenerative methods of food or fiber production; provide excellent animal care; and are skilled and enthusiastic teachers.

“Once upon a time apprenticeship was the primary form of education available to a person, whatever the field – medicine, music, cobbler, or scholar. Not necessarily a beginner but not yet a master, an apprentice agreed to work for a specific period of time for a master craftsperson in a craft or trade, in return for instruction. An agrarian apprenticeship is a form of this age-old process whereby a learner becomes a practitioner.” – Julie Sullivan, San Juan Ranch, CO

Since 2008, NAP has partnered with ranches and farms around the Southwest to offer eight- to twelve-month apprenticeships and has successfully graduated over 25 apprentices.

Agriculture drives economies, creates green jobs and directly affects the health of our nation. With the national average age of U.S. ranchers and farmers approaching sixty, and with less than two percent of the U.S. population currently dedicated to producing food, it is critical that the next generation of food producers and land stewards have sufficient training opportunities.

NAP Apprentices have gone on to become ranch managers, start their own agricultural operations, join family businesses with new enterprises, work at federal agencies and nonprofits providing direct services to ranchers and farmers, and a number of other critical roles to the future of healthy working lands and functioning food systems.

For Apprentices

What to expect

Contact Hours

Apprentices can expect approximately 1200 – 1600 contact hours over an eight month period.


Apprentices attend a group orientation in March, held in or near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Apprentice Workbook

Each apprentice receives a copy of the NAP Apprentice Workbook, which includes a daily work log for recording weather, hours worked, activities, observations and questions that arise during the day. Work logs are shared with mentors during check-ins, serving to guide the review of tasks completed and assess progress. The workbook also includes a schedule of the full eight months of the apprenticeship to help the apprentice track important program dates and events.


Apprentices schedule an initial assessment upon arrival, followed by a minimum of four evaluations with their mentors throughout the season, approximately one every other month. During each check-in, apprentices and mentors review skills checklists, which are tailored to each apprenticeship, and discuss other topics or concerns as needed.

Ranch / Farm Visits

During their eight-month apprenticeships, apprentices are given access to a travel fund to cover transportation to the conference and to other farm and ranch visits – including other NAP mentor operations, if possible.  The purpose of these visits is to expose the apprentice to different perspectives and practices.


Apprentices receive approximately thirty-five hours of online instruction covering a range of topics relevant to land health, business development, and financial management. These webinars are offered through Holistic Management International (HMI), and divided into five, six-week courses.

Quivira Conference

Apprentices attend the annual Quivira Conference where they represent the program and assist with a variety of tasks and events including the New Agrarian Career Connection. Graduation from the program takes place and is celebrated at the conference.


Each apprentice submits two reports to NAP: 1) a one-page personal introduction, due the second week of their apprenticeship, and 2) a three-page final report and a copy of the completed skills checklist, due November 1.


Apprentice education is divided into four categories: experiential learning, online classroom sessions, visits to other operations and the annual Quivira Conference.

Experiential learning

Apprentices spend more than 80 percent of their scheduled time on the host operation working alongside their mentor or, as their learning progresses, engaging in more independent activities. They engage in all activities necessary for the daily operation of the ranch or farm. Basic, repetitive tasks are balanced with new and increasingly challenging work to enable the development of higher-level skills and to further apprentice learning.

Online Classroom instruction

Holistic Management International Certified Educators host five online courses, which total approximately thirty-five hours of classroom instruction, each lasting six to seven weeks and addressing topics ranging from soil health and land management to biological monitoring, financial management and business planning. All NAP apprentices participate in the webinars at the same time each week. Reading and writing exercises are assigned and generally require two to three hours to complete before the next session. Apprentices may have additional opportunities to attend meetings, workshops, and conferences local to their host operations.

Site visits

Apprentices visit other ranches and farms for the opportunity to see different models and management styles. Apprentices identify operations they are interested in visiting (typically NAP host operations, but not necessarily) and schedule one to two days visits.

The Quivira Conference

In November, apprentices visit Albuquerque to attend a wide variety of workshops and plenary presentations addressing land health, regenerative agriculture, food systems and other relevant topics. The conference offers apprentices an opportunity to network and seek out their next career steps.


An apprenticeship is designed to be a hands-on, working and learning experience, offering high-quality professional training and education. The greatest benefit to apprentices is the opportunity to become fully immersed in the daily labor and operation of their host operation. Other compensation includes:


Approximately 1200-1600 hours of direct mentorship and hands-on learning, thirty-five hours of online classroom instruction, visits to other operations, and the annual Quivira Conference.


Apprentices receive monthly pay as employees of their host ranch or farm. The specific amount is determined by the host mentor, based on labor law and apprenticeship regulations specific to their state.


Mentors provide apprentice housing on or near the ranch or farm, separate from mentor housing. Housing includes adequate heating and other utilities, easy access to cooking and bathing facilities, and some private space for the apprentice. Apprentices are expected to keep living spaces clean at all times. While there will usually be Internet access on host operations, it may or may not be directly accessible in the apprentice housing. Apprentices are expected to provide their own telephones and telephone service.


While apprentices can expect to have some food provided by their host operations, they must clarify details and expectations related to food with their mentors as soon as possible upon accepting the apprenticeship position. Some mentors will provide a variety of food as ranch or farm products, while others will provide shared meals or possibly additional food stipends. Apprentices may be expected to participate in food preparation and clean-up for shared meals.

Workers’ Compensation

Apprentices are covered by workers’ compensation during the periods of their apprenticeships spent on the host operation. While most work-related injuries are covered, those that occur during off hours are not. Mentors will discuss details with apprentices as soon as possible after they arrive at the host operation.

Days Off

Apprentices will be given a minimum of one day off per week (or two consecutive days off every other week). The day off will be the same each week, and will begin by 4:30 the previous day when possible, and be free of any and all host ranch/farm-related obligations.

Paid Leave

Apprentices generally may negotiate up to five days paid personal leave for their eight-month apprenticeship. Apprentices are encouraged to clarify details pertaining to days off and paid leave with their mentors as soon as possible upon beginning their apprenticeship.

Apprenticeship Locations

Cobblestone Ranch

Grass-fed Sheep and Cattle

Chico, California

James Ranch Artisan Cheese

Grass-fed Raw Milk Dairy and Cheesemaking

Durango, Colorado

Ranney Ranch

Direct Market Grass-fed Beef

Corona, New Mexico

San Juan Ranch

Organic Grass-fed Beef

Saguache, Colorado

Tooley's Trees

Tree Nursery

Truchas, New Mexico

Vilicus Farms

Organic Heirloom Grains

Havre, Montana

Round River Resource Management

Cattle Grazing

Rush, Colorado

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For Ranchers and Farmers

Help train the next generation of regenerative land managers and food producers. We are actively seeking ranches and farms to join our New Agrarian Program as mentors for the next generation of regenerative agriculture practitioners.

NAP mentors are dedicated stewards of the land; they practice intentional, regenerative methods of food production, provide excellent animal care, and are skilled and enthusiastic teachers. Quivira partners with mentors who are full-time, established ranchers or farmers with a minimum of five years’ experience and who are passionate teachers actively seeking to train young people in their field.

Quivira provides training and technical support to mentors in: finding apprentices who are qualified and a good fit; understanding the legalities and logistics related to having an on-ranch or on-farm employee; communicating with apprentices and evaluating their work and learning.

We currently partner with mentor ranches and farms in New Mexico, California, Colorado and Montana; our focus is on operations in the arid to semi-arid west.

NAP guidelines are general by design in order to allow for the incorporation of mentor needs and circumstances into custom-designed apprenticeships.

Mentor Qualifications

New Agrarian Program mentors are full-time ranchers and farmers on regenerative agricultural operations located in the western United States. These operations provide products to local/regional markets and/or specialize in soil regeneration.


  • Have five years in operation and previous experience directly supervising ranch/farm staff or trainees
  • Prioritize healthy soil, food, communities, and ecosystems;
  • Maintain a culture, rhythm, and agricultural practice that provides a high quality of life for both people and animals
  • Want to teach and to be an apprentice’s full-time employer, teacher, and life coach;
  • Have time and capacity to instruct an apprentice and give him or her meaningful feedback
  • Have a payroll sytems compliant with the requirements of the IRS and state taxation division
  • Have adequate, safe apprentice housing, independent of mentor housing

Mentor Obligations

An apprenticeship provides a good balance of active instruction, hands-on skill development and labor in support of the daily operation of a ranch or farm. Mentors commit to providing their apprentices with education and employment experience within their means. In order to ensure a successful apprenticeship and the effective integration of work and instruction, mentors in our program can expect to do the following.

For apprentices

  • Provide full-time employment (approx. 170-180 days over eight months) and daily mentoring in a safe working environment compliant with state and federal requirements
  • Pay as an employee with access to workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance compliant with labor laws
  • Provide a work contract including an employment period, work description and expectations, compensation, and termination policy
  • Balance work-intensive days or weeks due to seasonal fluctuation with adequate rest and time off
  • Conduct weekly planning meetings with apprentice to outline workload expectations and to answer questions
  • Spend several hours per day with apprentice in a work-learn environment
  • Conduct four formal evaluations using a skills checklist with the apprentice
  • Conduct entry and exit interviews 

For Quivira

  • Provide a copy of each evaluation, updated skills checklist, and entry and exit interviews
  • Sign an annual memorandum of understanding and a grant agreement
  • Attend mentor orientation and periodic conference calls throughout the season
  • Attend the Quivira Coalition conference and participate in NAP’s Career Connection and Mentor Breakfast during the event
  • Occasionally host other NAP apprentices for ranch/farm overnight work visits
  • Host an annual site visit with a staff member including overnight accommodation if distance requires it

New Agrarian Program Support and Benefits

The New Agrarian Program provides mentors with initial, on-site guidance and basic apprenticeship structure in order to ensure a consistent model across the program. At the same time, mentors are given plenty of room within which to customize apprenticeships.

What we provide

  •  Individual website pages featuring each mentor operation and apprenticeship
  • Outreach and promotion, including advertising online, in print, and in communities local to each apprenticeship
  • Assistance with application and selection process, including a standard application, application processing, and collaborative review
  • Guidance for structuring thorough two-phase interview process
  • Annual site visits
  • One-on-one support as needed
  • Annual mentor training
  • A network of other mentors for peer-to-peer support
  • Support for travel expenses associated with apprenticeships
  • Registration at the annual Quivira Conference for both mentors and apprentices

How you benefit

  • Access to highly motivated young people with experience and a commitment to careers in agriculture
  • 170 – 180 days of apprentice labor
  • Logistical, administrative, and limited financial support from the Quivira Coalition
  • Training in mentorship
  • A supportive network of New Agrarian Program mentors to share experiences, compare notes, and seek input from
  • Free access to Holistic Management International webinars designed as part of apprentice education

Please email questions and inquiries to Monica Pless, New Agrarian Program Coordinator or call 505.820.2544, Ext. 5.

Agrarian Apprenticeship Handbook

For the last year, the New Agrarian Program has delved deep into the state of agricultural apprenticeship in the US as part of a Thornburg Foundation funded research project. The culmination of this work is a 120+ page book detailing our findings, profiling apprenticeship programs around the US, and a guide to starting an apprenticeship on your ranch or farm. In 2015, the New Agrarian Program launched a national dialogue among agricultural apprenticeship programs in order to foster systemic improvements in agricultural education and practice and to encourage the development of new programs of a consistently high quality. Initial research included in-depth analysis of apprenticeship programs, follow-up interviews, and site visits to diverse regions and regenerative agricultural operations. This work has culminated in Agrarian Apprenticeship. We hope you enjoy reading it, and using it as a resource.  The digital edition is available for free online here, you can download a PDF, or you can order a hard copy for $30. The print edition is a limited run, so reserve a copy today by emailing

Agrarian Apprenticeship Guidebook

Career Connection & New Agrarian News

New Agrarian News

Once a month we send out news about New Agrarian apprenticeships and about other agrarian work and learning opportunities. We offer this service free to the community, and we encourage you to use our network to find an employee, apprentice, or intern for your ranch or farm.

Career Connection

The New Agrarian Career Connection is an agricultural career fair designed to connect established producers and land managers with the next generation of ranchers and farmers. This event, hosted by Quivira Coalition’s New Agrarian Program, the National Young Farmers Coalition, and the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition, is a great place to find just the right candidate for your ranch or farm.

Prospective employers/mentors include (but are not limited to) private ranches and farms, conservation groups, food advocacy organizations, government agencies, land use service consultants (e.g. Holistic Management) and related private-sector businesses. Quivira’s New Agrarian Program works with the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition to help ensure a strong showing of highly qualified, enthusiastic beginning farmers, ranchers and land advocates in search of mentorship and opportunity.

This event happens twice a year; in the fall at the Quivira Conference and in the spring at the New Mexico Organic Farming Conference.

Please take a moment to share your opportunity.

For Career Connection, if you submit before November 2, 2017, we will list your job, business, or learning opportunity in the program and assign a table at the event where job seekers can find you.

For New Agrarian News, if you submit before the end of the previous month, we will list your opportunity in the news of the following month.

New Agrarian News

Get information about apprenticeships, jobs, and other opportunities.

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