Rafter W RanchMulti-species operation featuring grass-fed and finished cattle, lamb and pastured poultry
Rafter W Ranch is a family-run operation. Our entire family lives or works on the ranch and apprentices will expect to interact with not only their mentors but also our adult children, Bryan (a professional carpenter), his wife Christine and their 3 children Tuvia, Liev and Iliyah (2 of whom work with us), Brett who works with us on the ranch and Brandon who is a professional welder. We operate on 1,000 deeded acres of native range with additional leased pasture in the local area. All of the products that are produced here are marketed direct-to-consumer on the Front Range of Colorado and beyond. Apprentices will learn the website, order processing, order fulfillment and shipping of product.
At Rafter W Ranch we prioritize soil and ecosystem health. Our cattle are raised 100% on grass for their entire lives. We move them to new pasture daily… sometimes twice a day. This way they have access to the freshest, most lush forage, and provide the rich fertilizer our pastures need to thrive. And, we give them fresh water daily from our well. Our chickens and sheep are the same; we practice intensive rotational grazing with all species so they graze, fertilize the soil, and move on.
As part of our Audubon Certified Habitat Management Plan, we defer 50% of the ranch from any livestock activity during the months of May and June to ensure adequate nesting habitat for our grassland birds, which has not only benefited our birds, but other wildlife species as well. In late fall of 2021 we are participating with Audubon Rockies on deep core soil sampling and further soil monitoring. Additionally, we will be implementing a Key Line project in late 2021, in conjunction with Audubon Rockies, to increase water infiltration on the landscape. Apprentices will have the opportunity to participate in the monitoring of these practices for overall affect both near and long term.
If you would like to follow this work and do it in a family atmosphere we would love to speak with you!
Check out Rafter W Ranch’s Social Media
Lance & Lisa Wheeler
My name is Lance Wheeler and together with my wife Lisa, our son Brett, and our newest team member Rowan, we operate Rafter W Ranch. In addition to operating the ranch I also own and operate a plumbing company. As part of that business and being a master plumber, I have extensive experience in training apprentices and can provide training in necessary water components specific to ranch and farm applications. Lisa is the person principally responsible for order processing and customer service while also ensuring that things run smoothly at ranch headquarters in addition to studying to be a Homeopathic practitioner, which we also implement with our livestock should the need arise. Brett is the man responsible for implementation of our annual and functional daily planning. Both Brett and I are graduates of HMI and grazing practice schools and prize education as a critical part of this pursuit.
The reason that we are part of the New Agrarian Program is a result of our faith directing our thought process, as a result we understand the need to build a multi-generational vision for regeneration not only for the land but also for the people who work it and those that benefit from it.
Lance will be your principal mentor though you will work closely with Lisa and Brett. We truly do work as a team.
What will an apprentice do?
A list of work duties would include but not be limited to:
- Grazing planning, range assessment, and livestock moves for cattle, sheep, laying hens, and broiler chickens
- Early season feeding of cattle and sheep
- Calving/lambing assistance
- Four chicken harvests in Summer and selection of beef and lamb for harvest in the Fall
- More ranching duties would include, fencing, weed management, tractor driving, basic maintenance of equipment and buildings, cleaning barns, farming, hauling animals, and whatever other surprises that ranching throws at us.
- Meat business duties may include marketing and sorting meat
Skills that An Apprentice would expect to acquire:
- Safe use of equipment on the ranch, including trucks, trailers, atv’s, utv’s and tractors
- The care and feeding of cattle, sheep and chickens
- Fencing basics from barbed wire to permanent electric and temporary electric fence.
- How to assess the pasture for condition and quality and when to move livestock in or out of each pasture
- How to manage wells, both windmill and solar.
- How to process and fulfill orders from the website. (While this will not be the primary focus of your apprenticeship, there will be peak times of the year that require all of our attention.)
- How to assess cattle for finished quality and which animals may not make the grade.
- How to adapt in a difficult or trying circumstance and push through to get the job done.
As your apprenticeship progresses through the year we hope that you will gain an increased confidence and resilience that will carry you forward into the future.
Nuts & Bolts
Start and End Dates: Ideal start date is March 20th, 2022 and the ideal end date November 20, 2022. However, we do try to be as flexible as we can with whatever time constraints that you may have.
Length of Apprenticeship: 8 months
Stipend: The stipend is roughly $1000/month, depending on experience. The position does not allow time for a second job, so the apprentice should consider his or her budgetary needs before applying to this position.
General work day: You will expect your day to begin at 7am when we will meet to discuss and line out the plans for the day (sometimes over breakfast) and then begin the day’s tasks. A typical day will end around 5pm. You will find that the flow of each day and/or season can be quite different. In the early spring you may find that flow is a bit slower (we hope that this may help with acclimation) as we will likely still be feeding the livestock until greenup arrives. Once the pastures are sufficiently green and growing it will be time to strap in for the grazing season. Days will begin at the same time but the pace will pick up substantially with the building of polywire fence, cattle, sheep and chicken moves, hauling water where necessary. Please be advised that not all days go 100% according to plan, so flexibility is important! Imagine, for example, you get up one morning and the cattle or the sheep aren’t exactly where they’re supposed to be! Adjust, adapt and overcome! There will also be days that run long out of necessity such as moving cattle from one property to another or on chicken harvest days. You will be tired but rest assured that we will be tired right along with you!
Housing: Housing provided is a medium size camper. Has a full kitchen, heat and a/c, and bedroom. The camper will be fully furnished.
Laundry: The apprentice will have access to a washer and dryer in our home.
Internet availability: WiFi is available at our home. Cell service is good. Verizon and AT&T are the best providers.
Time off: Saturdays will be your day off. There may be opportunities for additional days off as time allows.
Visitors policy: Apprentice will be allowed to have visitors, however we do not allow extended periods of stay (more than three days). We can be flexible with extenuating circumstances.
Food: Apprentice will be provided with $125 beef credit per month.
Pets: No pets.
Tobacco and alcohol use: Tobacco and alcohol use in moderation are permitted on site.
Guns: Apprentice is allowed to bring guns to the ranch but we expect to be consulted if apprentice wants to use guns on our property.
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. Rafter W Ranch carries Workman’s Compensation to cover injuries incurred on the job. But if the apprentice is injured on his or her day off, gets sick, or has or develops chronic conditions like allergies, these types of issues should be covered by personal health insurance.
COVID-19 policy: We endeavor to treat all circumstances holistically and are deeply invested in your health and well-being and will address any illness as the circumstance requires.
Ranch vehicles: Apprentice will use ranch vehicles for work, to include trucks, UTV and tractors.
Personal vehicle: A personal vehicle is highly recommended for apprentice independence on their time off but is not required for the apprenticeship.
Additional items an apprentice should bring: Apprentices are welcome to bring their own coffee mugs, utensils, bed sheets and towels, but these items are available if need be. We would strongly encourage you to bring good, durable footwear as the terrain can be rather uneven and there are some small cacti in certain areas. You may wish to bring gloves and clothing for most weather conditions from some cold to hot days and some wet weather as well. When you arrive in March you will expect lows in the 30’s with the real possibility of snow during March and April (we look forward to this and the moisture it brings!), you will expect thunderstorms to move through the area principally during the late spring and early summer (some of these can be very intense), as we warm into the summer highs will typically range from the upper 80’s to the upper 90’s with a handful of days around 100, however the nights here are beautifully cool and restorative. And last but not least, bring a sense of humor. We like to laugh and subscribe to the principle that you should be able to have fun while you’re working.
Living at Rafter W Ranch:
- Grocery shopping: There is a Safeway grocery store and a Walmart in the town of Elizabeth a 30 minute drive west or a Natural Grocers in Castle Rock or Parker a 45 minute drive west.
- Dining: There is a cafe and hamburger place in the town of Simla a 20 minute drive southeast. There are 3 restaurants in the town of Kiowa a 20 minute drive west and additional restaurants in the town of Elizabeth.
Entertainment: Each Friday night from June to early September there is an event with live music, food and beer. Movie theaters and other entertainment are available in Castle Rock and Parker. In June, the Elizabeth Stampede takes place.
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 provided in partnership with Holistic Management International, and attend the annual Quivira Conference, hosted with Holistic Management International and the American Grassfed Association, in November. Apprentices are also required to write several reports during their apprenticeship; these reports will go through the NAP Coordinator at Quivira, and be posted on the Quivira website.
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