Ranney RanchRanching Apprenticeship in Corona, New Mexico
The Ranney Ranch is a family owned cow-calf ranching operation that sits at 6200′ in the high mesa country of central New Mexico. The ranch sells young, range-finished beef direct to consumers who value how their food choices impact the environment. The ranch is AGA (American Grassfed Association) and AWA (Animal Welfare Approved) and has been marketing 100% grassfed/grassfinished beef since 2003. Currently, the ranch runs a herd of approximately 200 mother cows. Owners are George, Edward, Nancy Ranney, their spouses and offspring. Melvin Johnson manages the ranch; he and his wife Esther have been with the ranch since 1984 and raised their four children here. The Ranney Ranch team is committed to the ecologic, financial, and family health of the Ranney Ranch and to the health of the Corona ranching community. Ranchers and landowners in the Gallo Canyon have worked together over the past decade on ranching enterprises and on alternative energy development. The Ranney Ranch sponsors ranch tours, workshops, and offers guidance to a new generation of ranchers and land managers.
Meet the mentors
Meet the apprentices
The Ranney Ranch has been in the family since 1968, when George and Nancy Ranney bought two adjoining ranches along the Gallo Canyon near the town of Corona, New Mexico. Over the years they practiced sound conservation practices and developed an Angus/Black Baldy herd, gaining a solid local reputation for fine replacement heifers and breeding stock bulls.
The apprentice at Ranney Ranch will work primarily with Melvin Johnson in day-to-day operations, and with Nancy Ranney on longer-term marketing and planning. Both are deeply committed to mentoring the next generation of ranchers in sound ecological and business practices geared towards the overall resilience of Southwestern grasslands and the communities who steward them.
Melvin Johnson is a fourth generation New Mexico rancher. He and his wife, Esther, came to the Ranney Ranch in 1984 and raised their four children here. Melvin has served on his local Soil and Water Conservation board for 20 years and is presently Vice-chair for Region 6 of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts. He has attended the Graham School of Husbandry and the Noble School of Grazing. He has managed the Ranney Ranch for thirty-two years along with having his own herd.
Nancy Ranney manages the Ranney Ranch for the Ranney family. In 2003 she put in place a restorative grazing plan, based on planned rotational grazing, and started the Ranney Ranch Grassfed Beef program. She is committed to running the ranch on the soundest, most humane, ecologically resilient principles. She works with Melvin Johnson, ranch manager, to develop ranch grazing plans and conservation programs. She also coordinates ranch workshops and retreats. She is on the board of the Quivira Coalition and is President of the Southwest Grassfed Livestock Alliance. She frequently speaks to groups on the health and environmental benefits of regenerative land management and grassfed beef. Nancy has a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Harvard University and a background in land planning.
The Ranney Ranch offers a professional training opportunity for aspiring agrarians committed to a life and career at the intersection of conservation and sustainable agriculture. The apprentice will receive hands-on experience with a cow-calf and grass-finishing operation, including intensive pasture management, low-stress animal handling, animal husbandry, herding, biological monitoring, land stewardship and direct marketing beef.
The apprentice will work closely six days a week with Melvin on a variety of ranching tasks including: daily cattle care: feeding, health monitoring, and pasture movements; moving cattle on horseback; building and maintaining ranch infrastructure (fences, water pipelines, vehicles); pasture planning; analyzing and planning for nutritional needs of cattle at each stage of grass finishing process; monitoring forage quality and utilization. The apprentice will also work with Nancy on maintaining certified humane handling practices and direct marketing grassfed beef.
Ideally the apprenitice will have experience in:
Working with beef cattle
Pipeline/general well work
Ideally the apprentice will be able to:
Lift up to 50 lbs
Back up a trailer
Handle a horse
Survive in a dusty hot environment
Basic riding skills are required, including some experience handling horses. Basic knowledge of home repair/carpentry skills are preferred.
Enthusiasm and a sincere commitment to sustainable agriculture and food production are important and applicants with livestock and some ranch/farm experience are preferred. Physical strength and stamina are required.
This apprenticeship is physically, emotionally, and intellectually challenging. The apprentice will be the only apprentice and one of very few employees at the Ranney Ranch.
If accepted, from March to November of 2016 you will:
- Work outside much of the time, often engaged in monotonous and extremely physical activities.
- Live in a rural place, near a small town with few amenities or neighbors.
- Live in close proximity to your mentors and respect their homes and property.
- Work closely with a small team, day after day.
- Work closely with your mentors daily, adding independent tasks as skills and ability allow.
- Maintain high work quality standards even when working independently.
- Have one day off a week to attend to personal matters during your apprenticeship.
- Receive a stipend of approximately $1500 per month.
- Learn a tremendous amount about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses, how a small-scale sustainable agriculture operation works, and if a career in agriculture is really for you.
Stipend: The monthly stipend will be paid at the end of each month, and can be directly deposited to your bank. The stipend may or may not cover monthly expenses for the apprentice based on his or her needs and lifestyle. 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.
Housing: The apprentice will live in a house at the ranch headquarters. Heat, water and internet (phone) are included in housing and are not additional expenses for the apprentice – though we do ask that you be conscientious of your energy use. Housing can accommodate a partner or spouse.
Time Off: The apprentice will have one fixed day off a week. If an apprentice needs additional days for specific activities, he or she should let the mentors know as soon as possible. Be aware that the ranch and the herd dictate workflow over the course of the apprenticeship.
Food: The apprentice will receive partial board in the form of access to the ranch’s beef. The apprentice will be responsible for his or her own meals.
Quivira Coalition Activities: The apprentice is required to attend the annual Quivira Coalition conference, held each November in Albuquerque, NM; conference and hotel fees are covered by the Quivira Coalition. In addition to the conference, the apprentice will participate in an Holistic Management International webinar series geared Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Series. 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.
NO Smoking or Drugs: No smoking or drugs on ranch, range, vehicles, housing – the ranch is a completely non-smoking, no-drug environment.
NO Partying: No partying. Having a beer/glass of wine or two after work is just fine.
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. The 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.
Ranch Vehicles: All of the ranch vehicles are standard transmission. Apprentices will need to know how to drive stick-shift. Previous experience with backing up trailers is not required, but greatly appreciated.
Personal Vehicle: While there are no instances (or very few) when an apprentice would be asked to use a personal vehicle around the ranch, the apprentice will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle in order to run personal errands such as purchasing groceries and travel on days off.
Living in Corona, New Mexico: The Ranney Ranch is a fifteen minute drive from the small town of Corona, and an hour and a half drive from the towns of Santa Rosa to the northeast, and Moriarty to the northwest. The nearest grocery stores are in Ruidoso, hour and a half to the south and Edgewood, hour and forty-five minutes to the northwest. The climate is arid, with summer highs of 90 degrees and cool nights. Winter is often extremely cold (down to below zero at night). It is an open landscape of mesas, grassland, and canyons. Sparsely populated with an economy focused on agriculture, the area’s culture is rural and tight-knit. The town of Corona has a mini-mart with gas, an excellent library, several churches and no grocery.
Applications for 2018 NAP apprenticeships will be posted online in October.
I grew up on a small homestead/hobby farm in the Ohio Valley region of West Virginia. Neither of my parents came from a strong farming background, but they wanted to raise their kids on a farm. They bought an old fixer-upper farmhouse with six acres and put down roots. Two years and lots of money later, the old farm house we were living in was damaged beyond repair by a flood. My parents had poured their savings into the place and they now had two toddlers (my older brother and I) and no house. My grandparents had moved nearby the year before, so we went to live with them until FEMA relief money enabled us to put a down payment on a double wide, which we still live in.
Our farm, now known as Plum Krazy Acres, was created through choice and necessity. Like many families in rural Appalachia, we grew a garden both out of tradition, and to save a little money at the grocery store. For a few years after the loss of our house we relied on the land for most of our food. We couldn’t afford to buy or feed livestock (we already had two horses), so we filled our freezers with beef that my dad had traded for mechanical work, and venison from the fall whitetail season. Produce from the garden was eaten fresh in the summer and canned for the winter. Taking care of the land and the creatures on it was not just something we did for fun, it was necessary for us to eat. Even though I was too young to form my own opinion about land stewardship at this time, it fostered in my parents and grandparents a sense of guardianship for the land, which they passed on to myself and my siblings.
After my parents got back on their feet, we tried our hand at raising many different species of livestock. Throughout my childhood, we had small numbers of goats, sheep, rabbits, and hogs. Currently, we raise a small herd of Dexter cattle and keep a flock of laying hens, along with a handful of horses. I first became involved in agriculture as a 4-H’er, raising market animals to exhibit and sell at our county fair. This led to becoming involved in FFA, where I was able to experience many different aspects of the industry, from education and outreach to farm equipment sales and service. My involvement in FFA allowed me to travel around the state of West Virginia and the U.S., participating in competitions, attending leadership trainings, and speaking at conferences.
I attended Berea College, a small liberal arts school in central Kentucky, to study agriculture and sustainability. Berea is a work study college, where all students have a job on campus. My primary position was in the campus community service center, but I also had secondary positions on the farm and with the agriculture department as an animal science teaching assistant. During my summers, I had the opportunity to work as an event coordinator for the West Virginia FFA Association, and travel to Ireland to work as a farmhand on two organic farms. I graduated in May with a B.S. in Agriculture and Natural Resources with an unofficial concentration in sustainable food production (the department is too small to have official concentrations).
I chose to pursue an apprenticeship with the New Agrarian Program for a few reasons. I know that I want to attain a Master’s degree and have a career in the agriculture industry, but I do not know where exactly I “fit” in the industry. I have been extremely lucky to have had a broad range of experiences, but unfortunately this has also created an overload of choice. I am hoping to learn about myself and where my passions lie within this industry during this apprenticeship, without the constant pressure of another paper due or an exam coming up.
I am apprenticing with the Ranney Ranch in Corona, New Mexico. While I’m here, I also hope to learn about sustainable livestock production in a semi-arid environment, something I have never been exposed to before. I come from Coal Country, where business often takes precedence over the health of the land and the things that live there. Caring for the environment is extremely important to the Ranneys, as well as to the manager of the ranch, Melvin Johnson. I am very excited to work with the Ranney Ranch this season and learn about livestock production that’s good for the cattle, the ranchers, and the land.
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