Ranney Ranch

Ranching 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.In 2017, Ranney Ranch was certified as the first New Mexico ranch in the Audubon Conservation Ranching Program; beef is now marketed as “Raised on Bird-Friendly Land”.

Meet the mentors


Meet the apprentices

Ranney Ranch

Currently, the ranch runs a herd of approximately 270 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.

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 mid 1990’s witnessed an ominous shift to drier times across the Southwest and by 2002, when the next generation took the reins, the ranch could no longer sustain the livestock numbers of the lush 1970s and 1980s. A new management program, “planned rotational grazing”, was implemented in 2003 under the guidance of Kirk Gadzia, Resource Management Services, and in short order, even during extreme drought years in the Corona area, the ranch witnessed a remarkable resurgence of native grassland species and the recovery of soils and pastures. Formal monitoring occurs twice yearly but pastures are continually evaluated for forage health and capacity as the herd moves across the ranch.
The ranch is in its second five year round of the NRCS Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) which requires intensive monitoring.  In the past three years, the Ranney Ranch has been able to increased its livestock carrying capacity to pre-drought numbers and has shown that its management practices serve to regenerate soils, increase water retention potential and store significant quantities of soil carbon. The increased biodiversity has brought health to the soil, resilience in the face of drought, and the opportunity to market unique grassfed beef.

The Mentors

The apprentice at Ranney Ranch will work primarily with Melvin Johnson in day-to-day operations and on infrastructure improvements 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 Vice 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:
Horse handling/riding
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 2018 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 of $1500 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.

Want to read more? Here’s our October 2017 New Agrarian Newsletter profile of the Ranney Ranch.


Applications for Ranney Ranch’s 2019 apprenticeship are closed.

2019 Apprentice

Mitchell Robert

There are three core values that have lead me to become an apprentice at Ranney Ranch: increased access and awareness to healthy foods to all as a right not as a privileged, sustainable and holistic land and animal management, and my love for working in the outdoors and with nature. These values are a product of the culmination of my experiences to date.

My introduction to agriculture and food systems began when I was eleven when I started spending the summers working on my uncle’s ranch in Eastern Washington, a cow calf and grain operation. Initially my duties were to move sprinklers, build fence line, paint buildings, paint more buildings, oh and then paint some more buildings. Slowly my responsibilities evolved into working more with the cattle and operating different tractors. As I grew up and moved to Seattle to go get my bachelors in mathematics my summers were spent elsewhere but my time spent on the ranch sparked an interest in agriculture and an understanding of what large scale agriculture looks like. During my time in Seattle my desire to work with food never left and inspired me to become involved in community garden spaces and to work on urban farms. The continued exposure to different types of food systems inspired my decision to join the Peace Corps as a food security volunteer in Nepal.

When I was in Nepal I experienced first hand whet it takes to be a subsistence farmer and the changes in values that occur. When you rely on the land to feed you and not the grocery store your relationship to food and land shifts. You feel far more connected to it and appreciate and value where it comes from and the work it takes. The reality in America is different then Nepal where eighty percent of its population is subsistence farmers. Here people have become disconnected from where their food comes from but by promoting local food sources and educating people on what proper food systems look like we can attempt to appreciate our food more like the people of Nepal do.

When I returned from Nepal I wanted to continue to learn more about food production. This lead me to rural Virginia where I worked on a five acre organic vegetable farm that directly sold its produce to farmers markets in Washington D.C. Here I gained more intimate knowledge on how to grow healthy food and learned the challenges that small farmers face in order to stay financially viable. From here I decided I wanted to come back out West to get back out in the big open spaces. Fortunately I was accepted as an apprentice at Ranney Ranch. It is here that I hope to learn more on sustainable and holistic land and animal management.

2018 Apprentice

Ben Vanderhoof

I was born in Fresno California and I have lived there my whole life. While living in the middle of the city, why am I so interested in agriculture? The answer to that is in my family history as well as my natural interest in cattle.

My great grandpa got into ranching in the early 1930’s. He was instrumental in bringing the first Polled Herefords to California. At that time, Herefords were mostly horned. He raised registered Polled Herefords and was very successful at it. When my grandpa took over the operation, he decided to phase out the registered cattle and go more commercial. He was a Veterinarian and a Cattleman at the same time. Therefore, he ended up leasing the whole operation to another rancher because he was so busy with his vet practice. Eventually, the ranch was sold before I was born in the 1970’s. Even though I never got to work on the ranch or experience ranch life growing up, I always felt that ranching and cattle were in my blood. And this brings me to where I am today.

I got my first cows when I was fourteen. We had a family friend who was a cattleman who gave me two orphan bottle calves. I rented a pasture about a mile from my house and I rode my bike twice a day with two bottles of milk to go feed them. This was the beginning of my agriculture career. The Cattleman who gave me the orphan calves ended up hiring me when I was 17, and I worked out there for a number of years before they sold their herd. I had a small herd of cattle for a few years before I sold theml, as I became busier with school. I ended up working out side of the agriculture Industry just to get by. Even though I was not involved with ranching anymore, I still had the desire to get back into it and learn as much as I could. Years earlier, when I was 12 years old, I purchased Range Magazine in a super market in Great Falls Montana when we were on a family vacation. That magazine opened up a whole new world of ranching that I had not considered before. Especially the articles about rangeland stewardship and Holistic Grazing. The articles happened to be from the Quivira Coalition and the Savory Institute. I knew that someday day I needed come in contact with these organizations. This brings me to where I am today in making the decision to intern on the Ranney Ranch.

I look forward to working for the Ranney Ranch and learning how they run their operation. Working on the projects that Melvin has in mind will really help me get more experience and learn new skills that I can use for my future. I am excited to also work with Nancy on the marketing side and learn how she markets her cattle. Overall, this will really be a dream come true and I cannot wait to get started.

2017 Apprentice

Jessi Adcock

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.

New Agrarian News

Get information on apprenticeships, jobs, and other opportunities.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Become a member

its the best way to support resilience on western working landscapes.