Richards land and CattleSheep & Cattle Ranching Apprenticeship in Oregon House, California
Richards Ranch is located in Oregon House, Ca along the Yuba River and about 1.5 hours from Sacramento, Ca. The ranch is 6500 acres of rangeland and used to graze our 500+ cows and 150+ sheep herd. Their sister company Richards Grassfed Beef is where they send finished animals for processing and then distribution to butcher shops, restaurants and families throughout the greater Sacramento and San Francisco Bay Area.
Meet the mentors
richards land and cattle & richards grassfed beef
The Richards Ranch was purchased in 1941 by Thomas H. Richards Sr. Until recently, they always ran as a cow calf operation as well as small registered Hereford and Murray Grey programs. In 2010, Carrie and her siblings started to market the ranch’s grass finished beef and soon realized there was a market. At the time, they were finishing about 5 head a year. They have since grown significantly to approximately 90 head per year from the Richards Ranch and are prioritizing soil health because in the end, the healthier your soil is, the healthier your cattle are, the healthier you are.
The Richards Ranch team has worked closely in the past two years to pivot the ranch to a more regenerative system and are already seeing an improvement in the land & animal health. The ranch is American Grassfed Association certified and has a yearly audit to make sure we are taking the best care of our land and animals.
They have recently finished the Savory Institute Holistic Management training and have pivoted the operation completely to improving soil health & holistic management, which they have learned quickly means moving the cattle more, in bigger groups and documenting the failures and successes of their program. A key component of the Savory program is the Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV), an empirical and scalable soil and landscape assessment methodology that tracks positive outcomes in biodiversity, soil health, and ecosystem function, such as water infiltration and carbon absorption.
They have installed monitoring points for the Land to Market program through the Savory Institute as well as through Point Blue & the NRCS. Their apprentice will have hands-on experience with creating their plan to improve their soil health, wildlife, grass diversity & livestock production. They will also see the finished product & learn how cattle flow through the entire system (husbandry, tracking, grazing, finishing, harvesting, butchering, marketing, distribution and shipping) with the end goal being to produce the most nutrient dense food possible for their customers.
When working at Richards Ranch you will be working directly with Carrie Richards, her husband Daniel Prelip and their land manager David Schulkins.
David Schulkins: David has been working for the Richards Ranch for the past five years and is an incredible asset to the team. Dave is our Land Manager and our “fix anything” guy. He will be a wonderful asset for any apprentice. His efficiency, amazing patience with livestock, and ability to try something new is what we love most about Dave. After sending Dave to grazing school he is constantly talking about how to improve every aspect of our operation and has truly taken soil health to heart.
Carrie & Daniel: Carrie and Daniel moved to the ranch 3 years ago and have two children, Lincoln, 6, and Lucy, 4. After finishing the Savory Institute’s Holistic Grazing school Carrie and the Richards Ranch team have pivoted the operation to embracing the holistic way of ranching. They are excited to see how it will improve the land and operation as a whole. Carrie’s role is overseeing the Ranch and Marketing Operations for the Beef company. As an owner of the Ranch and Beef company Carrie will have her hand in a little bit of everything. Working with Carrie will give you insight on the full transition from soil to supper, and what it takes to get there. Carrie and Daniel moved from the bay area to manage the ranch and are so happy to have their kids growing up in the dirt and enjoying the delicious food we produce.
The apprenticeship at Richards Land and Cattle will run mid-March to November 1. Starting in March they start moving their finishing herd every day. The pace in March – May is quick and exciting. They also round up the entire herd in early March, delivering vaccinations fly tags and sorting for when the grass season hits full force in April. In the spring months they are shipping 25-30 head of finished cattle out every other week. It then slows down to 2 day moves in June and July when the weather gets hot. At the same time they are monitoring the sheep herd who will be lambing in the spring, then will get moved behind the cow herd in May-July. They are also working with the NRCS on fencing and water projects, that will get incorporated in the daily chores throughout the summer. Late summer and early fall when the weather cools down its time to take on projects like firewood, winterizing, fixing roads, pipelines and moving hay for the winter.
The apprentice will be required to:
- Have a positive attitude
- Survive in a dusty hot environment
- Drive a pickup truck or ATV
- Adjust & adapt on the fly
- Live in a rural area
- Work with a team, or individually
Ideally the apprentice will have any experience in:
- Working with beef cattle, pigs, sheep or other livestock
- Driving a tractor
- Basic knowledge of home repair/carpentry skills
If accepted, from March to November of 2020 you will:
- Work outside much of the time, often engaged in physical activities
- Check sheep and cattle on regular basis, doctoring, processing of sheep and cattle (vaccinating, docking, branding, tagging, etc.)
- Ranch infrastructure maintenance, repair, and installations – help with fencing, water troughs and lines, corrals and outbuildings.
- Assist with care of guard dogs and stock dogs and chickens
- Assist with bookkeeping and/or maintaining ranch records
- Visual monitoring of pasture condition to determine grazing moves, helping set-up and take down temporary electric fence, moving livestock, hauling water
- Work closely with your mentors daily, adding independent tasks as skills and ability allow.
- Other ranch projects and ranch-related events as appropriate.
- Maintain high work quality standards even when working independently.
- Have one day off a week to attend to personal matters during your apprenticeship.
- 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.
Start and End date: March 15 – November 1
Who will be the main mentor and what is their primary role on the ranch?: When working at Richards Ranch you will be working directly with Carrie Richards, her husband Daniel Prelip and their land manager David Schulkins, who has been working for the Richards Ranch for the past six years and is an incredible asset to the team.
Are there specific challenges on the operation that the apprentice could help find possible solutions to address?: We have very little irrigated pasture so our goal is to finish all our beef by July 1. This can be tough on minimal rain years, and is a constant battle we have with nature. Our apprentice will learn a great deal about ranching in a rangeland type of area with minimal water and a very short growing season.
Stipend: The monthly stipend will be $800 per month, paid once a month, and can be directly deposited to your bank. The position does not allow time for a second job, but there are opportunities for extra money to be earned on the ranch. We host farm dinners and may have other work available outside of ranch duties where the apprentice can earn extra money. We also have a winery on the property that always needs help at harvest!
Housing: We have a small home at the headquarters available for 1-2 people. It has one bedroom and one bathroom, and if need be the family room could be turned into a second bedroom. The house is partially furnished, has a landline, water, internet, carport, wood stove, covered porch and a window air conditioning unit. The utilities are all included – though we do ask that you be conscientious of your energy use. We like to keep our housing as tidy as possible and like to emphasize that we expect our apprentice to clean their house once a week and keep the front porch and carport free of personal items. We host events and like to keep the ranch headquarters as clean as possible.
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.
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.
Visitors: The apprentice may also want to express their enthusiasm for the program by inviting friends and family to visit. We ask that the apprentice use wisdom and judgment to balance the apprenticeship demands with time available for guests. Apprentices will be asked to discuss visitors in advance with mentors.
Food: Our apprentice will receive as much beef, lamb, eggs and vegetables from the garden as they please. We plan on lunches together with the whole team during the week and a weekly dinner together, but for the most part apprentices are responsible for their meals.
Pets: We have 4 dogs living on the ranch. If the apprentice has a working dog, we ask they bring the dog for the in person interview to see if they are going to be part of the team. We are open to apprentices with a working horse, but would need to have a guideline on care for the horse and discuss how the horse will fit into the program.
All the fun stuff: No smoking or drugs on the ranch. Partying is not allowed; having a beer or a glass of wine after work is just fine. The apprentice may not bring a personal firearm on the 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. Richards 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: Many of the ranch vehicles are standard transmission. The apprentice will be expected to competently operate these vehicles. Apprentices must have a valid driver’s license.
Personal Vehicle: There are no instances (or very few) when the apprentice would be required to use his/her own vehicle around the ranch. In order to run personal errands and travel on days off, however, the apprentice will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle.
Services available to the apprentice:
- Washer and dryer: There is a washer and dryer on the premises. The apprentice may use it at any time, but be conscious of water use and others belongings.
- Internet connection: The houses has decent internet connectivity and is a wireless connection. The ranch is spotty with all cell phone service.
Additional items the apprentice will need for the duration of the apprenticeship? The apprentice housing comes with all kitchen utensils and bedding but the apprentice may bring any personal items from home.
Activities on the operation that the apprentice will not participate in? We do not use herbicides or synthetic fertilizers.
Living in Oregon House, CA: The Richards Ranch is located in the rural town of Oregon House, Ca. There is a Grocery store/gas station, two small restaurants and a post office near by. It is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Sacramento, and 45 minutes from either Marysville/Yuba City,Ca or Grass Valley/Nevada City,Ca. It is a very quiet area and is surrounded by small ranches and wineries. The climate during the apprenticeship starts off with cool days 70-80s in March – May then gets quite hot in the summer, June-September in the 90s and 100s. In the time of the apprenticeship, there should be no freezing weather unless we get an early rain in October. The elevation ranges from 500-2500 feet and is mostly covered with Oak trees, grasses and some pine trees in the high elevations. The northern border of the ranch borders the Yuba River & Lake Englebright.
“During the course of the season, I am looking forward to being exposed to all aspects of care for the cattle, sheep and pigs, and to become familiar with the main concerns and day-to-day (care) of these animals. I hope to come away with an understanding of how to implement rotational grazing to foster more ecological diversity and improve the resilience of the land. Eventually, I hope to manage an operation combining perennial food crops and rotationally grazed animals, and I believe I will have a solid foundation for that future once I complete the New Agrarian Program.” – Excerpt from the New Agrarian Voices Blog
Having grown up in the cosmopolitan East Bay Area, one could imagine that such an upbringing wouldn’t necessarily be conducive for a desire to one day pursue a career in agriculture. Contrasted with the often frivolous outlook that city life brings was a deep curiosity in the natural world and the less populated corners of my home state of California. My first introduction to the world of agriculture was the long drive down Highway 5 through the Southern San Joaquin Valley. I was utterly captivated with the various sights of vineyards and orchards, the slow crawling of farm machinery and the immaculate stench of the feedlots. Where most found our Central Valley to be an armpit, I saw it as a highly functional agrarian masterpiece that provided the basis of our nation’s (and the world’s) sustenance. I was in love with the open air, the poignant beauty of the outside world, and the prospects of growing food for myself and others. Fast-forward to early adulthood, I was ready to become a part of my state’s pastoral history.
After spending two years working as a harvest cellar hand in California’s (and Australia’s) wine industry, I soon realized that the agricultural product I was dedicating my time to producing was more of a luxury than a necessity, and that perhaps in order to address the broader geopolitical, socioeconomic and environmental issues surrounding farming it was intrinsic to switch my path over to growing food.
It is no question that meat has been portrayed in the media as an enemy of environmentalism, and that those who produce/consume meat are causing more harm than good. As meat consumption continues to rise, I feel a deep calling to be a part of the shift towards regenerative ranching and be part of a system that not only produces highly nutritious meat, but also attempts to produces a healthy environment and mitigate- if not solve- the issues of climate change and environmental degradation. I believe that places like California, which leads our nation in agricultural output, should be at the front of a shift towards a more holistic agricultural model.
Having little experience working with cattle and sheep, I am very excited to begin this apprenticeship and learn as much as I can about holistic management. My goals are to pursue wholeheartedly the principles of regenerative ranching, keep up on fencing, dig lots of holes, squeeze in some time on the tractor and keep a very open mind!
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