Round River Resource ManagementEight-Month Ranching Apprenticeship in Rush, Colorado
Round River Resource Management, LLC is a land resource and livestock management company dedicated to restoring and improving agricultural operations in a regenerative manner and consistent with the goals of the resource owner through the principles of Holistic ManagementTM. The name ‘Round River’ is derived from the metaphorical river described by Aldo Leopold that flows endlessly into itself, circling around and around in a never ending circuit that symbolizes the current of life. Leopold’s illustration describes the manner in which energy flows from the soil into plants, then into animals and finally back into the soil in a continuous circuit of life. Founded in 2008 to manage the Brett Gray Ranch and other agricultural enterprises, Round River provides educational and business opportunities that help young, innovative people enter the ranching business.
Meet the mentors
Meet the apprentices
Round River Resource Management
The Brett Gray is a 50,000-acre ranch currently leased and managed by Round River from the Colorado State Land Board. In partnership with the State Land Board and The Nature Conservancy, Round River has a three-part goal for the ranch: to maintain a productive and profitable ranching operation, to encourage science and stewardship that improves biodiversity and regenerates prairie ecosystems, and to engage in education and community outreach for the benefit of the land and the future of the ranching industry.
Round River Resource Management was founded on the principles of conservation inspired by the writings of Aldo Leopold and the teachings of Allan Savory and Stan Parsons. By working upon the four fundamental ecosystem processes: mineral cycle, energy flow, water cycle and community dynamics, Round River strives to improve the resource base and bring ecological and economic regeneration to the ranching industry.
The Lyme BX Ranch is a 25,000-acre ranch managed by Round River for Lyme Timber Company, a private conservation investment company. We collaborate with Lyme Timber, The Savory Institute and The Nature Conservancy in an attempt to improve the natural resource base and develop a replicable ranch management model centered on a holistic decision making approach. Apprentices will have the opportunity to work on both ranches throughout the season..
Round River assumed management of the Lyme BX Ranch in December of 2014 and is collaborating with the landowner, The Nature Conservancy, the Savory Institute and the Palmer Land Trust to develop and implement a management plan designed to improve the ecosystem processes, protect the resources, and achieve the economic and ecological outcomes desired by its partners. To accomplish these goals we implemented a dormant season rotational grazing system and have initiated an infrastructure development plan designed to improve and expand operations. The first phase has begun with a water development plan designed to provide adequate storage and supply the water required for a large herd in a rotational grazing system. The next step includes a fencing plan that will allow for increased stock density and herd effect, shorter grazing periods and improved recovery periods further enhancing the four ecosystem processes.
During the past seven years of operations at the Brett Gray Ranch, Round River has demonstrated its commitment to these principles by implementing a planned rotational grazing system that is designed to limit the duration of the grazing process and provide adequate recovery for the grazed plants. This grazing system helps to improve the four ecosystem processes by adding more organic matter to the soil, building a stronger root system, providing better water capture and infiltration, stronger, more vigorous plants that capture more energy from the sun, increases the biodiversity of the plant and animal community and helps to protect sensitive riparian areas from degradation and erosion. These improvements have been achieved during some of the most severe drought conditions on record and have been documented through an intensive monitoring process conducted by Round River, the State Land Board and The Nature Conservancy.
Louis currently serves as the CEO and general manager for Round River and oversees management of the Brett Gray and Lyme BX Ranches, working in collaboration with the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners (SLB), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and others to achieve the desired goals of all stakeholders.
He has been involved in the livestock and ranching business for over forty years, and has served sixteen years as general manager for the Texas A&M University Beef Cattle Center in College Station, Texas, where he oversaw all cattle operations and facilitated the teaching, research and extension activities at the Center. In addition, he has been involved in Holistic ManagementTM for over thirty years, consulted for numerous ranches and managed large ranches in Texas, northeastern Utah and Colorado before coming to the Brett Gray Ranch.
Louis received a BS and Master’s degree in Animal Science and Ranch Management at Texas A&M University, has trained with several certified HRM instructors and is an alumni of Ranching for Profit and currently continues his education as an Executive Link board member and participates in numerous education opportunities annually.
Christopher is Round River’s Director of People & Culture and the apprenticeship program leader for 2018. In collaboration with Louis he directs policy development, helps guide the culture and values of the organization, manages staffing, facilitates the apprentice experience and is out working on the day’s tasks alongside the rest of the crew.
He started his journey in agriculture 6 years ago beginning in the Peruvian Amazon jungle. He then spent 3 years working as a WWOOFer across a variety of farms in the United States. After becoming a competent milker at a goat and cow dairy in Colorado he got involved in the fermented segment of the organic food industry. In 2017 he joined Round River as an apprentice and in 2018 he took on the role he now holds.
Christopher received a B.A. in English and Government from the University of Texas at Austin and has trained in Permaculture Design and is BQA certified. He has also worked for Apple, started his own spanish teaching business, lived in South America for 10 years and worked as a technology writer for a popular website.
Why we offer this apprenticeship:
Since its creation in 2008 it has been Round River’s mission to provide opportunities to develop an appreciation for conservation and to teach the land and livestock management skills associated with regenerative ranching. Round River has developed an intensive apprenticeship program on the Brett Gray Ranch to develop these skills.
Through the program we aim to address the increasing average age of farmers and ranchers, the steady increase in world population, global warming and the continuous degradation of our natural resources. The average farmers in the USA is 58.3 years old and with less than 0.5% of the US population involved in agriculture it is urgent and critically important that we provide a new generation of young, innovative professionals with the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully operate economically profitable and ecologically regenerative agricultural businesses.
To support regenerative agriculture there must be opportunities for a new generation of producers to learn and grow, much like Aldo Leopold’s Round River and its continuous flow of life. With high startup cost and the limited opportunities to learn these skills our apprenticeship program is designed to introduce and teach the skills necessary to operate a regenerative ranching business.
What an apprentice will learn:
Successful candidates will learn about and participate in all aspects of ranch operations and enterprise development and will develop an appreciation for conservation and regenerative ranch management practices. Hands on learning opportunities will include, but are not limited to:
- High-tensile and barbed-wire fencing
- Water delivery systems
- Low-stress stockmanship and health management
- Beef Quality Assurance
- Ecological restoration and rangeland monitoring
- Holistic Management
- General maintenance of vehicles, equipment and facilities
- Company policy development
The apprentice will work closely with Louis or Chris on a daily basis to refine skills and perform a variety of ranch and land improvement tasks including daily livestock care (health monitoring, supplementation and pasture movements), building and maintaining ranch infrastructure and equipment (fences, water pipelines, buildings and vehicles), land and range monitoring and low-stress stockmanship.
Salary: Round River provides a $700.00/month salary to apprentices and an additional $100.00/month grocery stipend. Salaries are paid bi-weekly and direct deposited to your bank. The grocery stipend is direct deposited as a reimbursement at the end of each month. The salary may or may not cover monthly expenses for the apprentice based on his/her needs and lifestyle. The position does not allow time for a second job, so the apprentice should consider their budgetary needs before applying.
Housing: Round River provides a furnished house with living room and functional kitchen located on the Brett Gray Ranch. All utilities including water, gas, electricity, landline & internet are provided. Housing may be shared with 1-2 other apprentices or mentors. It is expected that the house and personal spaces will be kept clean and organized and efforts made to conserve energy and minimize waste. Pets, spouses, significant others, and/or children cannot be accommodated on the ranch.
Time off: The apprentice will receive every other weekend (Saturday/Sunday) off and will be required to be on duty to check livestock and be available to handle emergencies on their weekends on duty. 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: Apprentices are responsible for their own food budget. Round River will provide a $100/month grocery stipend, ranch-raised ground beef and fresh eggs. Apprentices and mentors will share a meal at least one day a week.
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 a Holistic Management International webinar course in the 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 loud or disruptive 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: Some of the ranch vehicles have standard transmissions. Apprentices will need to know how to drive stick-shift. Previous experience with backing up trailers is not required but very helpful.
Personal vehicle: While apprentices will not be asked to use a personal vehicle for work purposes, the apprentice will need the flexibility of his or her own vehicle on their days off in order to run personal errands such as purchasing groceries and for travel.
Living at the Brett Gray Ranch: The Brett Gray Ranch is located 60 miles from Colorado Springs, Colorado to the east and 50 miles to the south of Limon, Colorado. This is approximately a one hour drive, two hours round-trip. The climate is arid, with summer highs of ninety degrees and cool nights. It is a vast and open landscape that is sparsely populated with an economy focused on agriculture. The ranch itself has a small creek that runs the length of it, several reservoirs and many cottonwood trees. There is abundant wildlife and beautiful vistas of Pike’s Peak.
Want to read more? Here’s our September 2017 New Agrarian Newsletter profile of Round River Resource Management.
Williard Humphries III
I called Manassas, Virginia home prior to moving out to Rush, Colorado to apprentice with Round River Resource Management. I’d never lived anywhere other than the Washington D.C. suburbs before moving out here; but frustrated by trying to make jobs work, and ready to do what I love and believe in, I took a leap of faith and moved west. While my journey has just begun, I’ve always known three things about myself that have led me to where I am today. First, that the building blocks of life, from the most basic molecules to the ecosystem I’m surrounded by, fascinate me. That the pursuit of a new frontier beckons me, and that with the knowledge I acquire, I want to make a difference in the world.
As a young kid I constantly played with Legos. I would look at a big bucket of loose pieces, I’d think of a design, and then feverishly build it. I believed that fascination with building would best be spent in an architectural career. My life’s trajectory changed, however, when I started to learn biology in middle school. The study of life pulled me in! The concept of building blocks, particularly how the smallest pieces contribute to a larger, intricate picture, has always played a significant role in my desired career path.
Throughout high school and college I was convinced I should pursue medicine. I yearned for the ability to use my knowledge to diagnose people in need, and ultimately change the world around me. Again, I was fixated on the idea that the building blocks of life were the key to caring for life. While in the process of applying to medical school I came to the harsh realization that medicine wasn’t the correct path for me.
Lost and confused on where my life and career was heading, I took some time to follow a lifelong dream and hiked the Appalachian Trail. It was during this precious time that I grew to understand just how much I love and appreciate our natural environment.
Finally understanding my passion to care for our land, as well as the animals and humans that inhabit it, I’ve finally focused my life on pursuing a career in agricultural. I strive to practice responsible land stewardship, specifically through holistic stockmanship, to respect and conserve our land, while also providing healthy, ethically produced products, to the public.
Just like my predecessors who founded the lifestyle I’m now living in the West, I strive to have courage, an abiding work ethic, and fearless determination. I am eager to navigate any challenges I encounter, and adapt to the ever-changing environment.
I am motivated by the prospect that my hard work and determination to learn can have a positive impact on the world today, and for many years to come. Not only am I devoted to mastering and practicing the ideas of holistic management and regenerative ranching, but I also strive to pass on the information I learn in my agricultural pursuits. I hope to mentor future generations of ranchers and land stewards, and help bridge the gap to the general public as a liaison of conservation, preservation, and holistic agricultural practices. Through both persistence and patience, I am excited about the journey ahead of me. I look forward to the future, and I can’t wait to set in motion the change I hope to see in our world.
I’m from an average American home in the suburbs outside of Memphis, Tennessee. I didn’t grow up in an agricultural context, and my family didn’t have any land. We didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to connect with animals or the natural world on a regular basis, just like pretty much everyone I knew. Yet, I still knew that I loved being outside, and I still wanted to go explore the wild, natural places that were still out there somewhere.
My own connection to God’s creation wasn’t formed until I was 13, when my uncle took my twin brother and I under his wing and introduced us to backpacking and mountaineering. I fell in love with climbing mountains and being in the wilderness for days at a time. Four years later, when I was 17, I joined a month-long glacier mountaineering wilderness expedition in Alaska through the National Outdoor Leadership School. That month was one of the most life-changing and perspective-altering experiences that I’ll ever have, and it cemented a yearning to live outside with nature and experience wild places. Yet I never really believed that was possible, and the society around me was raising me to live separated from the land.
After high school, I knew I was going to go to college because that was what I was supposed to do As college progressed, I realized I wasn’t passionate about being an engineer and I didn’t want to work a desk job; what I knew I loved more than anything else was being outside and helping people. I stuck it out and graduated, earning a BS in Mechanical Engineering Summa Cum Laude at the end of 2011.
Throughout college, I had been training to join the military, with the motivation to help oppressed people, learn another language and culture, learn how to survive in extreme situations, and be outside working on a team. Just as I was about to join, a series of seemingly miraculous events left me injured, with some critical unanswered questions and a lack of peace about joining. I was devastated. In the end, I decided not to join, which was the hardest decision I’ve ever made.
So, instead of being a soldier, I found myself flying a desk and working as an engineer, doing exactly what I didn’t want to do. ButI landed a phenomenal job at a great company as a design engineer working in new product development for the world’s leading oilfield services technology provider. My job was to invent new completion systems and downhole tools related to the controlling of subsea oil and gas wells – from design to development to qualification testing to documentation. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work there, yet, I knew I was supposed to be doing something else with my life. But what?
I didn’t believe that what I was doing mattered in the grand scheme of things. I wasn’t making the world a better place. I knew that I had just one short life on this Earth, and I wanted to make it count. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help people. How could I use my mechanical engineering training to do something good?
In college, I had become aware of the global water crisis, where engineering could lend solutions. As I learned about global water issues, I realized that they were far more serious than I initially thought, and I wanted to know what needed to be done about them. I learned agriculture accounted for 70% of fresh water consumption globally, so that’s where I started to focus. When I did, I learned about the serious problems in food systems and about the global food-water-energy nexus. It was all incredibly depressing, and the issues weren’t being talked about on the level they needed to be.
I was determined to learn what I should be doing myself. I came across permaculture, holistic management, keyline design, and regenerative agriculture. It was a shock of bright hope in a dark world when I learned how people were working with ecology and natural systems to restore landscapes and solve water and food crises at the root of the problem in efficient and incredibly abundant ways. As a design engineer, the design science of permaculture was especially captivating.
In 2013, I traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico to attend the Quivira Conference, and over the next couple of years, I traveled to other conferences and farms. These encouraged me to make a life change and pursue a new path in agriculture and land management. It was uplifting to finally meet other people who knew about the issues I was looking into and had similar thoughts and convictions, and who were actually doing it!
After four years of working in the oil and gas industry, I left my engineering career behind in the beginning of 2016 to train in regenerative agriculture and permaculture design. Ultimately, I realized the solutions we need don’t lie in engineering or technology. The water crisis, the food crisis, and so many other issues that humanity and the world are faced with today could be boiled down to a severed relationship between us humans and the natural world – what I would call creation. Ultimately, the fundamental, foundational, underlying, root problem was the giant chasm that we had created between us and Earth’s ecosystems. We had forgotten our responsibility as stewards of the Earth and had little understanding of how basic natural systems work. I realized that the answers lie in reconciling our relationship with the land and sea, living in close relationship with them, and understanding their design. We didn’t need more engineers to address the problems with technology and big projects; we needed more people of the land.
When I set out on this new journey, I didn’t know very much, and had no idea where the path would take me or how I was going to make ends meet. Just before I left my job, I visited an allergist who told me that I would never be able to work in agriculture due to my environmental allergies. Since then, I have trained on a diversity of farms with different production and business models across climates and cultures and development statuses – from Texas, to Sweden, to the Philippines, to Nepal, to India, and now Colorado. I acquired an advanced certification in applied permaculture design and trained in holistic management, keyline design, mapping and surveying, soil ecology, and rural community development. Not only have I had no problems at all with environmental allergies, but nearly all of my food allergies have either totally left me or dramatically improved.
I spent 2017 working and training in India, including five months living in rural Telangana and working in a farming village alongside a widow and her family. As a part of an agricultural development effort, I worked with the family to design and develop some fallow land they owned to better produce food for their family. In the end, I fell in love with the people of that village and India captured my heart. For the first time, I felt like what I was doing actually mattered, and I realized that there wasn’t anything else in the world that I would rather do. I knew I was doing what I was made for.
I am determined to spend the rest of my life living in direct relationship with the land, observing natural systems, working with them, and bringing reconciliation to our relationship with the land. Specifically, I aim to be a servant to the pastoral communities in India, listening to them, learning their context and the issues they face, connecting them to markets, and advocating for them. These people, who are often nomadic or semi-nomadic, have one of the purest relationships with the land still in existence. They provide invaluable services to ecosystems and create abundant life out of barren wastelands, while leaving essentially no footprint. Yet their importance is not widely understood or acknowledged, and they are perhaps the most threatened and marginalized people in the world. Their culture and beautiful way of life are on the fringe of being wiped away forever. When their way of life vanishes, the resilient local breeds that they have bred for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years, breeds that once served as the cradle of life in harshest of lands, will also eventually vanish.
Therefore, I see a need to clearly reveal to the world the importance of pastoralists and what they are able to achieve in restoring the overall health, productivity, resilience, and biodiversity of the environments they inhabit. I know of no other way to do this than through credible, reputable, interdisciplinary, participatory research efforts that document the best livestock management practices and the degree to which such practices restore landscapes according to holistic goals. A substantial amount of research has examined the relationship between grazing herds and brittle grassland environments, and determined management strategies that work in those ecological systems, but I am unaware of analogous research on the relationship between herds of browsing animals and brittle shrublands or thorn forests, a relationship that has great significance in India, Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.
I have already reached out to the Savory Institute about creating a Savory Hub in India for the benefit of the pastoral communities. I traveled to Bhuj, Gujarat to meet with an NGO that has been working on behalf of pastoralists, and I spoke with the director who will be leading the restoration ecology department of a new NGO that will work on behalf of pastoralists on the national level, a first of its kind. I put the NGOs in touch with Savory Institute and introduced them to Holistic Management. I’ve begun conversations with these NGOs about research that applies Holistic Management to the pastoral ecologies of India’s brittle lands and works to inform policy decisions. Before I left India, I was able to meet with the top Indian research scientists who are engaged in related work and can offer advice.
The Quivira Coalition apprenticeship will provide me with experience to understand how to manage livestock holistically in a way that improves that health of the land. I must obtain a solid grasp in utilizing the Holistic Management framework to appropriately apply the principles to the different social and environmental contexts of India’s pastoral ecologies and establish a Savory Global Network Hub that offers respective training.
Time will tell whether I succeed in my current goals, or if my aims are altered. My hope remains that I may one day live in a rural village, working alongside people of the land, serving and empowering them in whatever way I can best. Whatever comes, I will continue to answer the questions, “What should I do with my own capabilities and limitations? How can I make the greatest difference?” I pray that my life will not be about myself, that it will instead be about something much greater. I pray that I will live out the purpose that I was created for.
Agriculture has been, and continues to be, a strong presence throughout my life. I grew up helping my grandparents work a large garden and feed the chickens and goats on our small farm in Eva, Alabama. As often as possible, I visited my uncle and cousin at their equestrian farm near by which fueled my love of horseback riding. Growing up around these animals forced me to develop a sense of understanding and a large heart filled with plenty of patience and caring. This lifestyle was very attractive to me, and while living in Eva, I told my mother that one day I would go to Auburn University and that I was going to be a veterinarian.
My freshman year was completed at a Calhoun Community College while working at a small animal veterinary clinic in Huntsville, Alabama. After working for a few years, I came to the realization that I was not going to be a small animal veterinarian. Every day was the same thing; I quickly grew bored of the monotony and made the decision to become a large animal vet. In the fall of 2013 I finally arrived at Auburn where I quickly discovered that I had a passion for ranching that far exceeded my drive to pursue veterinary school.
In 2014, I attended the spring break trip with the Animal Science department to Texas where I first discovered an interest in beef cattle production coupled with animal breeding. This trip showed me a side of the industry and a side of myself that I did not know, and thus I began the search to pursue a ranching career. Within my first year at Auburn I made the hardest decision of my college career to switch from Animal Science, Pre-Veterinary Medicine to Animal Science, Production/Management.
Before I knew it, in the summer of 2015, I had an internship at a small backgrounding yard for Clay Kennamer Livestock in Scottsboro, Alabama where I got my first real taste of working cattle. Though it was a very strong learning experience, I quickly came to the realization that I did not have a passion for the feeding aspect of the cattle industry. Looking to venture down other avenues of the industry, in the spring of 2016 I accepted a longer internship in St. Cloud, Florida at Deseret Cattle and Citrus. It was here where I found my love for animal breeding after assisting with a very large ET and AI project with their purebred herds.
Reluctantly, I left this beautiful ranch and pursued another internship immediately following Deseret at a small farm called Two Less Farms in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. While here, I learned a lot about grass finished beef, intense rotational grazing, and pasture maintenance among other things. Finally, I returned to Auburn and finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science, Production/Management in December of 2016. Now, I have accepted an assistantship at Round River Resource Management in Rush, Colorado under the management of Louis Martin.
For the assistantship, I’m hoping to not only build experience handling cattle, but to build a better working knowledge of management practices and how to run a successful business. Animal breeding and grazing plans are my biggest interests, both of which I know I will learn a lot about in the years to come here at Round River. Having never even visited this area of the United States, I’m very excited to see the different management techniques and challenges this side of the country has. I love all aspects of ranching and farming and am excited to learn anything and everything that I possibly can in order to prepare myself for a successful future in the agriculture industry.
Following my assistantship at Round River Ranches, I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in Ranch Management. Managing a large ranch and beginning a very intensive breeding program is my goal, and I know the higher education will provide me with the knowledge to achieve these goals. I am truly blessed to have been given the opportunity to expand my knowledge beyond the classroom and to work with such a wonderful holistic management team. These next few years will challenge me in ways I cannot predict, but I know that with each challenge an opportunity to excel is presented and I look forward to meeting each challenge with every intent to succeed!
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