New Agrarian Voices

Learn about the impressions and experiences of each year's cohort of apprentices in their own words.

Sarah Johnson, APPRENTICE, Shultz Ranch, MT

REFLECTIONS AFTER THE FIRST MONTH
May 2021

Agriculture has always been a part of my life and looking back I truly appreciate how it’s shaped me into who I am today. I was fortunate to grow up around chickens, pigs, horses, and most other common farm animals that we kept on are small hobby farm in Maine. I loved being around the animals and helping my mom work in her garden. As I grew older and began looking for jobs I found myself gravitating towards jobs that made me work up a sweat and left me sore at the end of the day. I suppose that was the farm girl in me coming though. I just couldn’t imagine sitting at a desk or even working inside for that matter! That led me to working at a horse barn for the duration of high school where I became skilled with a pitchfork. However, I knew working with horses wasn’t my end goal so I explored apprenticeships in fruit and vegetable production, dairy, and now ranching! It’s important to me that I experience as many facets of agriculture as I can so that i’ll be well equipped to hopefully run my own AG business one day. I never really thought about ranching in general (being an Eastocoaster) much less doing it myself, but when someone mentioned the apprenticeship to me I knew it was something I’d love to do. The first two months has been a blur of calves popping out right and left and working on the ranch has not only strengthened me physically but also mentally. Determination was something I thought I already had but working with cows brought me to a whole new level. Nothing is impossible, sometimes you just have to get really creative. Besides the mental challenges there are hard skills I’m hoping to get better at through this apprenticeship. Before March I didn’t know how to pull a calf whether it was backwards, breached, or even coming out normal and now I can say I have a lot of experience pulling all those! At the Shultz ranch we work our cattle on horseback and that’s something I had not done previously. I love working with the horse to accomplish the job and everyday I can see myself improving. Looking into the future I know there will be a lot of fencing, haying, and running of large machinery. Those are things I’m excited to learn to improve my skill set. One thing that I hope to leave with is a better understanding of how to financially support an agricultural business and how to market the product. What ways can you reach the population to tell them about your story and the product you’re selling? How do you get a loyal customer base? How do you stay financially secure with a business that is so dependent on seasons, weather, and demand? These are questions I’m eager to delve into in this apprenticeship and as I continue my journey into the diverse and beautiful world of agriculture.

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