Trinchera Blanca Ranch

6 month apprenticeship in grazing, crop farming, and conservation projects

The Ranch

The Trinchera Ranch’s mission is “to practice sound stewardship to sustain and enhance the diverse natural resources for the benefit of future generations.”  This commitment to sustainable management helps the Ranch to maintain some of the most complete and diverse wildlife habitats in Colorado.  Trinchera Blanca Ranch is located on the eastern ridge of the San Luis Valley and features breathtaking vistas of high desert grasslands as well as montane and alpine forests. The owner authorized conservation easements to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Colorado Open Lands to protect Trinchera Blanca in perpetuity.

Over the course of a season, an apprentice at Trinchera Blanca will gain experience in irrigating (center pivot and flood):  water resources in Colorado; managing and implementing a grazing plan; managing a small grass-fed herd; planting and growing farm crops and farm to table vegetables; monitoring soil moisture and pasture conditions; and habitat monitoring for conservation outcomes.

Regenerative Practices

Trinchera Blanca has 1104 acres of farmland, 2350 acres of perennial pastures, native rangeland and aspen and mixed conifer forests. There is a 16-circle farm that grows canola, barley, hay and just recently certified organic alfalfa hay. Managers and staff are working on a five-year farm plan that will be designed to reduce groundwater dependence using rotational fallowing and perennial cover, a project that the apprentice will help implement and monitor. Soil health is the top priority of the operation and as such implementation of an intensive rotational grazing system is aimed at leaving adequate stubble, so root growth is not inhibited. All our pastures consist of perennial species. Adequate perennial cover is left on farm fields to provide winter habitat for wildlife species that include deer, elk and migrating greater sandhill crane populations. The grazing operation is run through a partner lease of 300 mother cow/calf herd and in wet years when forage conditions allow an additional 100 head heifer herd that are strategically grazed throughout the property in a managed grazing rotation.  In development is a small ranch raised grass fed beef and farm to table vegetable operation.

The Mentor

Aaron Swallow

Aaron Swallow is the Environmental Manager for the Trinchera Blanca and Tercio Ranches located in Southern Colorado, encompassing over 200,000 acres. Aaron spent the first quarter of his life on the family ranch located near Reed Point, Montana. He graduated high school in Sitka, Alaska, where he became active in the commercial fishery and diving industries. He graduated from the University of Montana with a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and spent several seasons in the West working as a technician. He spent 10 years as a wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service based in Encampment, Wyoming, where he learned the importance of properly managed fires on the landscape. In 2008 he was given the opportunity to go back to school to pursue a master’s degree in Rangeland Ecology and Watershed Management at the University of Wyoming. In 2010, Aaron was rehired with the Forest Service in Laramie, Wyoming where he spent four years as the Laramie District Rangeland Management Specialist.  Aaron has worked managing the Colorado properties for eight years.

Aaron has spent years on the landscape working to bridge habitat and human needs and understands the need for positive communication followed by sustainable actions. It is this push towards sustainability that has led to his forward-thinking management style at Trinchera. Aaron has instituted a holistically managed grazing programs, riparian, stream and wet meadow restoration, voluntary water conservation efforts of the ranches farm property, and a move to organic hay production that emphasizes soil health and regenerative practices. An avid outdoorsman, Aaron understands the value of the working landscape and the people who use it.

The Apprentice

What will an apprentice do?

This apprenticeship involves intensive grazing management of cattle on both irrigated and native pastures and working to understand how the management techniques affects overall health through monitoring, assisting farm managers in the operation of the farm circles that include irrigation and planting of a variety of crops that range from conversion to native cover, canola, barley, hay and organic alfalfa.  Additionally, the apprentice will help in developing a small grass-fed cattle herd and local foods. Further land management tasks will include wetland, riparian and stream restoration, forestry, and noxious weeds control.  This is a well-rounded experience that will allow the apprentice to take part in the planning and management of a ranch whose primary mission is conservation of the habitat through sound management and best practices.

    Nuts & Bolts

    Start Date: The start date for the Trinchera apprenticeship will be April 15th and end date is October 15th.

    Length of Apprenticeship: 6 months

    Stipend: The apprentice will be paid Colorado minimum wage, with housing factored into this compensation, which works out to roughly $1600/month. Paycheck will be paid weekly via direct deposit. The apprentice will be paid the full monthly stipend in the months of April and October. 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 their budgetary needs before applying to this position. As a temporary employee, you may not be eligible for certain benefit programs. You will also be required to comply with the Company’s Policies and Procedures Manual.

    As a condition of employment, all employees are required to execute Trinchera’s Agreement Relating to Confidentiality, Proprietary Rights, Media and Public Relations, Non-Disparagement, and Non-Solicitation (the “Confidentiality Agreement”).  Annually, all employees are required to re-execute the Confidentiality Agreement as it is modified from time to time.  Violation of the terms of the Confidentiality Agreement could have serious adverse consequences and may lead to disciplinary action, including termination. You represent and warrant that in connection with your employment with us you will not utilize any confidential or proprietary information or materials of any other person, including former employers, without such person’s prior consent.


    Housing: Apprentice housing is included and will be in one of the ranch houses for the term of their assignment. Heat, electricity, and water are included in housing and are not additional expenses for the apprentice – though we do ask that you be conscientious of your energy use. We also provide furniture and dishes. Apprentice should bring their own bedding and towels.  Washer and dryer facilities are available at most housing locations and always available at the lodge.  Please note that housing can be provided only for the apprentice. Spouses, significant others, and/or children cannot be accommodated on the ranch. While all of the ranch housing has multiple bedrooms it may require the apprentice share the house (extra bedroom) with a seasonal employee or contractor.  Pets are approved on a case-by-case basis, but we generally do not allow pets.  Internet is provided at some housing sites but is always available at the ranch office.


    Laundry: Available at most housing locations or at Lodge laundry facility.


    Internet availability: WiFi is available in some housing locations, but apprentice will always have availability at office complexes. Cell service can be spotty; we have many small canyons that prohibit cell phone use. Verizon is the best provider.  Note:  All ranch vehicles are equipped with long range radios that keep folks connected.


    Time off: This position is expected to work five days and 40 hours per week. This will typically will allow for 2 days off, generally on weekends. The apprentice will also receive the following national paid holidays: Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day.


    Visitors policy: Apprentice will be allowed to have visitors at their place of residence, however we do not allow extended periods of stay (more than three days). Apprentice will not be given access after work hours for touring guests.


    Food: Apprentice will be provided with $400 food stipend per month to be paid weekly.


    Pets: Pets are approved on a case-by-case basis, but we generally do not allow pets. Things that need to be considered: where will the pet be kept, is pet house broken; is apprentice willing to build a pen so the animal won’t run loose; is the pet manageable around wildlife.


    Tobacco and alcohol use: Tobacco and alcohol use are permitted only while at home, No smoking or drugs on ranch, range, or vehicles – the ranch is a completely non-smoking, no-drug environment.


    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.  Trinchera 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 apprentices’ personal health insurance.


    COVID-19 policy: Trinchera Ranch does require proof of vaccination as a term of employment.  We will require this prior to starting.  We ask that the apprentice furnish a negative test within one week of start date and be willing to do periodic testing at ranch expense (if needed) provided we are still living with restrictions.


    Ranch vehicles: Apprentice will use ranch vehicles for work. Apprentice will drive to Trinchera shop to get a vehicle for the day’s work. Vehicles may not be used to commute from housing to work. There is to be no smoking, use of e-cigarettes, or vaping on BPM property or in any Company vehicle at any time. Employees who operate Company vehicles on BPM property or public roadways are required to wear seatbelts at all times and to obey state law requirements for safe operation of the vehicle, including speed, cell/tablet use, lights, etc.

    Failure to follow these requirements may lead to a reduction in benefits if you are involved in an accident and disciplinary action for tickets or citations received. Additionally, employees who drive family members as part of their duties will be subject to annual checks of their driving records. All employees should use their own personal vehicle when going off property during breaks or when traveling between various locations. If a company vehicle is to be used, then advanced approval must be received from the Estate Manager where the vehicle is located.


    Personal vehicle: A personal vehicle is highly recommended for apprentice independence on their time off but is not required for the apprenticeship.


    Additional items an apprentice should bring: The house will be fully furnished. Apprentices should bring their own bed sheets and towels.


    Living at Trinchera Ranch: The Trinchera Ranch is a fifteen-minute drive from the small town of Ft. Garland, Colorado, which has a post office, a diner, and a small grocery store. There are two larger towns near the ranch, Alamosa, Colorado (35-minute drive) and Monte Vista, Colorado (1 hour), both lie to the east on highway 160. Both have large grocery stores, bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants. The Valley is the largest-highest mountain valley in the world. The climate is arid, with summer highs of 90 degrees and cool nights. Winter is often extremely cold (down to 20+ degrees below zero at night and highs between zero degrees and freezing). It is a vast and open landscape surrounded by 14,000-foot mountain peaks. Sparsely populated with an economy focused on agriculture, the Valley’s culture is varied, ranging from the Buddhist retreat centers in Crestone to the annual Ski-Hi Rodeo in Monte Vista.


    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.


    Specific challenges an apprentice could help with: While there are challenges, we are always looking for innovative solutions to landscape problems and feel like a fresh set of eyes is a great lens to look through especially as we look at our invasive weed control using targeted grazing.

    Additional Information: Our offer of employment is contingent upon the successful completion of a reference check, employment and education verification, and a criminal conviction record including motor vehicle check.


    Applications are closed for the 2023 season.