Apprenticing on the Ranney Ranch

Curious to know what apprenticing on the Ranney Ranch is like? Here’s a word from our current apprentice, Ben Vanderhoof, about his experience so far.

When I was asked by Nancy Ranney to write a brief account of my experience on the ranch as a Quivira apprentice, I was at a loss for words. My time here has been enjoyable and very enlightening. I can hardly believe that three months have gone by since I first set foot on the ranch. Working and learning from Melvin Johnson, who is the ranch manager, and visiting and learning from Nancy has been a very good experience. No matter where you go, whether it’s in the Rockies, the deserts, or in the Great Plains, it’s the caliber of people who really make the experience what it is. I hope that my account will shed some light for any future apprentices wanting to come to Ranney Ranch.

I showed up at Ranney Ranch out of Corona, New Mexico, on May 21, 2018. It was a rainy day, which made the drive interesting and somewhat fun being that moisture is greatly appreciated everywhere in the West. Especially in New Mexico right now. It rained about an inch that night and that was the last night we saw that much rain all at once. When I pulled up to the house where I was going to be staying, I noticed just how lucky I was to be here at the Ranney Ranch and all the beauty of Central New Mexico. Before showing up to the ranch house, I stopped at Melvin Johnson’s house. We talked for a little while and he let me know what time we would be starting the next morning. I said good bye, and headed up to my house. By that time the rain was really coming down.

That first week, Melvin and I worked on fences, fed cattle, and fixed broken water lines. Kirk Gadzia who is a Range Biologist came out that first week to do a grass analysis of the ranch to determine how and if the grass has improved over the past year. This was very interesting because I got to see Range Science at work and how cattle impact, when properly managed, really benefits the land and the cattle themselves.

Fence work, monitoring livestock and checking water are usually the main jobs in the Summer time.  As the weeks went on, we did some cattle work, mainly branding and sorting the dry cows off from the herd. After the cattle work was done, we went back to feeding and checking/fixing water lines.

We also just finished a new fence line; it is a little over a mile long and divides a pasture so that the cattle will better utilize the grass. Over the next few months we will be installing drinkers and water tanks in three different areas of the ranch. This will be done so that cattle impact will be dispersed more evenly throughout the pastures.

Overall, I am thoroughly  enjoying my experience on the Ranney Ranch. The Summer is flying by and already Fall is in the air.  I am looking forward to the next couple of months and the different projects I will be working on, including representing the ranch at workshops, marketing venues and Grassfed beef tastings. I feel confident that Melvin and Nancy both have my back and want to help me achieve my goals. With the grazing practices implemented by the Ranney Ranch, a model of how much of the Western landscape could look starts to appear. The Ranney Ranch is a good example of how making small changes to your operation can have a big and lasting impact over time.

-Ben Vanderhoof


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