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Eight-Month Dairy and Cheesemaking Apprenticeship in Durango, CO at James Ranch Artisan Cheese - 2695

Job Title: 
Eight-Month Dairy and Cheesemaking Apprenticeship in Durango, CO
James Ranch Artisan Cheese
Durango, CO
Job Type: 
Employment Type: 
Job Description: 

James Ranch Artisan Cheese manages a small herd of Jersey cows for the production of raw milk and small-batch cheeses in the beautiful Animas Valley near Durango, Colorado. Operated by Dan and Becca James, James Ranch Artisan Cheese is one of several family-run enterprises on the larger James Ranch. This dairy and cheesemaking apprenticeship offers professional training for aspiring agrarians committed to a life and career at the intersection of conservation, sustainable agriculture, and artisan foods. The apprenticeship includes hands-on experience with all aspects of dairy operation and cheese production, including low-stress animal handling, milking, cheese making, affinage, biological monitoring, marketing, financial planning, Holistic Management, and land stewardship.

The apprentice will work and learn during the intense time of the year (March-November), and so will need to come prepared to work hard and see the immediate and rewarding results of their efforts. Although the apprentice will get to know Becca and spend time learning from her, the bulk of apprentice learning will occur while working with Dan and Claire. This eight-month apprenticeship has been offered through an ongoing partnership between James Ranch Artisan Cheese and the Quivira Coalition New Agrarian Program since 2010.

The apprentice will receive hands-on experience in dairy management and cheesemaking, as well as other activities required on a diversified farm.

Stipend: The monthly stipend is determined each year, based on available funding; it is typically around $700 take-home pay. This is paid bi-weekly, and can be directly deposited to your bank. 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 his or her budgetary needs before applying to this position.

Housing: The apprentice will share a beautiful two-bedroom apartment on the ranch, located above the ranch store and cheese room, with Claire Persichetti, the James Ranch herd manager. He or she is expected to maintain a clean space. All utilities are included in housing at no additional cost to the apprentice, though the apprentice is expected to be conscientious about energy use.

Duties & Responsibilities: 

This person will work closely six days a week with Dan and Claire milking cows, moving the herd, making cheese, and maintaining the cheesemaking and aging facilities. In addition, a number of other activities may be incorporated into the day, depending on the apprentice's interests: care of laying hens, pasture management, bookkeeping, herd health, care of pigs, irrigation, chicken/turkey butchering (late summer). Time off during these months is limited. Fall is a slower time of year, with more time for visiting family, attending workshops, etc...

This is a full-time, intensive education and professional training program requiring fifty to sixty hours a week, sometimes more and sometimes less. One of the joys as well as the challenges of farming is living and working with the rhythm of the seasons, and the work schedule follows the demands of season, weather, and animal needs. As an example, in the height of the season the schedule looks like this:

Sunday: milk cows and make cheese all day.
Monday: general ranch/cheese-room maintenance work, or possibly a day off.
Tuesday: milk cows and make cheese all day.
Wednesday: same as Monday.
Thursday: milk cows and make cheese all day.
Friday: milk cows, bottle herd-share milk, time for projects (June-September: Telluride Farmers' Market 7:00 am to 7:30 pm).
Saturday: Durango Farmers' Market in the morning, with some rest-time following. Livestock care in the afternoon.

Time off: One day off per week provides a healthy break for the apprentice. There may be times when a day off is not possible, but other times (especially in the fall) when two days off per week might make more sense. The work pattern follows that of nature; when everything is busy and producing and growing, farmers do the same. When nature begins to slow down, there is a natural decline in activity. Some apprentices save up days off so they can take several consecutive days to go visit family or attend a class or workshop, when the ranch/dairy schedule can accommodate this time away.

Education & Experience: 

Education Fund: The New Agrarian Program seeks to serve the professional interests of the apprentice whenever possible. Up to $1500 will be available for the apprentice to attend workshops, classes, and/or conferences that are directly applicable to the apprenticeship program. These funds may be utilized to reimburse travel and registration expenses. Dan and Becca do their best to accommodate such opportunities, though there will be times when it won't possible for an apprentice to leave the ranch for an extended time period, due to workload.

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 an Holistic Management International webinar series geared 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.

Application Instructions: 

Start Date: Before April 1.
Please read the farm and full job description at:
TO APPLY: Please email a resume and letter of interest to Dan and Becca James at

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