Kansas Ranch and Range Management Internship

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $18,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Calvin Adams
Adams Ranch

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing - continuous, grazing management, mineral supplements, pasture fertility, range improvement, grazing - rotational, stocking rate, watering systems, feed/forage
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop, youth education
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, wind power
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, indicators, wetlands, wildlife
  • Pest Management: eradication, field monitoring/scouting, flame, physical control, prevention, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, new business opportunities, partnerships, employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    The average age of farmers in Kansas in 2007 was 57.7 -up from 54.3 in 1997 and 52.0 in 1987. This is a national trend. Securing the future of agriculture requires that the next generation of sustainable farmers succeeds in overcoming significant barriers to entering and sustaining farming careers. USDAERS research predicts that only 250,000 farm entrants will replace the approximately 500,000 farmers who will retire between 1992 and 2002. "That so few young people are going into farming is one of the most critical problems of American culture" (W. Berry, 1997) With twice as many farmers over 65 years old as under 35, we have a crisis in the making. (LNE 99-119 Final Report) This project is designed to address the problem of getting experienced and well trained young ranchers back on the ranch. We propose developing a summer internship program where qualified young people will be paired with experienced rancher/mentors so they can learn the nuts and-bolts of range management in a one-on-one relationship. Similar internship programs have been done many times before, but not in the ranching industry where distances between mentor ranches present unique problems in offering teaching enrichment events throughout the summer. We will rely heavily on what has been done before, particularly the pasture based SARE project in Up-state New York (FNE06-568) and Lynn Myers' Nebraska project (FNC04-545). We have begun the process. Last spring we developed a preliminary survey questionnaire designed to give students the opportunity to tell us what they wanted in a summer internship program. We then distributed the survey to about 80 students at three different colleges. Their responses indicated that at the Junior College level about 30% of the agriculture students were" very interested" in our proposed internship. This data suggests there is a sizable pool of potential students enrolled at the Jr. Colleges in Kansas that have agriculture programs. To date, we have contacted five colleges (Kansas State University, Fort Hays State University, Colby Community College, Hutchinson Community College, and Cloud County Community College) and have received strong interest from the students and staff in the internship idea. Based on the results of last spring's visits we anticipate additional interest with the remaining Junior Colleges. Our research and discussion with other intern program coordinators has revealed that a great amount of emphasis must be placed on the pairing of mentors and interns. Professional competence and personalities must be considered due to the employer/employee, mentor/student, and rancher/intern relationship that is imperative to a successful experience. The program staff and mentor board will assist in screening the initial panel of applicants but each mentor will ultimately offer employment and an internship to the student they identify as most suitable to the strengths of their operation and the goals and objectives of the intern. Due to the variability of jobs and operations it is important that each mentor independently negotiate position, salary, and room and board arrangements with their respective intern. Previous discussion and research with potentially interested students indicated the necessity of competitive summer compensation and the current average industry wage for agriculture employees does not adequately address the income needs of today's college students. To make the internship program financially competitive, we are aggressively pursuing additional funds to provide each intern a stipend upon the successful completion of their obligations to the internship program. We have begun to indentify and recruit a group of highly qualified ranchers to serve as mentors. The mentor cadre will be selected from a nomination list obtained from local rancher groups such as the Tall Grass Legacy Alliance, Smoky Hills Graziers Association, Comanche Pool Foundation, Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Livestock Association, and selected KSU Extension Agents. The vision, attitude and ability of this mentor group are paramount to the success of this program. Once selected, the ranchers will be given training to develop the skills to become great mentors. Additionally, we will recruit an advisory board composed of people who have internship training experience to assist us with problem solving and program direction. An ideal schedule would look something like this (we obviously can't begin this early the first year): • January - send out announcements and application forms to participating colleges. • Early February - Applications are screened and 8 to 10 interns are selected for an interview. • Late February - A selection committee of program staff and at least four mentors will conduct applicant interviews and select the best intern candidates for the program. • March - Each mentor will invite 2-3 potential interns to visit their respective ranch for an additional interview and finalize their selection. • May - A training day will be held with successful interns and their mentors on issues such as safety, progress reporting, selecting enrichment workshop topics, etc. Mentors, staff, coordinator, and interns will develop an individual training plan to meet the initial goals and objectives of each intern and mentor during the summer. • May - August - Interns are placed with mentors with monthly enrichment workshops rotated through participating mentor ranches on topics of interest. The coordinator will make two site visits to each ranch and evaluate how the intern and mentor are achieving their goals or mediating any adjustments necessary to be successful. • August - Program staff and the coordinator will hold wrap-up interviews with interns and mentors and complete a final written report from each. • September - Interns will make at least one oral presentation describing their internship experience to a college class or professional organization meeting.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.