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A lighthouse of hope

Jordan Manning for Progressive Dairy Published on 06 September 2019
Freedom Ranch

Just outside of Clovis, New Mexico, is a “lighthouse in the desert.” While not an actual lighthouse, it serves as a beacon of hope and service in eastern New Mexico for those in need. 

Founded in 1988, The Lighthouse Mission is a Christ-centered rescue mission that aims to end homelessness, hunger, and drug and alcohol abuse in the community. The mission started when a bible study group was reading scripture and felt called to provide food and clothing to families in need. Now the mission offers services like a soup kitchen, clothing bank, homeless shelter and recovery programs.



Richard Gomez grew up in Clovis and helped found Lighthouse Mission with his brother. Now he is executive director of the mission, but Gomez will be the first to follow that up by humbly clarifying his most important title is servant leader. Operating Lighthouse Mission is a family affair for Gomez with mother, wife and children all working alongside him.

“We won’t get rich doing this work, but we have a great retirement plan of going to heaven,” Gomez says.

Freedom Ranch, Lighthouse Mission’s men’s drug and alcohol recovery program, sits on 243 acres on the outskirts of Clovis. During their six-month stay at the ranch, men have the chance to lead a structured schedule and gain back life skills needed to succeed after graduating from the program. Hard work and responsibility are at the top of that list, with the help of local dairies making it possible.

Raising bull calves is a huge part of Freedom Ranch’s program, both spiritually and financially. When a community member approached Gomez about raising bull calves to make money for Lighthouse Mission, which is funded only by donations, he decided to give it a try. Now the calves are making enough money to help the program support itself. But according to Gomez, what matters most are the skills men in the program gain by caring for the calves.

Richard Gomez, Geri Gomez, Sandra Smith, Albin Smith


Sandra and Albin Smith can speak to the impact of the calf program at Freedom Ranch from firsthand experience. The Smiths, owners of Arrowhead Dairy, donate bull calves to the ranch, and Sandra also serves as president of Lighthouse Mission’s board of directors. As someone who always wanted a drug and alcohol recovery program in the Clovis area, Freedom Ranch is very close to her heart. 

“I remember the first time I stepped on the property, it was so peaceful,” she says. “The men are healed quicker when they’re connected to agriculture. Working with the land and animals are skills they can take with them and even go find work on one of the dairies in the area.” 

For her husband, Albin, the commitment of giving back is twofold. In addition to the bull calves, Albin also donates supplies and his time by visiting Freedom Ranch with a veterinarian to teach the men proper calf care practices. Dustin Handley of DoRene Dairy has also been instrumental to the program from the very beginning by donating calves and visiting the ranch regularly. 

Mark Calbert, who has been in the program at Freedom Ranch since May, finds this hands-on experience with local dairy farmers very valuable.

“Whenever dairymen come out to teach us proper handling, I try to be around as much as possible,” Calbert says. “I’ve been proactive in learning more so I can educate others at the ranch.” 

But to Albin, the real joy is when he learns something from men in the program, like when they designed a new type of calf hutch using recycled totes. 


“The whole point of the program is to get these men free of their addiction and taking care of baby calves is a big part of that,” Smith says. “It’s a healing process. It’s give and take. It’s how God designed it."

dairy calves

From the day the calves arrive until they leave the ranch, the men rotate building pens, mixing milk, filling bottles and feeding the calves every day. Calves start out in individual pens to receive proper care, then they move into community pens. After about 120 days, they are sold to a feedlot in the area.

David Sena, who graduated from the program in April, had never worked with animals before coming to Freedom Ranch. Now he has experience feeding calves twice a day, which has shown him the work ethic required to care for something that depended on him. He credits Lighthouse Mission, community members and local dairy farmers like the Smiths, Handleys and others for that opportunity. 

“It’s so fulfilling to help a baby calf from birth to eventually leaving the ranch,” Sena says. “This program shows me that people in the community do care. They didn’t give up on me, and they do believe in us to be successful.” 

When executive director Richard Gomez is asked how he defines success in the program, he explains the real impact is seeing men graduate, start over and re-build bridges with their families. By working together with organizations like Lighthouse Mission, the local dairy industry has found a way to help make this possible.

If you are interested in learning more about Freedom Ranch or contributing time or services, please contact Richard Gomez at (575) 799-0902.  end mark

This blog was brought to you courtesy of Dairy MAX

Jordan Manning is the manager of farmer communications at Dairy MAX. Email Jordan Manning.

PHOTO 1: Freedom Ranch is a men’s drug and alcohol recover program near Clovis, New Mexico. The program partners with local dairies to supply bull calves. Raising calves not only provides valuable income for operating the project, but it also teaches the participants skills for getting back into the work world. Photo courtesy of Lighthouse Mission.

PHOTO 2: Richard Gomez, Geri Gomez, Sandra Smith and Albin Smith are pictured. Photo courtesy of WebXsites Designs LLC.

PHOTO 3: After baby calves arrive, the men rotate duties such as building pens, mixing milk replacer and feeding the calves. Calves are sold at 120 days. Photo courtesy of Lighthouse Mission.