Burke was raised on a family ranch in western Wyoming. His father and grandfather were ahead of their time in understanding the importance of low-input, low cost agriculture.
After high school, he went to BYU to study Agricultural Economics with an emphasis in AgBusiness. He also served a 2 ½ year mission for his church in Brazil. Upon graduating from BYU, he went to the University of Wyoming to get a M.S. in Agricultural Economics with emphasis in Farm and Ranch Management.
While at UW he became acquainted with a very good Ranch Economist that taught him excellent methods for analyzing alternative methods of operating ranches or bringing new practices to them. He also visited 40+ ranches in the state to collect data for his M.S. thesis. Some of those visits turned out to be life-long thought changers. Following graduation, Burke served on the UW Ag. Economics faculty for one year.
After his time at the University of Wyoming, Burke spent a few years in the Artificial Insemination industry where he was put in touch with some of the best Animal Scientists in America—several of whom became mentors. This was a very valuable addition to the Agricultural Economics formal education.
Burke has since worked in various aspects of farm and ranch management and consulting including:.
- Three plus years as General Manager of the Livestock Division of U&I Inc. in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. Developed a livestock division to graze the crop residue on two very large farms irrigated with water pumped from the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
- Two plus years as 1/2 time Assistant Professor of Ag. Econ. at BYU and 1/2 time engaged in consulting work. It was during those years that he met Alan Savory and Stan Parsons and started a process of becoming a holistic thinker..
- From 1980 to 1990 worked with the Welfare Services department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Manager of Production and later as Manager of 7 cattle ranches in Utah.
- From 1990 to July of 2010 worked as a General Manager and later as Vice President and General Manager with AgReserves Inc. (commonly known as Deseret Ranches). Was involved in 7 major ranch acquisitions in the US and in the management of a number of farms and ranches in the US as well as Canada and Argentina. Developed a reputation for organizing ranches to be very cost-effective and profitable with very efficient, small crews. Also a proponent of planned, time-controlled grazing for improved soil health and ranch productivity.
- In his time of managing ranches in a number of climatic envrionments and locations, he learned that while adhering to the same principles no two ranches could be managed the same—thus the need for adaptive grazing and adaptive management to fit practices to the individual ranch while using the same principles.
- Since retirement has worked as a contract manager, consultant and speaker.
Burke has managed cattle ranches in a variety of locations and has had managerial oversight of two large farms and a dairy. He has also traveled extensively in the U.S. and in parts of Canada and Central and South America as well as England, Australia and New Zealand either on company business or as a consultant or speaker.