TRU Grit members Mark Nairn (left) and Brian Garland (right) present Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon with a wooden bench made by Pioneer Log Homes during the official launch of TRU’s Applied Sustainable Ranching Program Tuesday in Williams Lake.

Applied sustainable ranching program launched in Williams Lake

The launch of TRU Williams Lake’s Applied Sustainable Ranching Program in 2015 is timely, said Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon.

The launch of TRU Williams Lake’s Applied Sustainable Ranching Program in 2015 is timely, said Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon as the community gathered at the Tourism Discovery Centre Tuesday to celebrate the new program.

“It’s the International Year of Soils,” Guichon said.

Crediting several people for the hard work that has gone into developing the program,  Guichon suggested sustainable ranching as operating on the land in such a way to keep a farm or ranch supporting families for many generations.

“It is about stewarding the land and harvesting sunshine, the most renewable resource on earth, by converting that energy into a valuable product for human consumption.”

Welcoming Guichon and other special guests to the Cariboo, Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie said it was an honour to have the Lieutenant Governor visiting the community, knowing she had also viseted some local schools.

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett  said ever since she was elected, she has been fighting to bring courses to TRU in Williams Lake.

“The Minister of Advanced Education Andrew Wilkinson has a soft spot for this university,” Barnett said. “In June he came and said there was [$154,000] funding available and the agriculture course could move forward.”

Mayor Bob Simpson, who is chair of the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition announced $100,000 in support for the program because it meets all of the coalition’s requirements for funding.

“We believe that ranching needs to be maximally contributing to our local economy and this program will enable that,” Simpson said.

Father and son ranchers Grant and Cuyler Huffman shared their enthusiasm saying the ranching community in the area will benefit greatly from the program.

“I expect a renewed vitality to our local cattlemen,” said Cuyler, who is presently the president of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association.  “There will be learning opportunities for long time ranchers, even old guys and young guys, who may be looking to expand their knowledge in certain areas.”

Grant said there are lots of opportunities in the region and the program will help the ranching community realize them.

The idea to use the university to promote what’s relevant to the community and the land emerged more than a decade ago during public meetings, said Tom Dickinson, TRU Dean of Science.

“People who take this program will have access to an absolutely phenomenal curriculum that puts industry needs and people’s needs and the environment’s needs all at the front and centre,” Dickinson said.

Last Friday Dickinson and the program’s manager Gillian Watt secured an agreement with Olds College in Alberta that graduates from the TRU program can transfer into the degree program in Agribusiness at Olds.

“The next step will be to bring the Olds program to here,” Dickinson said.

Executive director Ray Sanders who has been with TRU Williams Lake since 2010 said the new program is well-suited to TRU Williams Lake.

“We want to be sure we build programs so that people can stay here and make sure we are able to add value back into the lives of people and industry that are here,” he said.

TRU Grit, the Williams Lake group that supports the university and fundraises to provide bursaries and scholarships, in support of the launch of the agriculture program, announced six new $2,000 scholarships for full-time students or $1,000 for part-time students with a cut off application date of Jan. 8, 2016.

Registration for the program is now open. Interested students are asked to contact Rita Giesbrecht at 250-706-5577 or rgiesbrecht@tru.ca.

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