David Pratt (third from right) of Ranch Management Consultants, who established the Ranching for Profit School in the U.S., discusses disaster recovery strategies with Cariboo ranchers during a two-day workshop held at the Pioneer Complex during the weekend. (Greg Sabatino photo)

Ranching workshop tackles wildfire recovery

Ranchers affected by last summer’s wildfires were given a chance to learn recovery phase strategies.

Cariboo ranchers affected by last summer’s wildfires were given a chance to learn recovery phase strategies during the weekend at the Pioneer Complex.

Titled “The Other Side of Disaster” and led by Northern California’s David Pratt of the Ranching for Profit School and CEO of Ranch Management Consultants, the free workshop offered participants ways to develop skills and plans to rebound from wildfire impacts and grow their businesses.

“Basically he’s teaching how to recover from any disaster from a business perspective,” said Ministry of Agriculture regional agrologist Nicole Pressey.

“We have forage, beef and sheep operations here — small, medium and large — and various levels of impact by fire, either directly or indirectly.”

The MOA partnered with the Cariboo Chilcotin Cattlemen’s Association to bring the workshop and Pratt to Williams Lake.

“People are engaged, which is good,” Pressey said during Sunday’s portion of the workshop. “They’re going away with strategies not only to help with disaster recovery, but an increased business understanding.”

At Sunday’s portion of the workshop participants had a chance to form executive boards where each business owner shared his or her strategies, followed by feedback and suggestions from the rest of the mock board for improvement. Those ideas were then evaluated on merit, and ways to implement them were discussed.

Pratt began teaching the workshops after the South Dakota Atlas blizzard in 2013 wreaked havoc on the state, killing thousands of cattle and destroying vast amounts of infrastructure.

“This workshop is based on the idea that it’s easier to solve your neighbour’s problem than your own,” Pratt said. “There are some quarter million and half a million ideas on the table here.

“What we do is start by laying a foundation: is ranching really a business? And for most people it’s not. We tell people profit’s not the purpose of business. Profit is to the business as breathing is to life. Breathing’s not the purpose of life but you’ve got to breathe, and the purpose of business is something much bigger than profit, but it has to make a profit, otherwise it’s just an expensive hobby.”

Cariboo ranchers Duncan Barnett and Joyce Holmes were two of the roughly 15 participants Sunday (down considerably from Saturday due to the snow storm) who said they benefited from the workshop.

“We’re not looking backwards,” Barnett said. “We’re looking forward and preparing for it financially and emotionally, and doing the physical planning — where do we want to go, and how we’re going to get there.

“I found it [the workshop] useful. It kicks you out of the rut and says: let’s move forward.”

Holmes, meanwhile, said one important concept she took away from the workshop was to plan for the future, not the past.

“You can’t plan for the past,” she said of what some ranchers went through during the summer’s wildfires. “You can only deal with a certain amount of things at a time, and you’ve got to plan for the future.”

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