The first-ever students of Thompson Rivers University’s Applied Sustainable Ranching program in Williams Lake celebrated their graduation Friday at the Tourism Discovery Centre.
Likening themselves and fellow classmates to pioneers, valedictorians Angela Abrahao and Davana Mahon said their program builds on the Cariboo’s rich history of ranching, homesteading and agriculture.
“The ranching program aims to teach students the fundamentals needed to be successful in the industry while still allowing them to be here on the ranches while studying,” Mahon said.
It is common for operations to be passed on to the next generation and the program offers local ranchers and B.C. ranchers the crucial fundamentals of running a successful ranching business, she added.
Instead of an education based on textbooks, the students have been able to have hands-on direct education, Abrahao said.
“This not only provides us with up-to-date information and training, but to network within our own industry.”
Local rancher and former MLA David Zirnhelt, who chairs the program’s industry advisory committee, congratulated the students and thanked the local ranching industry for its support.
“This program has been about 36 operations giving their best to the students and instructors who have given their all,” Zirnhelt said. “It’s been fresh information, and believe me everyone I’ve sat in on has been rewarding to me.”
Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon launched the program last year at a similar celebration and returned to the lakecity for Friday’s graduation.
“I know for many this program has been a long cherished dream, but here we are tonight recognizing 14 graduates,” Guichon said.
As climate continues to change, she said, ranchers will be called on to produce more and feed great numbers.
“TRU Williams Lake campus is preparing for that day and the Applied Sustainable Ranching program will continue to prepare students to meet the growing need.”
Echoing Guichon, TRU Dean of Science Tom Dickinson said the program is about people, the environment and sustainability.
“On behalf of all of us who have had the privilege of being your instructors, we are very proud of your accomplishments,” Dickinson said.
For TRU Grit board member Mark Nairn, who also sat on the steering committee for the program, the program is an example of what happens when an industry identifies an issue and the community and the university gets together and comes up with a solution, he said.
“We are thrilled to see the success of the program and hope it will go on for many years in the future.”
Since 2012, TRU Grit has raised $130,000 and all of it has gone into student awards.
“All of the money comes from the community from people who believe in the university and education,” Nairn said.
TRU Grit board member Brian Garland used the occasion as the opportunity to announce a new Cariboo Chevrolet bursary in the amount of $5,200 for a 4-H graduate wanting to take the ranching program.
Darlene Freding presented graduate Vicky Granberg with the Bill Freding Memorial Award for Resilience and Innovation, on behalf of her husband Bill who passed away in October.
“You are the lifeblood of our industry,” Freding told the graduates. “We want you and we need you. You are the seedstock of our future.”
Representing the Cattlemen Industry Development Council, Grant Huffman said the council is following the evolution of the program with interest and encouragement.
Grads and guests enjoyed a dinner featuring tastes of the Cariboo and the music of the Big Lake Symphony Orchestra.
SLIDESHOW OF THE EVENT