An open house for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake drew prospective students and ranchers possibly interested in mentoring for the program which is slated to begin at the end of January 2016.
Program manager Gillian Watt and student co-ordinator Rita Giesbrecht shared information on the program, including the course outline and what is involved with the rancher mentoring component.
The program is divided into four courses that the students will study one at at time.
The first course is an introductory one-week residency lab that will help students become familiar with educational technologies. Students will also tour ranch sites in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
In the second course which will run for three months, students will build a sustainable business strategy for a ranch, developing skills around enterprise costing, budget projections and management of financial statements.
Following that, the third course will explore environmentally sustainable ranching and will run almost three months as well.
Some of the issues the course will focus on are management techniques around soil fertility and soil health, riparian and watershed systems, wildlife and predator interactions and urban and agriculture land interfaces.
“I’m excited,” said rancher David Zirnhelt, who has been a driving force behind the program’s development. “I have already dug a soil pit at my ranch for the students to come and see.”
In the final course of the first year, students study skill development and diversification for two and a half months.
Using a skill-based approach, they will learn about techniques commonly used in ranch operations, such as skills related to humane animal care, stockman ship and dog training, equipment preventative maintenance, safe operating procedures and fencing techniques.
As for the mentoring aspect of the program where students will be directly connected with local ranchers, it is anticipated the ranchers will be able to offer as many opportunities as possible for the student to put into practice theoretical skills that are learned in the study modules offered in each course.
“The mentoring program will be a very rewarding and an excellent way to learn,” Giesbrecht said.
A handout about the mentoring aspect states the key to success will be mutual respect for the role of both the mentor and the student and that the student will always take their best shot and learn at their heightest level.
There will be an official launch of the program on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at the Tourism Discovery Centre from 7 to 9:30 p.m, with special guest Her Honour, the Honourable Judith Guichon the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia.
Smiling, Zirnhelt said it took Her Honour all of five seconds to accept the invitation.