An Applied Sustainable Ranching program slated to be offered at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake hopes to address the needs of the local ranching environment.
“Dr. Ray Sanders at TRU has insisted the program be applied and in order for it to work that it be built for industry by industry,” said Gillian Watt, the program’s manager. “Our advisory committee has representatives from 100 Mile House all the way to Quesnel. They are making the decisions on what’s going to be taught and how.”
The program will be offered through module-based learning, meaning students from the Cariboo Region will be able to do most of the course work at home.
They will spend four hours in the morning doing course work on the computer and four hours of applied work in the afternoon on a farm or ranch.
If students come from other parts of the world or country, they will be billeted on farms or ranches.
The course will also provide people from outside the region to take the course, as long as they can get to the Cariboo on Fridays when all of the students will come together for applied workshops at TRU in Williams Lake or on a ranch.
“We’ll have a specialist come in from either outside or within the region to speak on the subject matter the students have been learning about all week,” Watt said.
For those seminars, ranchers in the Cariboo will be able to pay money and attend if they want to learn about the topic or hear the guest speaker.
The program’s first two modules will take 12 weeks to complete and are mandatory.
The first one, Sustainable Enterprise, will cover topics such as product costing, financial management, marketing and logistics, human resources, balancing family and farm, land resources and communication, conflict resolution and crisis management.
In the environmental sustainability module, topics covered will include soil health, biodiversity and plant needs, grazing management, watershed and riparian systems management, wildlife interactions, invasive species, urban-agriculture interface, medicinal plants, traditional use sites and archaeological factors.
A four-week course titled Opportunities for Enterprise Diversification will give students an overview of different enterprises such as purebred livestock, greenhouses, berries and landscape horticulture, apiaries, on farm processing and value added including farm stores or tourism. From there they will take modules going more in depth about different enterprises.
Students will have a choice to take either low stress stockmanship or equipment maintenance and safe operating procedures.
The program will be flexible, Watt said.
“People can take one module and not take another one for a while and come back. They can pick and choose their modules and eventually get their diploma.”
Watt used to own a ranch out at Black Creek in Horsefly. While raising children on the ranch she pursued a Masters in Business Administration in Agriculture online through the University of Guelph. “I ended up working at TRU Kamloops in the research office and did lots of projects with the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association,” Watt said.
She’s also worked with TRU Williams Lake to develop training programs for forestry harvesting operators.
“When I was asked if I would be the program manager of the agriculture program I said sure as long as David Zirnhelt helped me because we need a local rancher.”
One of the questions TRU will be asking to attract students is if they are committed to sustainable management of natural resources and building resilience into ranching enterprises both at home and abroad?
The program is anticipated to begin in January 2016.