COLUMNS: Computers and ranching: high tech and old tech

This week has been historic in the ranching and farming industry locally.

This week has been historic in the ranching and farming industry locally.

The first class of students came together this week and spent the week getting to know each other, some local ranching operations, and some of their instructor/facilitators. They met at the Thompson Rivers University (TRU), this  campus in Williams Lake, where they will periodically come together if they are close and if not they will be connected via Skype, Bluebutton or some other media.

The learning strategy of the new Applied Sustainable Ranching (ASUR) program is to have students from ranches live on a ranch to learn applied skills and to connect to an online learning system (at TRU this is called Moodle.) Coming together face-to-face reinforces the online learning and maximizes the success and completion of the program.

A series of industry experts from anywhere in the world will come to the program in person or via webinar (TV or computer screen) so that the best knowledge possible can be available to students and producers in the area.

Feb. 5 which is during the first week of the online study/learning course on sustainable enterprises, will see Dave Pratt, who offers a program on Ranching for Profit, give a one-day seminar in Williams Lake.

This will be open to the ranching/agriculture community and public for a small fee.

Ranching for Profit likes to nail the idea that ranching is a business, not just a way of life. The TRU ASUR program starts with equipping students to develop a business strategy for their own family business or some business enterprise they would like to run.

Best efforts will be made to link and co-ordinate ongoing learning for agriculture producers with the speakers program run by the TRU program.

What better way to learn for students than to be mixed with a broad range of people in the ranching business locally?

It is the intention of the program to draw out local knowledge from the people who have it and use that to connect the formal on line learning by students with the real world.

Universities can’t really teach experience. They can, however, bring universal knowledge to students at home.

Lesson number one for this program: continuing learning is a first step to being able to adjust to new realities as they emerge in the business environment.

There are 14 students registered for the first year: six from the Williams Lake and surrounding area, three from the 100 Mile area, one from Spences Bridge, One each from Quesnel, Kamloops, Whitehorse, and one from Massachusetts (has a ranch in Africa).

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which is starting at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.