Moving cattle is one of the topics David Zirnhelt discusses in this week’s column. Here cattle graze at Spring House earlier this week. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

Moving cattle is one of the topics David Zirnhelt discusses in this week’s column. Here cattle graze at Spring House earlier this week. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

Ranching students inspired to dream big into the next generation

What moves us, what motivates us, is the connection to the land, the feelings about our surroundings and our vocation

Fortunately for me and many others, there were opportunities from Thursday to Sunday, to meet with the B.C. Minister of Agriculture, Lana Popham and then meet mostly young farmers and ranchers at the first ever “Mixer” hosted by the Young Agrarians of B.C. in Williams Lake.

Feelings of excitement, hope and good fortune filled the two-day gathering of young people. The Minister came, as she said she would, to meet with students and host families from the Thompson Rivers University Applied Sustainable Ranching Program based here in Williams Lake.

Often these columns involve the real physical world of ranching: working cattle, haying, fixing fence amidst swarms of mosquitoes, that kind of real stuff.

What moves us, what motivates us, though, is the connection to the land, the feelings about our surroundings and our vocation.

Old hardened ranchers often talk about the love of the land and the creatures that we look after and what good care looks like. Sometimes in what many think are weak moments, we think and talk about the people we need to support our dreams.

Farmers and ranchers are motivated by dreams and sometimes we are way out there, chasing a rainbow but never seemingly catching it.

Then after some many years of hard work, you look around and see what you have come to.

This is where these young students and young farmers will get to.

For now, it seems hope and company is what they need. Oh yes, they need land too, on which to play out their dreams.

It is their hope and determination that will make them succeed.

Read More: Young Agrarians Hosting mixer for Cariboo farmers

As student after student spoke about their experiences with this applied ranching program, I felt full of hope; never mind for the moment the situation in the war arenas and the shifting running hordes trying to find peace and food elsewhere in the world.

The students speaking to the Minister of Agriculture spoke of the opportunity afforded them by being taken in for their ranch stays by families. They are made to feel at home and supported in their quest for skills and understanding of ranching.

Their learning is as much on the land as it is in the classrooms of the internet. When they come together once a week for classes and group work, they support and inspire one another as they take dreamy looks at different ventures which hold the promise of a viable future on the land.

This Minister of Agriculture, the first women to hold that post in B.C., met the President of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association, Cordy Cox -Ellis, I think the first women to hold that post.

This agriculture industry and vocation is attracting women in unprecedented numbers. That was evident at the Young Agrarians mixer/conference.

Read More: Hopes for the New Year, beyond dirt: Ranch Musing

This is happening across North America: many young people stepping up to take the mantle from those of us of the previous generation on the land.

They are bright, hardworking, and determined to help save the world. What more can you ask for? Help skill them up and watch them thrive, raising healthy food.

Add an enthusiastic Minister of Agriculture, herself a farmer, and there is bound to be an accentuated level of energy in the room.

Apart from the learning about grazing and soils, farm startups and economics, the attendees were here to meet the folks with land who might just wish to sell, lease or make other arrangements to young people in an agricultural operation.

On a joyous ending note, we are off on a holiday so had to have the chickens “babysat” at one of our son’s places. They have a one-and-a-half-year-old who, when he got to collect his first egg, smiled as broad as the world.

In that there is hope!


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David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.