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Education: News Roundup from the September 2017 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

I have been quite concerned over the last few years about the direction in which the agricultural industry is headed. We have been pushed down a road of quick fixes for quite some time. What we really need are long-term solutions to the problems.

Environment and health care are two of the big issues we face as can be seen by looking at our government budgets in these two areas.

In comparison, the agriculture budget is relatively small but they have it wrong. I believe that we can address both these big issues just by improving our agriculture practices. Raising healthy food in an environmentally sustainable manner is a partial solution to both. So some of the health care and environment budgets should be pushed into agriculture.

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Healthy food grown in a sustainable manner is not out of reach. We can have both.

Our mission statement here at Greener Pastures Ranching is “Economic and environmental sustainability for generations.”  We can clean the water and clean the air, but we have to be sure we don’t go broke in the process. Similarly, big profits earned by production that damages our land and the environment is not sustainable for generations to come. We need to do both.

Management is the key, which is why I believe education is one of the most important investments we can put into our farms and ranches.

I was very fortunate to be asked to teach a grazing school this spring in Williams Lake, B.C. where I spent two days with the current first- and second-year students of the Thompson Rivers University (TRU), students of the applied sustainable ranching program and some local producers.

I was impressed with the program and the direction at TRU, as its goals are very similar to our mission statement here at Greener Pastures Ranching.

I really liked some of the ideas they are promoting; such as carbon neutral ranching, respecting biodiversity and financial and environmental sustainability, just to name a few. This program hits home for me and I strongly believe that more of our academic institutions need to adjust what they are teaching along this line.

It offers a hands-on approach to ranch management with 20 hours a week spent working on an actual ranch. They only attend a classroom on average once a week. Currently, students going through the TRU applied sustainable ranching program will receive a diploma upon graduation and TRU is working with Olds College right now to allow students to transfer into third year of the Olds applied ag business degree program.

Students aren’t required to live in Williams Lake. They call it a “flexible blended learning model” and students living and working on their home ranches or mentoring ranches only drive to campus once per week. For some modules, they can join remotely via video conference.

Students on mentor ranches in the Cariboo region have their room and board covered by their work experience hours drastically reducing the expense of attending the program.

If you are looking to get into agriculture, this just might be the place for you. I’m excited to see where this program goes. Give Gillian Watt a call to see if TRU might be in your future (250-319-2367) or email at [email protected]. You can find them on the web at www.tru.ca/williamslake.

I see TRU as a positive step in the right direction for young producers looking to get into ranching.  We need to address the problems in agriculture and avoid getting caught up in the quick fixes. I believe that is exactly what TRU has in mind.

About the author

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Steve Kenyon runs Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. in Busby, Alta., www.greenerpasturesranching.com, or call 780-307-6500.

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