British Columbia ranchers who are interested in learning more about sustainable practices can now study the concept through Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.
The B.C. ministry of advanced education has provided the university with $154,000 to develop a two year applied sustainable ranching enterprise diploma program in Williams Lake.
Gillian Watt, who helped develop the new program for the university, said it is about more than providing beef to corporate initiatives such as the one proposed by McDonald’s Canada.
Many ranchers are already pursuing more sustainable practices and have requested more training to achieve certain goals in the management of their land, she added.
“This has nothing to do with McDonald’s. It has to do with the business climate in B.C.,” she said.
“B.C. consumers, especially in the Fraser Valley, are very discerning about wanting a natural protein.”
An advisory committee of ranching representatives from the Cariboo region provides industry oversight.
Eligible students need to do four hours of ranch work five days a week. Students who do not have a ranch may be billeted on an operation in the Cariboo-Chilcotin district.
The course offers online study of four hours per day, six days a week with interactive modules and group projects to prevent students from having to work on their own.
Field days or lectures will be offered at the completion of each module with experts who can offer enhanced study on specialized topics such as animal welfare and soil management.
The first two modules, which take 12 weeks to complete, are mandatory, but students can then pick and choose additional modules to study at their own pace to complete the diploma.
A research project in each year of the program will provide experience with business plan development and operations management planning.
The course will evolve from a certificate to a two year diploma program once it receives full approval from the university’s senate. The program could be transferrable to other institutions such as Olds College in Olds, Alta., if students want additional education.
A program information night will be held at the university’s Williams Lake Campus Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. to provide potential students with more information.
The program is expected to start in January.