Western Integrated Ranch/Farm Education
1. Teach ranchers/farmers a process of integrated management Western Integrated Ranch/Farm Education (WIRE) in four western states: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.
2. Develop in-depth follow-up training in specific resource areas, to meet needs identified by program participants.
3. Evaluate the program in terms of adoption of management concepts and resource sustainability following implementation of the WIRE process by selected cooperators.
SARE funds were made available to the WIRE project in 1995, although regional WIRE activities actually began the previous year. These included teams from Utah, Montana, and Idaho extension attending a Wyoming producer course; discussions of WIRE courses for each state; and discussions for methods to fund a regional WIRE effort. A multi-state coordinating committee was formed to provide leadership to this project for the region. SARE funds help to develop team training and offer the program across the four western states.
Montana WIRE courses have been certified as satisfying FSA borrower training requirements, as are Wyoming and Idaho courses. In addition, an online version of the WIRE course has been recently developed and offered via the eCollege.com course delivery system, making the integrated management concepts of WIRE available to a much larger audience, as well as allowing for FSA borrowers another source for certified training.
A WIRE Video Library, developed by the Utah WIRE team to assist in teaching these courses, includes six videos covering a broad set of topics from the course. Early indications are that these help students more completely understand the concepts and their application.
The findings of the project have been broadly disseminated using several methods: popular press articles, Web pages, satellite and videotape presentations, and the offerings of WIRE courses. In addition, WIRE Web pages have been developed and continue to receive a great deal of interest, as well as provide a point of contact for those seeking more information.
Testimonials offered by participants in WIRE programs across the region indicate appreciation for the depth and breadth of material covered. Evaluations show participants rank WIRE courses an average 3.22 of a possible four points. Awards received by the regional program demonstrated an appreciation by colleagues for the impact of the regional WIRE program.
Participants are instructed to be more observant of their operations in several ways. They are taught methods of risk management and ways to see problems before they occur. Many hours are spent on setting goals. People for the first time consider where they want to be in ten years and what is it going to take to get there. Participants are taught methods of better communication not only for the operation but also for the family.
Alternative enterprises are evaluated that might permit better use of resources while also increasing income. Analysis tools include FINPACK and other readily available software packages that provide for what-if analysis and evaluation. Producers are taught how to integrate these new enterprises into their operations before the actual step is taken, preventing some new problems before they occur.
With the help of the WIRE class, producers were able to propose better business plans and obtain FSA funding. Ranchers are requesting help with topics such as management of key resources and inter-generational communications on ranches. Agents and specialists in Montana have conducted 11 programs as spin-off requests from WIRE participants.
Montana ranchers attending courses indicated that WIRE course led to various changes. One ranching operation was shown to be marginal, with three college graduate sons all trying to make a living on the ranch with dad; setting goals and studying teamwork, two sons consequently got jobs off the ranch and the ranch terminated a purebred herd enterprise because of lack of time and ability to properly market the offspring. Another ranch adopted a rest-rotation grazing system by dividing five pastures into ten and by developing a new reservoir, permitting the ranch to support 15 percent more cattle, even during a recent drought.
Benefits of the program range from getting people to think about new strategies to having groups change the management of their operations. Several operations will now do a better job of tracking their financial situation as a result of attending the course. These individuals asked course instructors for assistance with analysis using the FINPACK financial analysis software program.
A number of producers also asked for more information on range analysis, stocking rates and resource inventories. Seven operations asked specifically for range evaluation assistance. Most of the individuals who attended a WIRE course are now setting goals for the first time, a major improvement.
Several ranches are now entertaining ideas of new enterprises as a direct result of the WIRE class. One operator owns three miles of shoreline along a popular fishing reservoir. In our human inventory, we found that his wife had run a camping enterprise with her parents. The ranch is considering a new business offering camping along the lake shoreline.
Idaho participant testimonials on family relations indicate that The Color Code® workshop was very informative. One said, It really helped us understand our family members better, knowing their own personality differences. It is beneficial in all walks of life in dealing with others more effectively.
The Color Code® helped me to understand myself and learn to accept others. Some things that I thought were so morally critical aren’t and I can accept and appreciate others’ awesome traits. It will help at home, on the dairy, at work, church, and in the community, said another.
Farmer Adoption and Direct Impact
A major topic is goal setting, a major stumbling block of most farm/ranch operations. When producers start to set goals, they find it easier to adapt their time and efforts to the accomplishment of the goals. Without the goals, they find themselves working hard every day but not really understanding where they are headed.
The next large impact the program has is in team building and personnel development. Most operations deal only with immediate family members, but producers are finding these people have a great deal to do with the success of their individual operations. Team training concepts help operations to be run with less stress on the workers and on the family, especially less stress on the husband/wife relationship. One wife said, Thank you for the communication part of this training. We can discuss problems now that we have never been able to discuss in the past. We have a better understanding of what each other is thinking! Another producer stated about his hired man: I have always tried to get him to do things he didn’t want to do. I have learned in this class to give him more responsibility in his strong areas. By doing this, he doesn’t feel picked on to do some of the less glamorous things on our operation. I really never understood why he was always so depressed. Now, we have a better relationship and are working as a team.
Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers
Selected testimonials and participant comments include the following:
I found the class to be well planned and presented in a way that I could grasp the concepts in a way that will pertain to my operation.
I really liked the color/personality part. I think that part really helped me as a wife to understand why and how my husband and father-in-law act and react to some of the things going on our ranch.
Workshop was excellent…Would recommend it to young farm couples on a family ranch or anywhere… My biggest goal as a result of this workshop is to use more time to utilize these materials for the growth of ranch…and to continuing a written monitoring program that we can pass down to sons.
Being new to range and livestock enterprises, those areas demanded more attention and work…In our first attempt at a ranch strategic plan we looked at resources and enterprises and dollars and developed our own tools.
This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 2000 reporting cycle.