By Angela Abrahão –

Last spring the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program ventured into the world of tourism. Program director Gillian Watt explains, “I was happy to bring together the Faculty of Tourism, with the Faculty of Science, and the Williams Lake Campus to help develop and deliver this course as part of the Applied Sustainable Ranching diploma program.”

Ranching students tour Esk’et Tiny House, an Indigenous tourism operation at the Esk’etemc First Nation on a field day for Soft Adventure & Agri-Tourism. Photo: Angela Abrahão

Students have the opportunity to witness how different disciplines come together in complementary ways. Instructor Peter Larose delivers the six-week ASUR 2040 Soft Adventure and Agri-Tourism course with passion and enthusiasm.

Many ranches already incorporate a tourism diversification strategy into their ranching operations. With demand for authentic farm and ranch experiences on the rise, this type of learning can be invaluable to the program and to the economic development of the Cariboo region.

Amy Thacker, CEO of the Cariboo Chilcotin Tourism Association, explains that when tourism dollars come to the region, the likelihood of them coming back depends on their whole experience. If a tourist has a bad experience in one place, those tourist dollars are probably not coming back to the region. You have one opportunity to make a first impression. Thacker emphasizes, “When your neighbours do an excellent job, everyone prospers.” This makes it more likely the tourist will return.

Students had a chance to tour a local tourism business, Esk’et Tiny House, where Robert and Betina Johnson hosted students. Esk’et Tiny House is an indigenous tourism operation in Esk’etemc, a First Nations community of the Secwepemc Nation. Robert and Betina are inspiring leaders who have taken their passion and needs and designed a thriving business for themselves and who exemplify the idea of excellence in our local tourism experience.

Pushing more linear thinkers to start thinking differently, Larose introduces students to the design principles of empathy that are human centered and focus on creating meaningful experiences. Ranching is a traditional discipline; there is room for innovative ideas while we face unprecedented changes in the world. Ranching life can be hard but ranchers tend to be very empathetic. Care of animals is a rancher’s primary directive. Showing students a design process that exercises “empathic expression” as they create tourism experiences enables what is truly authentic on a farm or ranch, making memorable experiences that visitors seek and value.

Larose tells us, “There seemed to be a certain level of maturity and confidence among the students, many of whom had already gathered a fair amount of life experience in the very challenging business context of farming and ranching.”

He goes on to say, “I was really pleased to see the alignment of core values around tourism with those of farming/ranching—care for and dedication to the product and the customer, shared strong ideals about how our fields can make the world a better place, and the importance of community.”

Jokingly he says, “I was also reminded that ‘wrangler’ is not just a pair of jeans!”

Turn Your Love of the Outdoors into a Business
ASUR 2040 Soft Adventure and Agri-Tourism is returning to Thompson Rivers University. This popular course presented such value and garnered such positive feedback it will be offered as a stand-alone course. It is not limited to ranching students. The public is eligible to participate for their own business development. Course begins April 30, 2018.

To register, contact program director, Gillian Watt at 250-319-2367. For more information visit :

Angela Abrahão lives in Williams Lake and, with her husband, frequents their Brazilian farm and sugar cane co-op, which produces ethanol, sugar, and energy. Angela is an herbalist, writer, and permaculture designer, and is a consultant for digital marketing with a focus on agriculture. She is a graduate of the Applied Sustainable Ranching program at TRU. You can follow along on Facebook at /AppliedSustainableRanching.


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