By Anna Smith
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter-Prairie Post
Virtual Grazing School returns for its second year of online webinars this July, due to public health protocols.
Hosted by both the Southern Alberta Grazing School for Women and the Alberta Range Stewardship Course, the series is replacing in person seminars and hands-on learning for both organizations.
The webinars will be live at 9a.m. with the first session on Tuesday, July 20th, with the rest rolling on July 22nd, 27th and 29th.
“There’s always things happening in agriculture at all times of the year, but we tried to pick a good morning spot we thought would be done early enough that people can still continue with their work day,” said Norine Ambrose, executive director with Cows and Fish, the committee behind the Southern Alberta Grazing school for Women.
Organizers are hopeful about the success of this year after the level of engagement seen in 2020, said Ambrose.
“We had almost 400 people registered for the webinars last year, which was quite amazing. Most sessions, we had over 100 people in attendance,” said Ambrose. Many sessions, despite being scheduled to be only an hour, rolled over an extra 30 minutes due to questions from attendees.
“I prefer the hands on myself,” said Julie Landry-DeBoer, who has worked with the Southern Alberta Grazing School for Women since 2011, “but this is the next best thing.”
The hidden benefit to going virtual is the ability to record the sessions for ranchers to refer to later on or watch if they were unable to attend the live session, said Landry-DeBoer. All but one of this year’s sessions will be recorded for later viewing.
This year’s topics include practical and relevant tools as they pertain to the grasslands for landowners and ranchers, said Ambrose. She encourages those interested to view the recordings of last year’s presentations, as this year’s goal is to take a next step and build on what was recorded in 2020.
“We’re going to talk about weeds. Not only the control, but why do you have weeds? How do you get to this stage, and the strategies to address them both in immediacy and also in prevention, what it’s telling you,” said Ambrose.
Other topics for this year include tame grass on native grasslands, stocking rates and producer perspective, the latter of which will only be available live on Thursday, July 29th.
While they hope to return in in person events soon, Ambrose said, it’s likely that they will likely continue to host webinars in the future as well.
“You can’t really show someone what a plant looks like on call, or what a pasture looks like as a whole unit, you need to get into real time. But I think the webinars can really compliment that,” said Ambrose.