1999 FINAL Report
SECTION II - FINAL Report
1. Teach ranchers/farmers a process of integrated managementWestern Integrated Ranch/Farm Educationin 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. However, 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.
Since inception, a total of 76 courses have been offered collectively by WIRE Teams in Idaho (9), Montana (37), Wyoming (21) and Utah (9). This includes courses offered across the four states, Saskatchewan Canada and Queensland Australia, a satellite broadcast to North America, and most recently an offering via the World Wide Web. In total, the number of individuals reached by in-depth WIRE educational programs total just over 1,000. Evaluations of all WIRE courses offered to date show that participants award WIRE courses a 3.22 from a possible 4 points.*
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 (World Wide Web) course delivery system. This makes 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 was developed by the Utah WIRE team to assist in teaching WIRE courses. The library includes six separate 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, WWW pages, satellite and videotape presentations, and through the offerings of WIRE courses. In addition, WIRE World Wide 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. Awards received by the regional program also demonstrate an appreciation by colleagues for the impact of the regional WIRE program.
C. Specific Project Results
1. Findings and Accomplishments
Although SARE funds were made available in 1995, regional WIRE activities actually began a year earlier. These activities included: teams of interested individuals from Utah, Montana, and Idaho extension attending a Wyoming producer course; discussions of methods for offering the WIRE course in each state; and preliminary discussions of methods for funding a regional WIRE effort. To further facilitate these discussions, a multi-state coordinating committee was formed to provide leadership to this project for the entire region. This coordinating committee is composed of three representatives from each state. These representatives include the state team coordinator(s), another state team instructor, and a producer from each state; the project coordinator (Principal Investigator) also to serves on the committee.
The first regional coordinating committee was held in Thermopolis Wyoming in March 1995. Committee function and governance was discussed, as well as how the Wyoming WIRE program would be implemented across the region. Sub-committees were formed for investigating changes and/or updates to the Wyoming WIRE materials to better fit the regional program. In addition, the committee discussed the development of new program materials for use in regional program offerings.
The first objective of the SARE-funded project is to teach ranchers/farmers a process of integrated management. This objective has received most attention and effort to date. Since project inception a total of 76 courses have been offered collectively by WIRE Teams in Idaho (9), Montana (37), Wyoming (21) and Utah (9). These include on-site courses offered across the four states, invited offerings in Saskatchewan Canada and Queensland Australia, a satellite broadcast to North America, and most recently an offering via the World Wide Web. In total, the number of individuals reached by in-depth WIRE educational programs total just over 1,000, not including those participating in the satellite broadcast. Indicative of the continued interest and growing awareness of WIRE programs, the four-state WIRE program will host a contingent of Queensland producers and Department of Primary Industries representatives this coming summer.
Evaluations of all WIRE courses offered to date, for which statistics are available, show that participants rate WIRE courses 3.22 from a possible 4 points.*
Other evaluation scores enumerated for all WIRE courses show that 87%* of participants would recommend the course to their neighbors at the same fee level, 69%* indicated they have begun to identify strategic goals, and 63%* indicated that they are starting to evaluate their operations enterprises and resource requirements, as well as 56% have started thinking in terms of individual enterprises rather than all enterprises together. In addition, participant response to the following questions resulted in the corresponding scores:
To what extent did the program meet your expectations? 3.63 of 5*
How clear to you is the purpose of an integrated approach? 3.89 of 5*
How much of the information will you be able to use on your operation? 3.62 of 5*
How valuable was the program in terms of money you invested? 3.76 of 5*
How valuable was the program in terms of time you invested? 3.70 of 5*
* All reported scores are averages weighted by number of course participants.
It appears producers and other participants find courses spread out over several weeks more appealing than more intensive, multi-day sessions. Participants evaluate each WIRE program. This information is available on the World Wide Web at http://agecon.uwyo.edu/wire. Statistical analysis of the data can be obtained here, as well as aggregated information from Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.
Traditional WIRE programs have been offered on-site to participants who often incur significant travel costs to attend. In response to requests, an online version of the WIRE course has been recently developed and offered via the eCollege.com (World Wide Web) course delivery system in conjunction with UW-Online (see http://ecampus.uwyo.edu/). This three-credit course was well received in its pilot offering. Participants included traditional students, students of non-traditional age from ranches that travel to campus to earn college credit, Farm Service Agency (FSA) borrowers looking to obtain borrower training certification and some from outside Wyoming, including Canada. Student evaluations indicate students learned and understood the concepts taught in the course using distance education techniques and were able to apply the concepts to their own situations or to case study operations. Plans call for further developing this online offering and to perhaps expand the scope of the material to include discipline-specific information as developed under project objective two below.
Under objective two of this project, follow-up training is offered to supplement the integrated management courses for graduates interested in more in-depth, discipline-oriented programming. Follow-up courses on financial management and marketing and risk management were offered in Wyoming in past years. These in-depth, follow-up courses are designed to provide additional information in the financial resource area. Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA) and other educational programs were also provided for those looking to intensify the management of their operations.
In-depth training on property transfer, goal setting, and other programs were offered to graduates of Montana courses. Many participated in these programs and have testified to their usefulness. In addition, the Montana team developed and distributed a Teachers Guide for County Agents, as well as received certification for Montana courses as satisfying FSA borrower training requirements, as are Wyoming and Idaho courses. The Idaho and Montana WIRE teams held additional instructor training sessions, bringing the total number of WIRE instructors in Idaho to 15 and in Montana to 35.
The Wyoming WIRE team pursued additional funding through the SARE-FRG program to assist a few participants with implementation of the WIRE management process. Two grants were awarded and these producers implemented some or all of the WIRE technique in the management of their operations.
A USDA Managing Change in Agriculture mini-grant program provided funding for a satellite broadcast to North America titled WIRE: A Proven Integrated Management Process for Agriculture. Members of the Wyoming team developed, tested, and offered this program in February, 1997. This coupled with the development of a case study videotape program (aired as part of the broadcast and funded by this SARE grant) helped to raise awareness of the WIRE integrated management program and associated management concepts.
The program was targeted for county extension personnel across the U.S. To ensure that all county offices would know of the opportunity, brochures outlining the broadcast, the WIRE program, and the WIRE WWW site were mailed to every county extension office in the country. Demand for the broadcast indicates the level of interest across North America in this approach to ranch/farm management. While site registration was not required, (coordinates were freely distributed) over 65 sites across the U.S. and Canada registered to receive the broadcast. National review team comments on this broadcast and the WIRE program may be found in ATTACHMENT A.
A WIRE Video Library was developed by the Utah WIRE team to assist in teaching WIRE courses. The library includes six separate videos covering topics ranging from an introduction to the WIRE process, a method for developing strategic goals, and discussion of the six factors of profit, to inventorying resources and developing enterprise plans. This video library is available on VHS tape or computer CD ROM. Early indications are that these tapes are a substantial benefit to students in understanding the WIRE process and its application to ranch and farm operations.
In Idaho a critical issues grant was applied for and received to develop a year-two WIRE program to provide a more comprehensive educational experience. This will be as follow-up to the year-one program, which utilizes FINPACK to analyze participants' operations.
WIRE teams across the region have received several awards. These include:
Epsilon Sigma Phi - ESP team award, fall of 1999, Idaho WIRE Team.
National Association of County Agricultural Agents - National Award for Farm and Ranch Financial Management Program, July 1997, Wyoming WIRE Team.
Western Agricultural Economics Association - Outstanding Extension Program in Agricultural Economics, Honorable Mention, July 1996, Wyoming WIRE Team.
National Association of County Agricultural Agents - National Award for Farm and Ranch Financial Management Program, Honorable Mention, July 1994, Wyoming WIRE Team.
University of Wyoming, College of Agriculture magazine Reflections - Award for Best Article, second place, June 1994, Wyoming WIRE Team.
The third objective of this project calls for evaluating the following implementation of the WIRE process. A follow-up evaluation of all 139 Wyoming WIRE course graduates (1992-1995 courses, one offered with SARE funding) was conducted during 1996. This evaluation resulted in some of the following testimonials:
"Has helped develop a structure for long term planning for a ranch in transition from a subsistence cow/calf operation to a public land ranch used for the extended family (public) recreation. Decisions can be based on facts rather than emotion."
"We have begun to use SPA analysis, have developed a business plan, have broken our operation into different livestock enterprises, are beginning new range management, and are developing additional water sources for better range utilization."
"I took the workshop in anticipation of purchasing and managing a ranch. The subject matter has been very helpful in evaluating possible enterprises."
"The WIRE program has really helped me to be more conscious of comparing enterprises, profitability of enterprises, relationship with employees and family, and also encouragement to be resourceful in exploring new ideas. We have placed a lot more emphasis on debt reduction in order to be able to endure low prices. We do use the information and training. Sometimes we get so bogged down in running the every day operations that we dont stand back and evaluate or improve management. I have really appreciated the WIRE training."
"The WIRE course has been very helpful in my ranch operations. With the hard times in livestock production and marketing for the greatest profit, it helps to be able to fall back on the reference material and look for help. In my operation I work full-time off the ranch and still have a full-time job when I come home. I need to cut all the corners that I can and WIRE has been a great help."
"We rated pastures by AUMs, did cross fencing, and more pasture rotation. It has improved."
Additional comments of participants of the course may be found under D1 below as well as in ATTACHMENT B news articles.
2. Dissemination of Findings
To date, the findings of this project (in all states) have been disseminated by several methods: popular press articles, WWW pages, satellite and videotape presentations, and through the offerings of WIRE courses. Popular press articles reaching producers mailboxes across the west have been published on the WIRE program.
Articles on WIRE were also included in a recent USDA publication titled Managing for Todays Cattle Market and Beyond and a multi-state risk management handbook entitled Risk and Resilience in Agriculture. Recently updated, the Cow/Calf Handbook, published in Idaho included articles on WIRE written by a Utah team member. These articles have also generated several contacts for more information. In addition, continued development of the WIRE WWW pages and advertising the WIRE programs across the region generates interest from many, as measured by server statistics for contacts/hits (http://agecon.uwyo.edu/wire/). ATTACHMENT B contains samples of newspaper and popular-press articles on WIRE.
A case study videotape coupled with the WIRE Video Library covering portions of the WIRE process will help facilitate discussion on the subject of integrated management. Also, the taped satellite program funded by the USDA Managing Change in Agriculture mini-grant program has generated much interest in WIRE across the U.S. This mini-grant also paid for the distribution of case study video tapes to over 55 registering sites for the broadcast; yet another way of disseminating information about the WIRE program and integrated management techniques.
Also, through the annual regional coordinating committee meetings, state team leaders have shared experiences of participants and teachers from WIRE courses. These experiences and learning have been incorporated into the offerings of WIRE courses, thus immediately benefiting course participants.
Finally, meetings with other producer audiences have also provided forums for disseminating information about the WIRE program and techniques. Posters, presentations using the WIRE case study video, television advertisements, and other techniques have generally made producers in the participating states more aware of the availability of the integrated management program. ATTACHMENT A includes newspaper and newsletter articles/announcements about WIRE courses.
3. Site Information N/A
4. Economic Analysis N/A
D. Potential Contributions
1. Positive Benefits or Impacts
Participants are instructed to be more observant of their operations in several ways. They are taught methods of risk management, as well as 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 10 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 studied. This provides evaluation of alternatives available to producers, which might allow for better use of their resources, while also realizing a better bottom line. Analysis tools include FINPACK and other readily available software packages which 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. This should help producers visualize new enterprise problems before they occur.
Some operations participating in WIRE courses have reported difficulty receiving funding from FSA. With the help of the WIRE class, these producers were able to propose a better business plan and were able to obtain funding.
The program is being discussed by the ranching community throughout the West, leading to requests for awareness of how to consider management of key resources. An example is the increased awareness of the need to address inter-generational communications on ranches. As a result, agents and specialist in Montana have conducted 11 programs as a spin-off request from WIRE participants.
Testimonials from Montana ranchers attending courses in that state indicated that:
Participating in the WIRE course showed a marginal ranching operation, with three college graduate sons all trying to make a living on the ranch with dad, how to set goals and work as a ranch team. This resulted in two sons getting jobs off the ranch and the ranch terminated a purebred herd enterprise because of their lack of time and ability to properly market the offspring as breeding stock.
Another ranch adopted a rest-rotation grazing system by dividing 5 pastures into 10 and by developing a new reservoir. The owner figures this has allowed him to support 15 percent more cattle, even while experiencing a recent drought. (ATTACHMENT B newspaper article.)
Benefits of the program range from getting people to think, 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 are also asking for more information on range analysis and stocking rates. Seven operations asked specifically for range evaluation assistance. Most of the individuals, which attended a WIRE course, are now setting goals for the first time in their respective operation's history. This will do more for these operations than any other one thing they could have done. Most participants talk of needing help doing a good inventory of resources. Monitoring requests for assistance will tell whether or not these interests are real as time progresses.
Several ranches are now entertaining ideas of new enterprises for their operations. One operator owns three miles of shoreline along a popular fishing reservoir. As per our human inventory, we found that one of the wives of the owners had run a camping enterprise with her parents. The ranch is considering a new business which would allow her to offer camping along the shoreline of the lake for additional income to the operation. Other producers were thinking of additional enterprises for their respective situations as a direct result of the WIRE class.
Idaho participant testimonials on family relations indicate that: "The Color Code® workshop was very informative. It really helped us to be able to 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 arent and I can accept and appreciate others awesome traits. It will help at home, on the dairy, at work, church, and in the community."
2. Farmer Adoption and Direct Impact
a. Changes in Practices N/A
b. Operations Recommendations N/A
One of the major areas of adoption for the program is in the area of goal setting. We have found this to be a major stumbling block of most farm/ranch operations. When producers start to set goals, they find it easy to adapt their time and efforts to the accomplishment of the goals. Without the goals, they find themselves working every day, not really understanding where they are headed.
The next large area of impact the program has on people is in the area of team building and personnel development. Most operations only deal with immediate family members, but producers are finding these people have a great deal to do with the success of their individual operations. By training the producers to build a team concept, even within their own family, operations are being run with less stress on the families and especially less stress on the husband/wife relationship. One wife stated "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; what a wonderful program!" Another producer stated about his hired man: "I have always tried to get him to do things he didnt want to do. I have learned in this class to give him more responsibility in his strong areas. By doing this, he doesnt 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."
c. Farmer Comments
Selected testimonials and participant comments gleaned from evaluations of Montana, Utah, and Wyoming WIRE programs offered under the SARE project include:
I would like to follow the Homestead Ranch more. I really enjoyed this class I learned a lot about myself related to goals.
All the information taught is very useful
I felt the class was very informative. I feel no changes are needed.
I found the class to be well planned out 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.
The portion on strategic planning will benefit our current operation the concept of the wheel will help integrate the three areas. Courses such as this are tools to help us complete in today's world. Continued education is important to our success. It would be beneficial if it didn't end with this.
"You are to be commended for your planning implementation and dedication to this project. We appreciate your enthusiasm, too. And how you relate to those of us working with you."
"Workshop was excellent. Would have enjoyed it anytime, would recommend it to young farm couples on a family ranch or anywhere. You gain valuable ideas in all areas and excellent tools for monitoring and assessing. My biggest goal as a result of this workshop is to use more time to utilize these materials for the growth of ranch. Based solely on getting started and continuing a "written" monitoring program that we can pass down to sons."
"Excellent program which has provoked much thought on how I am doing things throughout the year. Thanksgreat course!"
"Being new to range and livestock enterprises, those areas demanded more attention & work - having a business background made those areas fun and enlightening in their application to all enterprises. Our first attempt at a ranch strategic plan we looked at resources and enterprises and dollars and developed our own tools - so the forms will be very useful."
"The WIRE program is intensive. It is also extremely valuable. Finally, we have a program that really does tie everything together. I especially appreciate the goal, goal cost, and human resources concepts."
"It was worthwhile for me as a manager. New ideas, new tools, a new process. I really enjoyed every person involved. The Team concept was effective to me. Sometimes a change is like a rest, although I didnt get much rest."
"I think the group (team) was outstanding. They included entertainment and an incredible amount of education. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to learn from these individuals."
"As a result of participating in the WIRE class we are working together better and having family meetings."
"Our family operation has worked out a more flexible arrangement for all those involved so there is less pressure on all involved."
"I am more critical of operational inputs now. Not everything I was doing is necessary."
"The overall course was very good! I would recommend it to anyone. There is always more to learn."
"I feel this is an excellent course. I highly recommend it for anyone involved in agriculture." "Good group of leaders, a lot of positive and fun energy. I enjoyed the class and learned a lot."
"Overall it was great! I would like to know more about how and where we can get help to implement changes we makerange monitoring, finance, etc. We learned a lot that we WILL use. We have already identified several areas we need to start on."
"I have learned to put my time to better use in strategic, tactical, and operational uses. Thanks, I enjoyed it all. I would love to do it again."
"It's a long time to sit but I'm not sure how to change that. Perhaps, more field trip-type work. I enjoyed it."
"Everyone was great. It was a very educational program. The instructors spent quality time with us as a group and also individually."
"I would like to follow the Homestead Ranch more. I really enjoyed this class I learned a lot about myself related to goals."
"I found the class to be well planned out 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."
"The portion on strategic planning will benefit our current operation the concept of the wheel will help integrate the three areas. Courses such as this are tools to help us complete in today's world. Continued education is important to our success. It would be beneficial if it didn't end with this."
ATTACHMENT C includes a letter written to the Wyoming WIRE team after a 1997 course.
E. New Hypotheses
F. Producer Involvement
Number of growers/producers in attendance at:
____ Field Days
5610 Other events (specify): Contacts through presentations to producer organizations, extension meetings, and other marketing efforts.
ATTACHMENT A. USDA Managing Change in Agriculture review team comments about WIRE.
ATTACHMENT B. Selected newspaper and popular press articles about WIRE programs.
ATTACHMENT C. A letter from a Wyoming WIRE course participant.