Ranching is a tough and risky business. In order to help northeastern Sierra Nevada ranchers think through the risks and rewards they face, a 10-week course is being offered in three locations as a part of a broad University of California collaborative project.

“The cost of equipment, supplies and other inputs has been rising, and the price of cattle has been fluctuating with no clear trend, making times particularly challenging for California's Eastern Sierra ranchers,” said Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center, a primary sponsor of the course.

The classes will help ranchers become more effective in their businesses and better prepared for changes that may lie ahead.

“This is not a silver bullet,” said David Visher, one of the instructors. “No course can solve all the ranchers' problems. But it will help them focus on their goals, chart a course for the future and learn skills needed to execute the plan.”

The course is titled “Planning for Profit: Business planning and management skills for agriculture.” This course will use a practical, hands-on approach to teaching management decision-making and strategic planning. The instructors are Visher and Marcie Rosenzweig of Farm and Agriculture Collaborative Training Systems (FACTS) and guest speakers from the area who are experts in risk management, marketing, finance and cash management. Participants will have the opportunity to evaluate new enterprise ideas and complete a business plan that will be ready for a banker's review.

Help with change

The course is ideal for ranchers who foresee a change in operations, such as responding to new regulations, starting up a new enterprise, expanding the operation, passing on the farm to the next generation or going out of business.

The intensive, 10-week class which began Nov. 4, is being held on Tuesdays until Jan. 20 in the Forest Service Building, 300 W. 12th St., Alturas, Calif.; on Wednesdays, Nov. 5 to Jan. 21 at Lassen Community College Humanity Building, Rm. 102, in Susanville, Calif.; and on Thursdays, Nov. 6 to Jan. 22 at University Inn, 1001 N Virginia Reno, Nev. The classes will be from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Registration fee for the 10-session course, comprehensive reference workbook, handouts and critique of participant's business is $195. Family pairs are counted as one participant and are encouraged to attend together.

To register call the Sierra College Small Business Development Center at (800) 527-7361.