Southern Utah's 2,800-acre College Ranch in Cedar Canyon has gone from almost unused a few years ago to merely "underutilized" today.
The ranch has seen a resurgence in its use in recent years, and administrators and educators at SUSC are discovering they have barely scratched the surface of its potential value to the college - 2,800 acres is a lot of land.Currently, primary use of the ranch and the College Cabin is made by SUSC's Division of Continuing Education and its department of conferences and workshops and the School of Science. Once virtually idle, the College Cabin has undergone a substantial renovation and expansion, much of it through volunteer efforts of faculty and staff at the college. It has become both an educational and recreational facility, and more improvements are planned.
The recent Fall Festival fund-raiser showcased the direction the ranch and cabin are taking in the school's future. A Dutch oven dinner highlighted the value of land in food production with dishes featuring agricultural products ranging from beef and lamb to locally grown vegetables. A separate wild-game table showed the other side of the land-use equation, that of wildlife and wild game.
A country dance and other entertainment as well as craft displays emphasized the cabin's value for creative endeavors and for conferences and workshops. All proceeds were used for further development of the ranch and cabin, and a new festival was also created, which together with an extended Utah Shakespearean Festival, is starting to push the "Festival City" concept past the Labor Day cutoff and deeper into the fall season.
Among the fast-growing uses are agricultural programs under the School of Science, which are now rapidly expanding after budget cutbacks a few years ago, resulting from a general financial crisis in Utah higher education.
"We now have three times the amount of agricultural students participating in the ag program than in 1988," said Don Dail, associate professor of biology. "We are looking at the cabin as a multi-use resource center for instruction."
According to Dail, one of the agricultural goals is to create a model for grazing management - a model that agriculture students from SUSC can take onto the western rangelands with them after graduation.
At present, only sheep are being grazed on the portions of the ranch set aside to teach and study livestock management said Al Tait, dean of the School of Science, but plans call for adding cattle.
With cross-fencing and a 14-month grazing rotation plan, productivity has increased, according to Dail.
"In the first year, we noted an overwhelming eight-pound increase in lamb weight," Dail said.
"We hope that some of this is directly related to our rotational grazing. We are continually learning new techniques through trial and error. The land is providing the educational tool for our use."
The resource is not limited to just students, either, but used to benefit the community at large.