Boulder County Extension uses a wide variety of programs and events to build relationships, facilitate conversations, and support food production in the county. The Boulder County Agriculture Forum, started in 2010, is an annual dinner event that promotes education, networking, and community development. This year’s Agriculture Forum brought together 120 people with the intent of understanding the commonalities that everyone in the agricultural community shares.
Adrian Card, an Agriculture & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Boulder County, said that this event helped the community “to not focus on the twenty percent of things that were different, but instead focus on the eighty percent we had in common.” He also coordinates the Food Systems Advisory Council for Boulder County. This group, started in 2008, influences activities in the county, refines staff projects, and makes recommendations to county commissioners regarding food production and access. In Card’s twelve years of working for Extension, he has seen the development of other programs in the area as well.
Advanced classes on topics like agritourism are offered to graduates of the Building Farmers Program who have completed the introductory classes. Another event that Extension created was a producer networking session. This connected growers with brokers and buyers to improve relationships along the food system chain and enhance economic sustainability in the area. Card shared that, “Food systems is the nexus of production, distribution, marketing, consumption, health and policy.” Boulder County Extension is certainly a contributor to the success and resilience of their local food system. For more information on the Food Systems Advisory Council, please visit http://www.bouldercounty.org/gov/boards/pages/fapc.aspx. Other Extension programs, information, and events: http://boulder.extension.colostate.edu/agriculture/.
Thaddeus Gourd, County Director for Adams County Extension, uses his years of experience in the private sector of agriculture to support food systems in his community. For over thirty years, the Northern Colorado Onion Variety Trials have been used to research red, yellow, and white onion varieties from around the world. Gourd took over the program in 2002, and he works with growers in the Brighton area to assess each variety’s ability to resist or tolerate the effects of weeds, insects, and diseases.
Some common problems they research are onion thrips, pink root fungus, and Iris Yellow Spot Virus. “Onions are also affected by the latitude they’re grown in, so we’re ground truthing how each variety grows in the Northern Colorado environment,” Gourd described. Finding these better varieties benefits both the grower and the environment, as the grower can produce higher yields while potentially reducing the need to apply pesticides that negatively impact the environment.
Gourd’s research also extends into testing biopesticides used to control nematodes on onions and carrots, and studies of mycorrhizae colonization on onions, presenting his findings to the National Association of Agriculture County Agents and at the National Allium Research Conference. With support from the Brighton Bee Club and Jennifer Tucker, Small Acreage Coordinator for Adams County, Gourd additionally helped construct a comparative beehive demonstration. Three different beehive designs were evaluated last year to discover which layout best promoted bee health and survival through the winter season. They plan to continue the study this year. Overall, Thaddeus Gourd’s background enables Adams County Extension to support different scales agriculture in the region, one field at a time. For more information on the Northern Colorado Onion Variety Trials and other Adams County Extension programs, please visithttp://adams.colostate.edu/.
Life consists of many pieces of a puzzle that we connect along the way. In the summer of 2017, Robin Young transitioned from Custer County Extension to Archuleta County Extension, bringing with her years of forest health experience, non-profit creation skills, and a love for connecting people with solutions. Her six years as County Director in Custer County supported projects like the Westcliffe Farmers Market, Sustainable Ways, Inc., potato cultivars for backyard growers, noxious weed management, and a native plant program. Extension identified where farms were, what farmers were growing, how that food entered the local food system, where gaps were in the food system, and how the community could better support CSAs.
Robin also enjoys working with area youth. The 4-H program and other events teach students about the entire food system from farm to table, business models, and how everything relates back to agriculture and natural resources. In both Custer and Archuleta counties, Robin Young and Extension are fitting the pieces together for residents to understand the bigger picture of their food system. Visit http://archuleta.extension.colostate.edu/ for more information about country programs and projects in the community.Robin has continued similar efforts in Archuleta County, where a “high energy around food” exists as well. At a recent meeting, twelve stakeholders including a local grower, a registered dietician, a perma-culturist, and representatives from Pagosa Springs High School, Rocky Mountain Audubon Society, Growing Spaces, San Juan Basin Public Health, Archuleta County Department of Transportation, Pagosa Springs Elementary CATCH Program, Pagosa Springs Open School, and Archuleta County Extension discussed the need for adult and youth education about growing food. The group used data from the USDA’s Census of Agriculture and other observations to determine a high level of interest, but lack of knowledge and skills to grow more food in the community. Geodomes, heated by hot springs prevalent in the area, were identified as a potential resource with which to grow food year-round.
Arapahoe County Extension offers programs that support and encourage those involved in the local food system. Danielle Ardrey, Program Coordinator for Arapahoe County, organizes events to best meet the needs of the community.
When a shift in type and number of applicants in the Building Farmers program was noticed, Extension partnered with Guidestone Colorado to present a Vision Course for aspiring urban farmers. Ardrey worked with Jennifer Visitacion, Executive Director for Guidestone Colorado, to create networking opportunities between new and established urban farmers to share experiences, as well as learn about other resources and information available for aspiring producers. The Vision Course ended with a tour of Colorado Aquaponics at the Dahlia Campus for Health and Well-being. Another response to participant feedback is the implementation of an Urban Farm Production Course in cooperation with Jefferson and Denver County Extension offices. Held every fourth Tuesday from March to September, this course teaches essential production skills through expert instruction and hands-on experiences. Professors from CSU, Extension Agents, Regional Extension staff, and other area professionals present the lectures; Pioneer Farmsteaders, LLC., hosts on-farm activities designed to put that knowledge to practical use.
Ardrey’s participation in youth and collegiate 4-H, Master’s Degree in Biology and Agricultural Education, and teaching middle school science fueled her passion for food systems and the people in it. When asked why she works for Extension, she shared, “I’m always learning and growing, and I appreciate the connections I’ve made with people in these classes who share the same passion for food systems.” To learn more about how Arapahoe County Extension events and programs support the entire community, please visit http://arapahoe.extension.colostate.edu/.
In Jefferson County, Jacki Paone is a champion for food systems and public health. Since stepping into the role of County Director for Jefferson County Extension five years ago, Paone has coordinated efforts within her office and throughout the county as well.
A strategic plan for Jefferson County Extension was recently developed with three goals to be accomplished by 2021. One of those goals is to “increase participation in local production and consumption of healthy foods learning programs by 30 percent.” Current work by Horticulture staff Patti O’Neal and Curtis Utley has been restructured to fit in more with food systems to achieve this goal. Other steps include educational activities at the Jefferson County Fair and Festival, virtual training resources, a rooftop garden demonstration, and an achievable action plan to improve the availability of healthy food. Paone was also part of the creation of a food policy council. Along with colleagues and Jefferson County Public Health personnel, the Food Policy Council prioritizes increasing access to “local food systems, policies, programs and networks, developing a multi-year plan to…increase access to nutritious food,” and providing opportunities to “share updates, best practices and lessons learned.” Extension, Public Health, hospitals, farmers, and other community members meet monthly to collaborate and share ideas on how to better serve residents throughout Jefferson County.
When asked why she participates in food systems work, Paone explained, “Food systems are something I believe in. As Director, I look for needs in the county and try to address them, support work that (Extension) staff are doing, and make their jobs easier. We have a greater chance of success if we work together.” For more information on Jefferson County’s Food Policy Council, please visit http://www.healthyjeffco.com/foodaccess. Jefferson County Extension programs, events, and the strategic plan can be found at http://jeffco.extension.colostate.edu/.
Last fall, a beekeeper mentorship program was also pilot tested. Based on the Master Gardener program, the seven sessions in this course prepared more experienced beekeepers to assist newer keepers in starting and maintaining healthy hives. The vitality of all bees in the area is protected because it’s, “…adding another set of eyes on the ground to recognize diseases that could affect other hives,” Jones explained. This mentorship program responded to interest expressed at an introductory beekeeping course in February 2016. Out of the 100 participants in the class, fifty-five indicated they would appreciate a mentor keeper, but only three attendees felt confident in their mentorship knowledge and skills. Advanced courses and training, therefore, were developed between Extension and the local beekeeper association to address both sides of this need.Chaffee County Extension local food system is buzzing. Kurt Jones, County Director, has been leading efforts to improve beekeeping and honey production in the area. The most recent project in January used IR (infrared) camera imaging to assess the health of fourteen beehives. Since it was too cold to open hives in the winter, the IR camera provided information about the temperature inside the hive, the number of bees, and whether winter feeding was necessary.
This year, Jones plans to start the program in late summer so students can open hives and participate in hands-on learning, as compared to last year’s course that started too late for hive inspection. He also hopes to secure funding to purchase equipment and hives for an apiary education exhibit at the local county fair. 4-H members interested in keeping bees would be able to observe a hive in action and give it a try themselves, as well as educate other fair visitors. Jones will celebrate his twentieth year of working in Extension this upcoming May, a career marked by dedication to the people (and bees) of his community. Please visit http://chaffee.colostate.edu/ to contact Chaffee County Extension and Kurt Jones for more information about programs and events.
Denver residents want to be involved with their local food system, and Denver County Extension is helping to grow that interest. Dan Goldhamer, a Horticulture Extension Agent for Denver County, shared that he enjoys getting people excited about growing food and helping them learn something along the way.
As part of an interdisciplinary team headed up by former CSU Extension team member Blake Angelo, now Manager of Food System Development for the City of Denver, Dan also helped in developing the Denver City Food Vision. This process was one of the largest city-wide community engagement efforts in the history of Denver. Extension helped by preparing documents, sharing information, facilitating conversations, and conducting outreach events. Goldhamer is currently serving on the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council (SFPC) as an ex-officio member, which was also a major partner in creating the Denver City Food Vision. The purpose of the SFPC is “to educate, raise awareness and build support for our food system; advise the city on laws, policies and programs; and promote food security and foster a Sustainable Food System.” A Denver native, Goldhamer’s favorite part of working for Extension is giving back to his hometown city and helping to develop a healthier, inclusive, and more resilient community. He credits the success of his local office to listening to what people need, building relationships, and collaborating with other Extension agents both within and outside the Denver office. For more information on the Dahlia Campus for Health & Well-Being, please visit https://mhcd.org/dahlia-campus-for-health-well-being/. Information on the Denver City Food Plan and Sustainable Food Policy Council can be found at https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/denver-office-of-economic-development/housing-neighborhoods/HealthyFoodandFoodVision.html and http://www.denversfpc.com/#purpose-1. Other Denver County Extension programs can be found at: http://www.denverext.colostate.edu/One event that contributed to this mission was the construction of a small high tunnel at the Dahlia Campus for Health & Well-Being. Extension agents from across the state gathered to share information about construction methods and season extension with the community and with each other. The new caterpillar-style tunnel will add more food production to the 1 acre outdoor farm already present.
Gunnison County Extension, located on the western side of the state, is a central part of the local community and food system. As the County Director for the last 11 years, Eric McPhail spearheads county efforts to unite a diverse community through Extension’s programs and events. One relationship Extension maintains is with Western State Colorado University (WSCU). Although WSCU is mainly a liberal arts college, it has expanded to include agricultural programs. The university has offered a Master’s in Environmental Management with a track in Sustainable and Resilient Communities for the last three years, and McPhail teaches agricultural classes as a part of that degree. WSCU’s School of Business and CSU Extension are additionally partnering together to host the 5th Annual Gunnison Valley Farm-to-Table conference on March 30th and 31st, 2017. Speakers and professors from CSU, Extension, local organizations, and other areas of expertise will be presenting on topics such as water law, agritourism, food market trends, poultry processing, and market channel assessment.
McPhail’s Master’s Degree in Animal Nutrition from Texas A&M contributes to his extensive knowledge of hay and livestock production, but he coordinates horticulture-related projects as well. About six years ago, he collaborated with the San Luis Valley Extension Research Station to research small-scale potato production. Backyard growers in Gunnison County are given five potatoes of a certain variety to grow and observe. In exchange for seed, the 50+ participants are asked to fill out surveys about each variety. These data ares communicated back to the experiment station and used to evaluate variety performance.
With the number of new farmers adding to an already rich history of legacy growers and ranchers in the area, Eric McPhail and Gunnison County Extension strive to not only provide programs to address numerous ideas about food, but to also promote collaboration within the community. Like WSCU’s motto says, it really is “Learning, Elevated.” For information about the county’s other programs and events, please visit http://www.gunnison.colostate.edu/index.shtml.