We recently went on a 2 day (Coloradao State University) CSU Sustainable Cropping System Tour . CSU has an extensive science community dedicated to helping farmers of all sizes optimize their land. Both for crop products as well as taking care of the land we, as caretakers of the environment, have chosen to undertake.
The CSU Extension Crop Management Systems team hosts a Soil Quality & Productivity Bus Tour
This tour included training in Sustainable Cropping Systems (large farms, small farms and specialty crops, crop pest management & sustainable food systems). Also covered during this great tour was this valuable information where Soil quality and productivity are the primary themes but water use, storage, retention, and quality protection are essential for well managed soils. Specifically, we’ll be taking a close look at using cover crops and high residue farming systems practices on dryland and irrigated farms and at research stations across eastern Colorado. We’ll also learne state-of-the-art vegetable and agronomic crop practices under irrigation at Rocky Ford.
The Tour Guide
Bruce Bosley, our amazing tour guide, has had an amazing career as an extension agent for multiple counties here in Colorado.
He shared this quote April 8, 2013 in the “Today @ Colorado State” newsletter produced by Colorado State University. He was being honored for reaching the 25 year of service milestone.
“Profitability, sustainability and quality of life are the most important things,” he said. “I want to enrich people’s lives through education. It’s all about meeting their goals while still being able to see life’s big picture.”
Bruce gives up Preparation Homework
Being a lifelong Learner and Teacher, Bruce gave us some homework to do prior to us arriving. Bruce asked each of us to prepare to get the most out of this tour to plan on some informal discussion of using cover crops and other cropping systems and farming techniques for enhancing soil health & productivity while we travel on the van between tour stops. He also invited us to ” feel free to prepare and lead one of these discussions. If you do and wish it, bring handouts for 16 for anything you wish to share with others on the tour.”
This request made me more excited, as we would be sharing ideas and learning from everyone on the tour. We met more than 15 Soil Scientists, Extension Agents and Researchers from CSU. We met even more researchers and scientists from at the USDA research center in Akron, Colorado.
Bus Ride Conversations
As promised by Bruce, the bus ride conversations were lively and very informative. We learned about each other as well as each one shared their passion for growing healthy food as well as doing their best to keep farms profitable and sustainable. We talked about Soil science, entomology, Organic versus chemistry enhanced food. Sometimes, we had to ask definitions of some of the words being used during the conversation due to the scientific names and nomenclature I had not heard before.
The lessons were continual and useful for me and our farm as we listened and asked questions while also sharing our experiences. We also were able to visit 2 farms, one research farm at Rocky Ford CSU farm. Mike share his passion for Onions, as well as Bruce’s passion as well as his passion for growing great food.
Experiencing some of the Fruits of their labor
Bruce had set up a dinner that first night at a restaurant called Christine’s in Rocky Ford, Colorado. It is located at 209 N 2nd St
Rocky Ford, CO 81067. If you ever want to be served some of the best food, This is the place! If you are in the area, their phone number is: (719) 254-3833. Mike, the leader of the CSU farm provided the produce for the dinner. Bruce, brought some wine the he produces from his own grapes to share a glass. The conversations continued with the people on the tour with us. That was with the exception of a few who got delayed by rattle snakes and an army helicopter on a “short” bicycle tour of Picketwire Canyon – Dinosaur tracks & Petroglyphs .
Dinner was saved for them, so they did get to eat some of the great food!
Overview and Conclusion
It is a common goal for all on the people we met to work together and allow our differences in how we believe to best manage our land and our farms. It was 2 full days of exchanging ideas, practices and results. There is no way to convey in this article all of what I learned or was shared. I have so many notes and pictures that it would be a book all on its own.
CSU and everyone involved shared some basic information. There are large farms, homestead farms and hobby farms. The CSU extension agent Jennifer Cook shared with me her defined scope for smaller farms:
- Hobby Farm: A farm that is not necessarily for profit. It is usually managed and owned by someone who is retired or still working. The purpose is to produce the lifestyle that they desire. Grow their own food, raise horses, cattle or other crops or animals for enjoyment and some profit. Profit is helpful, but their livelihood is not on the line. The owners are financially able to absorb extra costs that come with their farm.
- Homestead Farm: This is the farm that needs to pay for itself, the owners have committed their time effort and finances in an “All IN” journey. Their life is 100% committed to success of their labor of love. The farm MUST make a profit to pay for the entire business of living this lifestyle.
My Conclusion is that there is a large number of scientists and farmers who desire to provide great food at a great price. Profitability is critical to help keep good healthy food available. If you are in Colorado and are farming or thinking about farming, I highly recommend contacting your local county extension agent.
They are dedicated and passionate about helping you reach your goals of sustainable small scale or large scale farming. Whether you choose chemistry to help you manage your farm, growing organic or permaculture principles, the great people we met are there to serve and help.
For me, we are building a Homesteading farm, my perspective is that everything we do must bring us success in the long run. All of our decisions must take into account not only the immediate future, but also 10, 20, 50 years into the future and beyond. I worked on both types of farms growing up at the Washington and Idaho border. Some of those farms are still going, but many are not. Housing developments have replace the fields of alfalfa, grass seed and grazing dairy cows, horses and beef cattle. The wolves, coyotes, deer, porcupines as well as a myriad of other wild animals have moved to other less populated areas.
Smaller family farms had been disappearing in this country, but they are on the rise again. I highly recommend tapping into the resources available to you. Life is for you, and by asking for help, you are increasing the opportunities to live the life that you dream of living.
Thank you Bruce and everyone on this tour. I appreciate your friendship and look forward to seeing you again! You have made an everlasting memory that will sustain my Hope, Joy and Passion for growing food and serving others.
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