Last weekend did not provide the snowstorm many expected. However, it did provide a strong storm of passion for local agriculture and food justice in our area.
My Saturday was full. I attended the seventh annual Homegrown Food Retreat during the day, and in the evening, I organized a film screening and panel discussion for youth in agriculture.
With spring approaching, the Homegrown Food Retreat helped inspire and focus my commitments to this year’s 4-H Giving Back Garden Project. Last year, our project successfully got young people outside with their hands in the dirt. We harvested more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to distribute in our community.
However, we always can strengthen the social and community engagement aspects of this project. The retreat allowed time for great discussions about ideas and ways to promote more conversations, events and solutions about expanding access to local food. La Plata County 4-H is excited to work once again with the Old Fort’s Market Garden Incubator project on this initiative.
Saturday evening brought together a great new partnership among the National Young Farmers Coalition, Ignacio FFA, Durango FFA and 4-H. The event featured a screening of the NYFC’s short film “Resilient.” Kate Greenberg, the coalition’s western organizer, enlightened the audience about the group’s mission and the importance the film plays in promoting soil health, water conservation and new stewards of the American West.
The evening also hosted two impressive panel discussions. After the film, Mike Nolan of Mountain Roots Produce, Dustin Stein of Stubborn Farm and Burk Beef and Gunther Ott of James Ranch shared their experiences as young and beginning farmers. Furthermore, these gentlemen gave thoughtful responses to the realities of farming and ranching now and in the future, given the current environmental, social and economic conditions.
The other panel discussion allowed for FFA and 4-H youth leaders to answer questions about their experience in agriculture and how they envision agriculture’s future. A big thanks goes to Ignacio FFA members Davey Cooper and Alex Lopez; Durango FFA members Megan Pope and Terrell Strauss; and La Plata County 4-H members Tyllor Ledford and Stephenie Rielgel. They represented their respective organizations wonderfully and made me and FFA advisers Brandon Hatter and Lu Boren very proud.
The event also acted as a fundraiser to provide scholarship money for young people in FFA or 4-H who are seeking higher education next fall. We would like to thank our sponsors: Basin Coop, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, La Plata Conservation District, Southwest Mortgage, Farm Bureau, American AgCredit, San Juan Basin Wool Growers, Alpine Bank, Witt & Sons and the Bank of Colorado.
The scholarships will be awarded this spring. We also look to make this an annual event to promote youths in agriculture. So, even though we need more cloudy days with more moisture on our land, I would say the future forecast looks bright and sunny for our agriculture community.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6463. Greg Felsen is the La Plata County 4-H youth development agent.