CSU Extension Agent Cover Crop Tour
By Chris Downs
We recently went on a two-day tour with Bruce Bosley from Colorado State University. Bruce has been a scientist and professor with CSU for more than 25 years! The purpose of the farm and facility tour was to lean about cover crops at high altitudes.
Part of growing healthy crops is having healthy soil. To help grow the soil, understanding the cycle of life of the entire growing process is critical for the farmer. Without healthy soil, water management and overall attention to the actions taken to produce a product that is needed and wanted by consumers, the farm will go out of business.
The people we met on the tour are incredible. We were blessed by meeting scientists, extension agents as well as farmers who love the land and farming. They are all very passionate about what they do. Some have different ideas and philosophies about how we feed the world. Some believe in growing local organic food, others believe in the science of chemistry, as long as it can be proved that there are no harmful effects from that chemistry Some of the scientists and extension agents focused solely on large scale farms. Thousands of acres encompass their area of expertise. Farming on such a scale has its’ own set of challenges, one of the biggest is managing such a large ecosystem, making a profit, while at the same time being a good steward of the land.
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 two 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 will have so many notes and pictures that it would be a book all on its own.
So this article is an overall view of the people I met as well as how homesteading, hobby farms and large scale farms interact with Colorado State University (CSU) and the extension agents. As a system of research and developing best practices, this is a good system for the farmers and the university to help us understand more about modern day farming.
Since our farm is focused on small scale farming, I will start by introducing you to Jennifer. She is the small acreage management coordinator for CSU. She explained to me the definitions of Hobby and Homesteading farms as the university categorizes them.
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-percent committed to success of their labor of love. The farm MUST make a profit to pay for the entire business of living this lifestyle.
As 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 replaced the fields of alfalfa, grass seed and grazing dairy cows, horses and beef cattle. The wolves, coyotes, deer, porcupines as well as myriad other wild animals have moved to other less populated areas.
Bruce Bosley was the leader for this Cover Crop tour. Most everyone we met grew their own garden when away from work. Bruce brought some wine that he made. He grows his own grapes and has been at CSU for 25 years. He is passionate about learning about, teaching about and growing healthy food. He shared he always learns as much from farmers that he helps as they learn from him.
Rachel, who is working on her PhD, is an entomologist who has a strong passion for insects. She shared that the United States is one of the few countries where people do not eat insects as part of their diet. She talked about the protein and nutrition available in a diet that includes insects. You may even hear about the store that she wants to open up! Maybe even in a neighborhood coming to you!
We met and were able to talk to more than 16 scientists and researchers from CSU and the USDA in those two days. Each one has a passion for science, growing great healthy food, and helping farmers like you and me to become successful.
We met one farming couple, David and Mary Miller from Triple M Bar ranch in Manzanola, Colorado. They raise naturally grown lambs using organic methods. They also raise and sell livestock guard dogs.
David takes care of the herd, Mary does the office work, marketing and making sure all of the paperwork for the state, dounty, transportation department and the USDA is kept up to date. David shared that switching to a direct sales retail farm has helped their profitability tremendously. They started selling directly to a specific niche market consisting of specific cuts of lamb to high end restaurants. The cuts that the restaurants do not pay a premium price for, they sell directly to their email list that Mary manages.
To keep this post short and to the point, I have decided to write a series of posts about the CSU Cover Crop Tour. I want to thank each and everyone we met and traveled with for their hospitality and generous sharing of their time and talent. Like I said, we met a lot more than 16 people so I will write more about them and their passion for life.
I highly recommend that you talk to your local extension agent to see what resources they may have available for you. It could be that there is even a list of customers who will purchase your products as soon as they are ready, maybe even before! That would boost you up to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm!
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