Food, Fiber & More! Summer AgriCULTURE Institute

The Colorado Potato Administrative Committee (CPAC) was so excited to host a wonderful group of teachers for a week long educational opportunity. The teachers were able to enjoy class time, agriculture discussion from  Marvin Reynolds and Don Shawcroft. The rest of the week the teachers were out about throughout the San Luis Valley. The touring began late Monday morning at the Rahkra Mushroom Farm, followed by a delicious lunch at Locavore’s. The rest of the afternoon was spent touring the JW Mumma Aquatic Species Restoration and the Rio Grand Water Conservancy District with Cleave Simpson.

Day 2 was packed with tours around the Northwest end of the SLV. Touring began at the CSU San Luis Valley Research Center with Dr. David Holm and Tyler Thompson, where the teachers were able to learn about experimental trials that take place at the Research Center and learn about the breeding of different varieties. The next stop was Aspen Produce LLC in Center, CO. They were able to take a tour through the packaging shed with Dwayne Weyers and Jon Gonzales, where they learned the process that a single potato must go through to be “consumer ready”. Following that tour was a stop with Bill Crowder from Agro Engineering Inc. Bill talked about the duties and importance of a consultant, teaching that farmers rely heavily on the evaluations to ensure best practices with water and crop management. The lunch stop for Tuesday was at 3 Barrel Brewing Company, where the teachers enjoyed the famous story of “Bernie the ‘Axe'” and toured the Brew Room and learned about the different brews unique qualities. Up next was a stop along the Rio Grande River in Del Norte, CO, accompanied by Sam Riggenbach, where they learned about Colorado Water Rights, and the impact they has on agriculture and farmers throughout the San Luis Valley. The day was finished with a farm tour of Worley Family Farms with Bob, Grant and Reid Mattive. The teachers were able to tour their shop and learn about the multiple pieces of equipment that are necessary to plant, grow and harvest a crop. 

Wednesday started with a tour of Miller-Coors Elevator with Kim Hayden,and her staff . On this tour teachers learned about the Coors Barley Industry that many farmers contribute to in the San Luis Valley. The tour showed them the various processes that take place between the farmer’s delivery to Coors’ Barley departure, where it will arrive at one of their various malting and brewing plants. The next stop was the Martinez Farms Mini Tuber Greenhouse in Monte Vista, CO. Here the teachers learned more about certified seed growing and the importance of sterile greenhouse growth for years 1 and 2 from Miguel and Martin Diaz. Travelling to Mosca, CO we were met by Lyle and Erin Nissen at Nissen Farms. Lyle and Erin discussed the water issues that farmers face in the SLV and how they have changed their operations to assist them in water conservation. Nissen Farms has incorporated beef cattle to their farm operation. They run a crop rotation process to ensure soil health and sustainability that assists in less water usage, while still producing a healthy potato crop. Following lunch, the teachers enjoyed a presentation with Nathan Coombs at the Conejos Water Conservancy District, where they learned about the Unconfined Aquifer and the different water issues that Conejos Water District faces compared to Rio Grande. The next stop was with Robert Middlemist, at Middlemist Farms. The teachers were able to watch the process of alfalfa cutting and discuss the  timing and weather conditions that accompany bailing season. The touring came to an end at the Colorado Malting Company. Joshua Cody and his father, Wayne gave the teachers a tour of the original homestead and their malting operations and brewing company. Josh talked about their family’s story and how they got involved in the malting business, as well as sharing his expertise about different brewing throughout the world and how they hope to continue to be innovative. 

The fun continued on Thursday with a “Boots on the Ground” Event. Here teachers were able to accompany a farmer on their day-to-day activities and learn the labor that is put in everyday. A recap and resource classroom day on Friday morning, completed the fun filled week.