MONTE VISTA, Colo. — The Colorado Department of Agriculture, Acres U.S.A., and the Mosca-Hooper Conservation District will host the first in a series of Colorado Soil Health regional events in the San Luis Valley. This free event is part of the Colorado STAR Program and will include farm tours, educational presentations, guest speakers, and a keynote address from Jimmy Emmons, a soil health champion and producer from Oklahoma. The event is free, however registration is required at ag.colorado.gov/events.
Colorado’s producers have long been advocating for and adopting soil health practices. Healthy soils provide drought resilience by retaining more water and being less prone to erosion. Through soil health practices that help increase nutrient cycling, farmers can increase the productivity of land while also reducing labor and input costs. Nonetheless, barriers remain to adopting soil health practices. The goal of CDA’s Soil Health Program is to reduce these barriers through a voluntary and incentive-based framework.
“Soil health is essential to productive agriculture that grows nutritious, quality food. Healthy soil practices also maximize limited water availability and drought resilience and help manage land sustainably for future generations,” said Cindy Lair, Program Manager for the Colorado State Conservation Board. “Colorado has a robust legacy of soil conservation and soil stewardship. This event, in partnership with ACRES U.S.A. and Mosca-Hooper Conservation District, will bring together soil health experts and new adopters to learn together, exchange ideas, and see and experience the difference sustainable soil practices can make for ag operations.”
The Colorado STAR and STAR Plus (Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources) Programs make up the Colorado Soil Health Program. The STAR Program helps individual farmers and ranchers evaluate their operations’ use of soil health practices and identify areas for improvement while providing technical and financial assistance to help them succeed.
The STAR Plus Program works in partnership with Colorado’s Conservation Districts to provide financial and technical assistance to 130 farmers and ranchers across the state. In 2022, CDA is working with 130 farmers and ranchers and 20 conservation districts and grower groups.
Soil health can be part of the solution to climate change: healthy soils can store more carbon, improve water and aquifer health, reduce run off, and stop erosion. Soil health practices, where microorganisms work together to create a healthy environment for plants, have also been shown to improve crop yields and protect against pests and diseases without the use of chemical agents.
This regional soil health event is organized with the support of ACRES U.S.A., North America’s leading publisher on production-scale organic and sustainable farming, and Colorado State University. Speakers from both organizations and from CDA will provide program updates and help lead breakout sessions and classroom learning.
The day will begin at 8:00 am in Monte Vista with brief presentations and the group will leave at 9 am for two farm visits, before returning to Monte Vista for lunch. Afternoon will include breakout sessions and a panel discussion on soil health practices, which emphasize soil armor, minimal soil disturbance, plant diversity, continual live plant/root, and livestock integration.
This event is free to the public but registration in advance is required. Participants can see the full agenda and register at ag.colorado.gov/events. You can find the agenda and register directly at the ACRES U.S.A. website.
–Colorado Department of Agriculture