The National Young Farmers Coalition and the Family Farm Alliance organized a Water Conservation Farm Tour up in the Durango, Colorado area on Oct 27-29th. We spent the first day at the James Ranch, a great example of a holistically managed operation.
Dave and Kay James and their adult children with their families are all working on this 400-acre ranch outside of Durango.
Enterprises include a raw milk dairy with herdshares and cheese, pastured pigs, laying hens, vegetable CSA, beef herd, native tree nursery, and an on-farm grill/farm market.
Dan James showed us his Jersey/Normande cross dairy cattle and explained how he grazed them. He also showed us his New Zealand style dairy parlor.
After the tour we heard from Paul Kaiser of Singing Frog Farms in Sonoma, California about his no-till operation with 125 CSA member program being fed year round from 2.5 acres. Excellent soil fertility practices!
The next day there was a tour of the Ute Mountain Farm and Ranch where the tour participants learned about how the 3500 acres of cropland was irrigated with an efficient irrigation system to reduce water use.
In the afternoon we had 4 concurrent collaborative workshops that participants selected from to help create a roadmap for western agriculture at the crossroads of productivity and conservation. Topics included: soil health and diversified vegetable production (led by Mike Jensen), grazing croplands (led by George Whitten), irrigation efficiency and land stewardship (led by Pat O’Toole), and farm and ranch planning for drought resilience (led by Ann Adams).
That evening we viewed the National Young Farmers Coalition’s premier of: “RESILIENT: Soil, Water and the New Stewards of the American West.” Over 60 people attended the premier and stayed to ask questions of the panel who included Mike Nolan, Travis Custer, Brendon Rockey, George Whitten, and Ann Adams.
The final day of the conference included presentations from Eric Kuhn on the Colorado River Basin, Michael Melendrez on the science of soil health, Harrison Topp on incentives for microhydro, and case studies of conservation in action by Pat O’Toole and Brendon Rockey.
Thanks to Kate Greenberg and Daniel Fullmer of the National Young Farmers Coalition for organizing this educational and inspiring event and the Walton Family Foundation for their support of the program.