Establishing Dialogue Between Alternative Agricultural Producers and the Land-Grant University in Colorado

2003 Annual Report for EW02-017

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $56,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jessica Davis
Colorado State University

Establishing Dialogue Between Alternative Agricultural Producers and the Land-Grant University in Colorado


We have established four regional alternative agriculture advisory teams to establish a dialogue on research and education needs between Colorado State University and alternative agricultural producers. The advisory teams each met once in 2003, and two more meetings are planned per region by the end of March 2004. The purposes of these meetings are to breakdown obstacles to communication and establish fruitful lines of cooperation, brainstorm on research and educational needs, and make plans for working together in the summer of 2004 on educational projects such as demonstrations, tours, workshops, development of educational materials, or on-farm research.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1) to establish fruitful lines of communication among organic and sustainable producers and Colorado State University researchers and extensionists — with all parties involved in speaking, listening, and learning,
2) to identify research and extension needs and priorities for Colorado State University,
3) to identify opportunities for participatory, on-farm, and farmer-initiated research,
4) to name and break down obstacles to effective communication between Colorado State University personnel and alternative producers, and
5) to bring students into active participation with Colorado State University research and extension and the real world of alternative agriculture.


1) The first advisory team meetings were held as follows:
July 8, 2003 in Alamosa (South Central)
October 27, 2003 in Brighton (Front Range)
November 19, 2003 in Grand Junction (Western)
December 8, 2003 in Brush (Eastern)

The next meetings are scheduled for: January 5, 2004 in Alamosa; January 12, 2004 in Grand Junction; January 26, 2004 in Brighton; and January 29, 2004 in Brush.

2) Major needs identified at the advisory team meetings include:


Region specific information on insect and weed control and soil fertility for alternative crops

Low cost production techniques for organic farming

Nutrient-based production information (nutrition from soil to table). Soil to Plant to Animal to Human: researching the relationship between production method and food nutrition.

Quantifying the economic, ecological, and nutritional aspects and benefits of alternative agriculture

Appropriate technology for diversified and “alternative” operations


Business planning and marketing skills – need a step-by-step resource for start-up businesses or enterprises

Fact sheets on Farmers Markets and why one should buy locally

Public good benefit analysis: importance of adding value locally—keep it in the community

Development of local markets and information on how to develop value-added markets

Agricultural economic development

Consumer information for producers to use in marketing


Establish network of producers for information sharing on seed procurement, market pricing and production methods. Bring specialty crop producers together so they can discuss what works and what doesn’t work.

Develop a peer-to-peer network. Compile a list of what’s been tried in each area of the state for extension agents and the area’s producers. Compile a list of marketing channels. Referral network (resource notebook) for extension personnel and for producers.

Web-based marketing co-op

Organize local symposia for information sharing and region specific information


How to move agricultural land to the next generation

Food security

Government regulations

More funding at CSU for human resources and staff

3) We’ve begun the process of identifying research ideas and opportunities as listed above, and we intend to spend substantial time fleshing out details in our January meetings.

4) We have made a list of obstacles to effective communication between Colorado State University personnel and alternative producers and have begun to break them down. Obstacles are described below in producers’ words:

CSU is irrelevant and in the pocket of corporate agriculture; it doesn’t cross most alternative producer’s minds to use CSU as a resource, so the conversation never even gets started.

Some folks at CSU are obstructionist and anti-alternative agriculture.

CSU is not user-friendly. Information is often not in a useful form or the information is simply not available.

CSU needs to market itself better—more accessible information

Poor communication between CSU and the field agents

Poor definition of what the Land Grant University does. It has become all things to all people.

Need for greater communication among CSU departments and integration of disciplines. Too much compartmentalization.

CSU should provide factual, unbiased information about all production systems, not be an advocate for any particular system.

We need heterogeneity in curriculum content and extension materials; i.e., enterprise budgets for different production system types, not just for different commodity crops.

CSU should be honest and realistic about what you can and can’t do in certain areas but not be a doomsayer and directing to other sources of info.

Flow of information needs to go both ways between farmers and the university

CSU field days are mainly about yield—need more about adding value, marketing, alternative crops

CSU should participate in Alternative Ag Conferences to meet people and share information

CSU programs provide info on resources but we’re isolated generally from these meetings

Distance from CSU is an obstacle

5) Each region will use SARE funding to hire a student intern for the summer of 2004. So far, student participation has been limited to the Front Range advisory team due to its relative proximity to CSU. We need to try harder to include local colleges.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

We have begun a dialogue between CSU and alternative agriculturalists. It is critical now that we follow through and work on breaking down obstacles while working towards research and educational goals in the next year. To assure ongoing impact beyond the duration of this project, we intend to make plans for and write proposals to fund continued cooperation between alternative agricultural producers and both research and extension components of the land-grant university in Colorado.


Bob Mailander

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
Jim Dyer

Colorado Organic Producers Association
Dawn Thilmany
Colorado State University
Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Fort Collins, CO 80523
Susan Hine
Colorado State University
Dept. of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Fort Collins, CO 80523
Jami Daniel

American Farmland Trust
Dennis Lamm
Colorado State University
Dept. of Animal Sciences
Fort Collins, CO 80523