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

2004 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


The goal of this project is to improve communication and cooperation between the land grant university and organic and alternative producers in Colorado. We are working toward these goals through four regional Alternative Agriculture Advisory Teams in the East, Front Range, West, and South Central parts of the state. The focus groups have established a dialogue on research and extension needs (both production and marketing) between CSU and sustainable agriculture producers and local producer and food groups. Each regional advisory team met two to three times to define their research and extension priorities and to design a project for a student intern. Interns worked on their projects in summer 2004 working with a local CSU extension or research faculty member, an on-campus faculty member, and producers. Projects are nearing completion at this time.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Our objectives are:
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.


Each of our four advisory teams have met and identified regional priorities within the alternative agriculture arena. This past year we employed four student interns to work on 1) interviewing producers regarding their successes, failures, benefits, and challenges with cover crops in irrigated vegetable and dryland grain production systems, 2) developing budgets for grass-fed beef production systems, 3) compiling information and writing factsheets on organic noxious weed management, and 4) evaluating organic vs. conventional vegetable varieties.

The activities that we will finish in 2005 include: a) completing student reports and fact sheets, b) communicating the results of the internships with the producers in each regional Alternative Agriculture Advisory Team, c) making plans for continued cooperation between Colorado State University and alternative agricultural producers, d) writing recommendations for other states that may be interested in implementing a similar project, e) compiling evaluation results, and f) preparing a report for Cooperative Extension, Agricultural Experiment Station, and College of Agriculture administrators.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Eastern Region: Cover Crops Project

Twenty-two farmers were interviewed on their use of and experience with cover crops, green manures, and crop residues. Their knowledge and experience has been compiled into a report on the state of cover crop use in irrigated and dryland systems in Colorado. The benefits listed by farmers for cover crops were: fertility – 27%, organic matter – 23%, erosion control – 14%, soil protection – 9%, and harboring insects – 5%. Similarly the disadvantages to cover crops were as follows: water use – 9%; rotational difficulties – 9%; time, labor, and field work – 9%; and lack of direct financial return – 5%.

South Central Region: Grass-fed Beef Project

Enterprise budgets were created for grass-fed cattle producers in the San Luis Valley including cow-calf, wintering, summer production, and finishing stages. The data reinforced decisions to maintain strictly cow-calf operations. A survey was done to evaluate consumer perceptions about grass-fed beef. The use of no hormones and antibiotics were the most important production attributes in influencing consumer choice, but the share of consumers who responded that grass-fed was very or extremely important almost doubled over the past six years. However, price continues to be the most important attribute in beef purchasing decisions.

Western Region: Organic Weed Control

A series of Organic Noxious Weed Management fact sheets has been developed for the following weeds: Canada thistle, diffuse knapweed, Russian knapweed, hoary cress, field bindweed, and quackgrass. The factsheets are currently in review by the producers on the advisory team who initiated their development.

Front Range Region: Organic vs. Conventional Seed

A field study was done comparing spinach varieties, including six conventional varieties, organic seed for two varieties, and biodynamic seed for one variety. Germination, emergence, and yield were measured. Whale was the highest yielding variety, and Spinner was the slowest to bolt. The comparisons between organic and conventional seed (only 2 out of 6 varieties had both seed types available) were inconclusive. Statistical analysis is currently underway.


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