January 2015

Kinder Morgan's farm could be a boon

By Galen Larson

Wow – what a headline! Kinder Morgan asks to farm local land. That appeared in the Nov. 17 Cortez Journal. The article was mostly about water delivery and pipelines, but at the end, it mentioned that Kinder Morgan had asked the Bureau of Reclamation if they can farm a 580-acre tract they purchased recently in the Cow Canyon area that has rights to Dolores Project irrigation water.

Now, that’s what I call a good neighbor – putting something back into the soil instead of just extracting things from it, and making good use of water. Not to mention that, if properly done, such a large farm could provide jobs for young and older people with the added benefit of attracting tourists and giving our Southwestern Community College another inducement to offer courses in agriculture.

Plus, the more we here in Montezuma County utilize our water for the farming industry, the harder it should be for the Front Range to steal it from us. Water is the lifeblood of small communities on Colorado’s Western Slope – without it they will become ghost towns. Never forget: Water, like oil, flows to money.

Where I was raised, a farm of that magnitude generally was able to support large families who were leaders in the local community, had a substantial bank account and contributed greatly to the economy. In my travels I have seen farms like this all over, sometimes just a small piece of land set aside for garden products, orchards, and chickens, some much bigger. One, right in the middle of an oil-and-gasproducing area near Bakersfield, Calif., employed about 50 people.

I lived in Phoenix in the late 1950s. At that time on Baseline Road there were acres of flowers of every kind. People came from all over to buy seeds and bouquets and photograph the area.

I’ll just mention a number of enterprises that 500 acres with water could support – a small herd of cattle (milch and beef); sheep and goats for meat, wool, milk and cheese; fruit trees, berries, vegetables, hops for beer, greenhouses, flowers, chickens, turkeys, hogs, ducks, geese – all providing jobs, jobs, jobs and local products. Local meats could be sold to local restaurants.

There could even be a gift shop and/or an educational aspect – a program to bring to our children the knowledge of how and where their food comes from. As small farmers joined in and raised crops needed to expand the enterprise, processing facilities for animals and fowl could be developed.

There could be a museum, petting zoo, bookstore. There is no end to the business that could feed off of agriculture.

However, you only get to the Super Bowl with teamwork, something that seems to be sorely lacking in this area. If we work together, though, the possibilities for broadening our horizons could be endless.

Remember, depending heavily on one source of income is downright foolish, like using only one chicken to fill one’s basket. When she quits laying, you’re left without any way to fill that basket until you’ve raised another chicken.

Recently I saw a segment on a PBS news program about an enterprising young Mexican who bought one acre and sold the products he raised from a roadside stand. Now, within just a few years, he is purchasing 200 acres. I guess he didn’t subscribe to the philosophy, “It won’t work and it can’t be done.” He was an opportunist who could see a need and worked to fill it.

Sometimes the American Way is shown to us most clearly by immigrants. That may be a bitter pill to swallow, but so are some of the medicines our doctors prescribe to restore our personal health. I hate to say it but this county is sick with a combination of weak leadership and a weak economy. We need to take our medicine.

This would not only make Kinder Morgan a better neighbor, it would put Cortez and Montezuma County on the map. All this would cost Kinder Morgan very little. The time is now as the drive for healthful food and knowing your farmer is here.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.