January 2016

Why we need agriculture

By Galen Larson

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. Some years back, there was a push to clean up the entrances to Cortez. It was defeated by those who deem garbage to be treasure. We have a number of people here who appreciate the natural beauty of our area and want to enhance it for the betterment of the community, but they can’t, due to opposition from those who would rather see billboards for beer and fast food, along with discarded soft-drink and coffee containers, tires and broken wheels. My neighbors and I pick them up along the county road to my home.

It’s unfortunate, because this area is wonderfully scenic, and we could use that scenery to attract business and recreation. But when it comes to economic development, what this county really needs is more attention to agriculture.

The much-touted Black Friday was a bust, as it turned out gray. What happened? cry the corporations, we had sales and discounts, bait-and-switch, cash back on auto sales. They forget that it is hard for many to purchase anything of quality if one is earning minimum wage. It is hard to feel pride when the kids are empty inside.

But, using agriculture as a base industry, we can have good paying jobs and growth. Having all one’s eggs in the basket of energy is not conducive to a stable economy; it is and always will be a feast-or-famine enterprise, driven by the bottom line of huge corporations.

Agriculture, on the other hand, is a renewable resource, stable and easily expanded through merchandising. One can take no pride in being second or third from the bottom in education or industry. A statement made in the past by a school-board member grates on me like fingernails on a blackboard: “We are in a depressed economy and the community cannot handle any more taxes.” That philosophy does nothing to improve our situation. Without good roads, schools, hospitals, and amenities, you cannot attract solid businesses or the citizens we need to keep our society going.

Education is the greatest investment we can make in our community. First class costs a little more, but I see no reason not to aspire to a higher plain; everyone gains.

Fortunately, there has been good news recently. The people of the county gave us a new high school as well as the funds to expand our hospital.

And the Cortez Journal reported that the GOCO board awarded $125,000 to the Montezuma Land Conservancy to preserve 50 acres near the Carpenter Natural Area and $25,000 for job training. I applaud all these measures. But I wonder what jobs the training is intended to ready people for. There seem to be none here – so many of our young adults take their expertise to enhance other areas. And that leads me back to agriculture. It can and should be our basis for job creation, and there are many different avenues we can pursue if the parties are gung-ho, not “ho, ho, ho.”

There is talk of expanding recreation, improving Internet service, even creating a solar farm. All are great ideas. But we should never forget that people need to eat. That doesn’t change. Agriculture was our mainstay in the pioneer days and it needs our support into the future. We can modernize it, repackage it, try new products and market them better. But we should never ignore it.

Galen Larson lives in Montezuma County, Colo.