September 2009

No, agriculture isn't dead

By Galen Larson

The wheels of progress grind slowly, especially in Montezuma County. But we should thank everyone who worked so hard to bring us an expanded college campus, Southwest. There is no cleaner nor more lofty economic engine than education.

We shouldn’t rest on our laurels but should get behind this effort and expand the campus further with dorms and other amenities. I say, hip-hiphooray! for this glorious day. We can attract students from all walks of life.

Now, if we could just get a group of dedicated economic-development persons together to study the amenities of the county and how to use those to further enhance the community instead of standing with one hand on our brow looking to the horizon for a savior.

Oil and gas, oh, how we coddle them. But the past shows that this is a feast-or-famine venture. They threaten us with the statement that they will leave if not allowed to rape and pillage. I say, let them! They can’t take the oil and gas with them. This is where they have to drill for it. This product is a non-renewable amenity and when it’s gone so are the oil and gas companies. If they do leave now, as they so often threaten, when they come back the future residents may be even stricter in regulating oil and gas.

By that time people may truly realize the potential of agriculture niche markets. No reason we can’t do as other communities in Colorado have done, such as Olathe corn, Montrose and Delta truck gardening, and chicken and egg production, to name a few. Let’s not forget Palisade’s fruit and wine. And right in the Four Corners area there is a family making a good living on their farm products (more on this later).

We need to come together as an agricultural community, trade and support others’ ideas. Three hundred days of sunshine, good soil if properly treated, and a reliable water supply — we have what we need. But we will lose this potential if the area is covered with homes, lawns and golf courses. I am not a termite, so houses provide me with no food; golf balls are too chewy to make meatballs; and lawns use more water than crops.

There is no reason we can’t grow food and other agricultural products such as bulbs and flowers the year round through the use of greenhouses. So instead of writing and getting a grant for $50,000 for agritourism, which we don’t have yet, it should have been for small agribusiness loans for the purchase and construction of greenhouses. Then we could attract agritourism.

This will take investors, labor, ingenuity, marketing and research, all of which we have here. But those interested have to come together and form a nucleus and from that will grow the mass to make it happen.

Agriculture and education: two clean economic enterprises to enhance the quality of life and the beauty of our area. Anyone interested? I would more than welcome the chance to discuss and invest. I’m in the phone book We don’t want to be like Farmington, or Moab, or Durango. Why not be our own unique selves and prosper?

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.