The first regional Colorado Soil Health event put on by the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Colorado STAR program took place in Monte Vista on Saturday, August 13. Primarily in attendance were farmers and ranchers, who spent the day focused on the essential nature of soil health and soil health management.

After a welcome from Cindy Lair with the Colorado Department of Agriculture was a brief talk from Senator Cleave Simpson, a Colorado Republican who is a fourth-generation San Luis Valley farmer and rancher, as well as general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.


Cindy Lair welcomes attendees.
Cindy Lair of the Colorado Department of Agriculture welcomes attendees to the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, CO.
Colorado Senator Cleave Simpson presents to attendees.
Senator Cleave Simpson of Colorado – a fourth-generation farmer and general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District – presents at the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, CO.

Attendees also were given the option to go on one of two local farm tours: Elliott Farms in Monte Vista, and San Juan Ranch near Saguache.

Tour attendees look at piles of hay on the field of San Juan Ranch near Saguache, Colorado.
Rangeland tour attendees look at hay and farming equipment on the San Juan Ranch as part of the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022.

Later in the day, Lair introduced State Representative Donald Valdez, who represents District 62 and serves on the House Agriculture, Livestock, & Water Committee.

Colorado State Representative Donald Valdez stands with a microphone.
Colorado State Representative Donald Valdez addressed attendees of the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.

Following Valdez was Colorado State University’s Gene Kelly, who is a professor of pedology, as well as Deputy Director of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, and Associate Director for Research in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

CSU Professor Gene Kelly holds microphone to address audience.
Colorado State University’s Gene Kelly is a professor of pedology, as well as Deputy Director of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, and Associate Director for Research in the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

The keynote presentation was given by Oklahoma farmer Jimmy Emmons, who showed the benefits of cover crops and soil health on his farm and others. “Changing the soil has changed our lives,” he said.

Oklahoma farmer Jimmy Emmons speaks into a microphone while presenting.
Jimmy Emmons, a farmer from Oklahoma, gave the keynote presentation at the Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.

Breakout sessions were presented by Kansas farmer Brice Custer – on the economics of cover crops – and a representative of the Quivira Coalition – on a soil health workbook and the soil health primer created by Acres U.S.A. and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Kansas farmer Brice Custer points to a screen presentation about cover crops.
Brice Custer is a no-till farmer in Hays, Kansas. Brice presented on the economics of cover cropping at the Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.

The educational presentations finished up with a farmer panel discussion on “Perspectives on Soil Health.” Participants included George Whitten, Kyler Brown, Brice Custer, Lyle Nissen and Jimmy Emmons, with Patrick Neil as moderator.

Five farmers sit at a table facing the crowd as part of a panel discussion on soil health.
Left to right: George Whitten, Kyler Brown, Brice Custer, Lyle Nissen and Jimmy Emmons, participate in a panel discussion

The event wrapped with a thank you from Cindy Lair and a final overview of the STAR program from Ground Up Consulting’s Max Neumeyer.

Cindy Lair and Max Neumeyer thank attendees.
–       Cindy Lair, Colorado Department of Agriculture, and Max Neumeyer, Ground Up Consulting, thank attendees of the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.

Learn more about the Colorado STAR program here, and download free soil health primers here. Scroll further for more photos from the August 13th Colorado STAR event in Monte Vista, Colorado.


San Juan Ranch

Rancher George Whitten points out interesting aspects of his field on the San Juan Ranch.
George Whitten of San Juan Ranch discusses points of interest in the fields of his certified organic, grass-fed cattle ranch.
A crowd of farmers and tour attendees watches a presentation in a field next to a tractor and piles of hay.
–       Rangeland tour attendees look at hay and farming equipment on the San Juan Ranch as part of the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022.
A man bends down to look at till lines in a field while a crowd stands beside a yeomans plow.
–       Attendees look at a yeomans plow in a trial lot on the San Juan Ranch near Saguache, Colorado, as part of the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022.
People stand in high grass in a field with blue sky above – the San Juan Ranch near Saguache, Colorado.
Ranchland tour attendees discuss soil health topics among themselves while walking the fields of the San Juan Ranch near Saguache, Colorado, as part of the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022.
Sam Schmidt kneels in the grass of a field at San Juan Ranch.
Sam Schmidt, one of the farming staff at San Juan Ranch, discusses the alfalfa variants and recent yeomans plow tillage experiments with Colorado STAR event attendees.
Green grassy field with mountains in distance, blue sky and fluffy white clouds - San Juan Ranch, Colorado.
Scenic photo of the San Juan Ranch near Saguache, Colorado.
Yellow flowers in focus in a green grassy field, mountains blurry in background with blue sky and white clouds.
Scenic photos of the San Juan Ranch near Saguache, Colorado.

Speakers

Colorado Senator Cleave Simpson holds a microphone in front of a crowd.
Senator Cleave Simpson of Colorado – a fourth-generation farmer and general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District – presents at the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, CO.
Oklahoma farmer Jimmy Emmons presents to the audience.
Jimmy Emmons, a farmer from Oklahoma, gave the keynote presentation at the Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado. “Changing our soil has changed our lives,” he said.
Oklahoma farmer Jimmy Emmons raises his arm in front of the audience, with several members in the audience also raising their hands.
Jimmy Emmons, a farmer from Oklahoma, asks a question of the audience at the Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.
Donald Valdez addresses the crowd with a microphone.
Colorado State Representative Donald Valdez addressed attendees of the first Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.
Kansas farmer Brice Custer stands in front of his presentation screen with a microphone.
Brice Custer is a no-till farmer in Hays, Kansas. Brice presented on the economics of cover cropping at the Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.
A crowd sits in chairs looking up at a tv screen and Brice Custer, Kansas farmer, presenting with microphone.
Brice Custer presents on the economics of cover cropping at the Colorado STAR event on Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.
Farmers discuss soil health in a presentation by the Quivira Coalition.
A representative from the Quivira Coalition presented a soil health workbook along with a free soil health primer from Acres U.S.A. and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Max Neumeyer points out into the crowd.
Max Neumeyer of Ground Up Consulting explains the ins and outs of the Colorado STAR Program at the program’s first event on Aug 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado.
A panel of five farmers faces the crowd while discussing soil health.
George Whitten, Kyler Brown, Brice Custer, Lyle Nissen and Jimmy Emmons, participated in a panel discussion for “Perspectives on Soil Health” to wrap up the Colorado STAR event Aug. 13, 2022, in Monte Vista, Colorado