NEW CASTLE, Colorado- Just when you might have thought there is scarcely any authentic, working-agricultural economy left in Garfield County, along comes an annual conference to prove otherwise.
Ag Day, set for Wednesday, Jan. 23, in New Castle, has taken place in Garfield County every year since 1989, and typically draws a crowd of 100 or more. The event is free.
Mike Kishimoto, a civil engineering technician for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, will be preparing his regionally famous barbecue, so reservations are required for lunch.
Sponsored by the Bookcliff, Mount Sopris and South Side Conservation Districts and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, Ag Day is a series of lectures and discussions focused on agriculture and its problems and prospects in this region.
Garfield County vegetation specialist Steve Anthony will talk about the latest in noxious weed infestations, including reed grass.
Steve Hale of Encana Oil and Gas (USA), a past board member of the Shavano Conservation District and the Colorado State Conservation Board, will discuss environmental stewardship for oil and gas and techniques for agriculture production.
A presentation on agri-tourism will highlight the idea of a working ranch for tourism or education, with presenters Kelli Helper, tourism coordinator of Delta County, and Judy Walden of the Walden Mills Group, a community-based-tourism consulting company in Denver.
Sharie Prow, district manager for all three districts, said agri-tourism promotes alternative sources of income for agriculture producers, such as corn mazes, farmers markets, school tours and harvest celebrations in orchards, vineyards and wine tours, and horseback tours of working ranches.
"Basically, it's anything that can get extra income for landowners," Prow wrote in an email.
The final presentation of the day, by Joani Matranga of the Governor's Energy Office of Colorado, is on energy efficiency, hydroelectric and solar power as they apply to agricultural enterprises.
This is the 24th annual Ag Day, as well as the 60th birthday of the Mount Sopris and South Side districts, which were formally certified in 1953.
The Mount Sopris district covers all of Pitkin County and some of southern Garfield County, while the South Side district encompasses the territory south of the Colorado River from Canyon Creek to South Rifle.
The Bookcliff district, formed in 1947, covers Garfield County north of the Colorado River from Canyon Creek to De Beque, and on the south side of the river from South Rifle to De Beque.
Although the three districts are separate entities with their own projects and programs, they join forces for educational programs and events such as Ag Day, said Prow.