“Regional Successes, Past and Present" is the unifying theme of the events, said Jane Bennett of the Ouray County Ranching History Museum, in a release. Once, Ouray County was home to cattle ranches, dairy farms, truck gardens and wheat fields. Even the ranches depended on their own sizeable vegetable gardens to get by. Agricultural production may have dwindled in the decades since, but that is changing as consumer demand for local food skyrockets.
When an institution like Time Magazine Business says, “Want to make more money than a banker? Become a Farmer!” (July 10, 2011), it's worth taking notice. Farm income climbed by 27 percent in 2010, and was expected to go up another 20 percent in 2011. Farmland has doubled its value in the last six years on average, according to Time.
Ouray County is blessed with open agricultural land and a ditch irrigation system that would cost millions to replicate, but what can you actually grow here other than hay? And what would you do with it if you grew it? Those are some questions the upcoming symposium in Ridgway will answer.
The weekend will kick off at Friday, April 20, at 7 p.m., in the Event Center, with video clips and discussion sponsored by Transition OurWay, a group seeking to help the county find its way in changing economic times.
On Saturday, April 21, at the Event Center, Bennett, who is a storyteller and self-described “history nut,” will give a historic overview of “what was grown where” in the county. “How many people know,” she asks rhetorically, “that Ridgway had a flour mill? And more than one dairy.”
At 9 a.m., keynote speaker Carol Parker of the Valley Food Partnership will talk about the many regional food systems developing in southwest Colorado. Next, Shining Mountain Herbs of Ridgway and Indian Ridge Farms of Norwood will tell how they've established successful businesses based on agriculture.
A panel of local experts and entrepreneurs will explore new ideas and old wisdom for agriculture in the region, Bennett said. Asked if there will be any traditional ranchers on the panel, Bennett replied, “No. Because it’s calving season. And because those folks aren’t likely to want to talk in front of groups.” She said she is working on a couple of local cattle producers who may agree to attend, but there had been no promises.
Bennett said that change is coming inevitably to even the traditional ranchers: “The [old] system isn’t going to work for anybody here pretty soon because of the price of fuel.”
After the panel discussion, a lunch of locally produced goods will be available for sale. Round-robin special interest tables will convene after lunch until 4 p.m., and symposium attendees can circulate to find out more about the things that interest them most.
Sponsors of the event include the Ouray County Agricultural Committee, Black Canyon Regional Land Trust, Transition OurWay, and the Ouray County Ranching History Museum. For more information, contact 970/626-5075 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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