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Dry season

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CSU big and small agriculture conference draws Colorado growers

By Gene Sears

Returning to the Adams County Fairgrounds Feb. 13 and 14, the Colorado Agriculture Big and Small Conference arrived well ahead of planting season and in a year noted for exceptional drought.
    Accordingly, the keynote featured a discussion on climate perspectives gleaned from the 2012 season. Given by Nolan Doesken, Colorado State Climatologist and Senior Research Associate, the talk highlighted the second year of drought for the state, coupled with record high temperatures.    
    Doesken compared the recent weather patterns with other historic droughts, while assessing the long-term impacts. Doesken 

    The first day featured breakout sessions on topics as diverse as virus management through urban farming, hydroponics and small plot management. One interesting topic not usually considered by agriculturists, the concept of a business exit strategy, attracted a full classroom of interested growers. Explained in detail by a diverse group of agriculture, finance and law professionals, the talks offered advice on passing your legacy on to the next generation, another farmer in the community, selling the business or simply (and not so simply) dissolving it. 
    Another topic of interest was traceability and recall programs for produce, increasing in importance following the listeria outbreaks last year. Martha Sullins and Karen McManus covered the different tracebility systems from field to fork, how to start building a system, and the associated costs.
    Day two’s keynote featured interrelationships found in the long-term organic farm. Author and biofarm designer Helen Atthowe covered the nuances of soil nutrient cycling, the soild food web, beneficial and pest insects, weeds, fungi and bacteria within climates and markets.
    Uncommon but critical, a seminar on managing labor by CSU professor Dawn Thilmany offered strategies to manage personnel in seasonal business. Thilmany covered labor selection, pay and morale, featuring management practices and opportunities offered to farm workers as incentive.
    For more information on the program, or to register for next year, visit: www.ColoradoAgricultureBigandSmall.com

Contact Staff Writer Gene Sears at gsears@metrowestnewspapers.com.