While Jefferson CD’s Urban Agriculture Program began in 2009 with an AmeriCorps VISTA position, this project allowed the district to expand the program and add new features, including the design and launch of an intern program, as well as an equipment share program. Three interns began working in the spring. They led on-farm demonstrations for the local urban agriculture community along with workshops, site visits and mentoring on-farm activities with local urban farmers (assisted in harvesting, planting, installation of conservation practices, etc.). The interns also assisted with social media marketing, writing publications, presentation development and other outreach.
In addition to these services, each intern took on a special project as follows. During the district’s End of Summer Soiree (annual meeting dinner), special presentations were given by each of the interns as the community celebrated their program graduation.
The Grazing Management project was conducted at 5 Fridges Farm in cooperation with the NRCS/CSU extension agent. Six plots were designed to simulate grazing. Every two weeks during the summer, the intern cut the plots to different lengths to mimic different grazing management practices on a dryland pasture. The demonstration illustrated that grazing below four inches was not productive to the longevity to the pasture. The intern showed this plot during a pasture walk event to demonstrate aspects of grazing and why it is important to rotate grazing animals.
The Food Distribution project was conducted with GoFarm, a local COOP. GoFarm is more than just access to fresh, local food. It’s a non-profit with a mission that impacts the health and vitality of the entire community. GoFarm is working with small farmers to create a stronger local market for their products and with other non-profits to develop education programs and increase access to local food for families. The intern worked with local farmers purchasing organic produce that was distributed through a variety of their programs, and has been hired on full time as a GoFarm employee starting in 2018.
The Urban Agriculture Photo Book project involved the development of a photographic guide to conservation practices of Jefferson Conservation District. The intern took photographs of on-farm activities and developed narrative for all conservation practices related to agriculture. The book will be used as a demonstration tool for future conservation projects and sold to landowners in the district. Additionally, the book was presented to participants at NACD’s Annual Meeting.
The Equipment Share Program provided access to necessary equipment without having to take on the burdens associated with ownership. It helps the district’s farmers and landowners to decrease production costs, while increasing their returns on investment. The program will also allow for increases in equipment utilization.
A number of partners continue to cooperate, including Colorado Agriculture Leadership Program, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado State University (CSU) Extension, GoFarm, and a multitude of local urban agriculture producers such as Five Fridges Farm, Micro Farms, Jefferson Alpaca Farm, Living Land Farm, True Roots and Everitt Farm.
Due to a lack of funding, the internship opportunity will not continue in 2018. It is possible JCD will employ a volunteer intern position through the summer, and will certainly continue researching funding sources for interns in future years.
However, the program resulted in lasting partnerships and relationships with producers and other urban ag professionals and organizations. Specific accomplishments that demonstrate project longevity include: growing partnerships with CSU Extension, Five Fridges Farm and Go Farm; a photobook illustrating conservation practices implemented by JCD; updated JCD brochures, website and educational handouts; new events that will become a part of the JCD education program, including pub talks/film nights and farmer training events. JCD already has plans to partner with GoFarm to host a two-day farmer training in February, as well as a combined outreach event in the fall with Jefferson Alpaca Farm.
Also, the equipment share program has become a permanent part of JCD’s program, serving as a revenue source for the district and a valuable resource for landowners and the urban agriculture farming community.