SRM Agriculture Conference grows attendance


MONTE VISTA— The Southern Rocky Mountain Agriculture Conference and Trade Show held in Monte Vista the past week was a huge success according to Larry Brown with Colorado State University Extension and Kay Harmon, who both co-chair the conference.

"What is unique about this conference is that it is a full-blown educational event with a trade show attached and that is not to downplay the trade show in any way, it is just that most farm shows are a trade show with a few seminars. The history of this one is it started as an educational event and remains a strong educational event with a strong trade show," said Brown who is responsible for the educational component of the event.

The show boasted many educational seminars, including ag labor law, National Potato Council political update, Colorado legislative update, macroeconomic outlook, forage testing for livestock nutrition, Gut Informed: The connection between gut health and soil health, to name just a few. Brown said there were 44 educational sessions.

The education roster of presenters at the conference was replete with CSU faculty members including Dr. Temple Grandin, a distinguished professor at the university who is a designer of livestock handling facilities and teaches animal science. Grandin is also a noted author and advocate for the autism community. Many CSU support staff assisted with the convention.

The conference had a total registration of about 675 attendees versus 380 last year, said Brown, who attributed the spike to having Grandin at the conference and give the keynote address: Visual Thinking: The hidden gifts of people who think in pictures, patterns, and abstractions.

"A large portion of that increase is having Grandin give the keynote and the two other education sessions. I think we also had an increase in registrations given the breadth of the education sessions that we offered,” said Brown who offered that he doubled the size of the education committee this year.

"We had the goal of getting better geographic representation throughout the Valley and better representation of the different types of crops, livestock, and agricultural enterprises in the variety of sessions we offered. There are still some people who call it the potato and grain conference but it is way beyond that now,” Brown said.

Brown said he will meet with the ag conference committee members in March to pick a theme and start working on the next convention.

Brown expressed his gratitude to the sponsors of the convention and to Co-Chair Harmon, of the Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce, Jim Ehrlich, Executive Director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, and "my team and staff that I have here is the magic that pitches in and makes sure it runs well. I'm getting tremendous support from CSU. My thanks to Zach Czarnecki, Manager of the CSU San Luis Valley Research Center worked very closely with me. I'm on that planning committee and he is a key part of that. "Thanks to Andrew Houser from the research farm."

Harmon told the Valley Courier, "This conference has a positive impact on the entire region, not just Monte Vista. We have 110 vendors that have booth spaces, about two-thirds are from outside the Valley. For each vendor, they have at least two people, so 220 people. We have $45-$50 thousand that comes in just from the catering." Harmon added, "The conference has a huge economic impact on the Valley.

Recently, agricultural and resource economists from CSU have issued their final report on the economic impact the conference has on the region. The Valley Courier will have a forthcoming article on that analysis.