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Ag extension has roots in community

Variety of services aid farmers and ranchers

Montezuma County’s agricultural extension office offers more services than people may realize.

Director Tom Hooten gave an overview of the department during a recent county meeting.

The organization is part of a statewide outreach program of Colorado State University, the state’s flagship agricultural sciences school.

“We provide information and education, and encourage the application of research-based knowledge for issues affecting youth, families, and agricultural enterprises,” Hooten said.

The budget for 2015 was $112,512, of which $90,582 goes to run the 4-H program.

The remaining funds go toward agricultural workshops, events, classes and seminars, including the annual beef symposium, noxious weed symposium, and children agricultural programs at the Four States Ag Expo.

Workshops available are for specialty crops, fruit-tree pruning and grape vineyard pruning.

“We also work closely with the county weed department, assisting with weed identification, and cost-share applications for treatment,” Hooten said.

The ag extension office manages an orchard at the Southwestern Colorado Research Center in Yellow Jacket. The demonstration orchard has 300 trees, including 35 varieties of apples, four kinds of peaches, four pear types and four varieties of plums.

The orchard is also planting Montezuma heirloom and cider apple varieties in cooperation with the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project.

“The orchard is popular with school tours,” Hooten said.

The extension office is partnering with the Research Center on a $250,000 project investigating use of cover crops to improve dryland agriculture in southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.

The ag extension office hosts an annual Colorado Master Gardener Program. Every year 5-12 new students take 11 weeks of classes for the certification. About 20 volunteers for the program contribute 1,000 hours every year.

The Cortez Farmers market is sponsored and organized by the county extension office as well. The office handles financials, works with the local farmers market committee, and manages applications and permits.

Another program helps disabled farmers. Colorado AgrAbility promotes independence among families who are challenged with a disability so they can continue to farm and ranch. There are 32 clients in the program, one of highest participation rates in the state.

The extension office also offers assistance for local residents, including home and field visits, information on pasture leasing, pesticide applicators, gopher solutions, and management of bees, wasps, hornets, spiders and wildlife.

The list continues with services such as testing for soil, hay, water, and pressure canning. The office also has IRM Red Books on calving, are certified in animal disease response, and offer commercial pesticide applicator testing.

Every Friday morning tune into KSJD’s “Ag Markets and More” to hear Hooten discuss the latest farm news and research.

Some future projects of the extension office are exploring use of herding dogs to aid disabled farmers and ranchers. Researching vineyard microclimates is also a new goal.

“We want to monitor existing vineyards for microclimate characteristics to help identify other potential sites for vineyards,” Hooten said.

The project is in cooperation with Guy Drew Vineyards and the CSU Climate Center.

For more information call the extension office at (970) 565-3123, stop by their office downstairs in the Montezuma County administration building, or visit their website at http://montezumacounty.colostate.edu/

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