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  • Boulder County Presents: Sustainable Agriculture Forum

  • November 6, 2010 Silver Creek High School

  • Part 1: Keynote address

  • Cindy Domenico: Good afternoon everyone, we are so happy that you are all here today.

  • Want to say welcome to all of you. And also we are honored to have our panel, who will

  • be speaking with us and are here to help us kick off dialogue about our cropland policy.

  • Iím one of the County Commissioners. My colleague Ben Pearlman is here; Will Toor will join

  • us a little bit later. We just have a couple things weíd like to share with you before

  • we start the program. For those of you who have been around Boulder County for a long

  • time, you know that agriculture is a very important industry here in the county, and

  • there is a long history of agriculture here in Boulder County. The two biggest industries

  • were farming and mining, and particularly my family, we came here because of all the

  • farming and mining in the early 1880s for farming. And that farmland, for us, is near

  • Lafayette, was an 80 acre farm, was a diversified operation for many years, and about three

  • families went through some trying times in the 1920s and 1930s and 1940s. Itís still

  • a farm at the moment, but as you know itís very difficult to keep farmland in the Front

  • Range. And so, the mining aspect is a little bit different, there was a lot of coal mining

  • and that sort of thingÖ the two industries went hand in hand over many years, until relatively

  • recently, and as we looked at agricultural land across the county and over the years,

  • we noticed that is was disappearing, just like every other place in the Front Range.

  • And 30 years ago, a group of people put together some great thoughts; they created a Comprehensive

  • Plan that was focused on preserving at least some of that agricultural land, and preserving

  • the agricultural lifestyle, so that we donít completely lose our heritage, that this county

  • grew from. That Comprehensive Plan helped guide the way for us to preserve quite a few

  • acres here in Boulder County. Actually 25,000 acres, that are currently farmed by small

  • farmers and ranchers. And just as a (there we goÖ maybe) just as a way to understand

  • what 25,000 acres looks like, itís around 40 square miles, thatís approximately the

  • size. Thatís a lot of acreage. And of course, as you know, that land helps buffer our cities,

  • it helps keep our towns and municipalities independent from one another, it contributes

  • to the quality of life here in Boulder County in huge ways; makes a huge difference. So

  • we know weíre on the right track with that Comprehensive Plan, with the open space strategies

  • that we have; putting our efforts into preserving farmland. And certainly in preserving the

  • agricultural way of life.

  • 2:50 But as we look at those 25,000 acres, particularly

  • in regard to some discussions that happened last year, we realize that we need to talk

  • about the cropland policies and strategies that we want to have in place in Boulder County

  • going into the future. How should those 25,000 acres of farmland be farmed? And last year,

  • a very long discussion happened around sugarbeets, what kind of sugarbeets should be grown, and

  • what it means if you donít grow them or if you do grow them. And so that has led us to

  • looking at a framework need for a cropland policy, that is why we are creating a cropland

  • policy advisory committee, to help us work through the process. That group will examine

  • all the issues and lay out

  • the framework for how decisions will be made in the future around our cropland usage in

  • the open space acres that we have. And weíre excited to kick off the dialogue, have a long

  • discussion about it; it was one of the most challenging hearings I think weíve ever been

  • in, certainly for me. I had been in the office for about two years before we jumped into

  • this discussion, and it looks into about every aspect of human life into the discussion that

  • you could think of, and some of you have probably already thought about that. But thatís part

  • of why weíre here today, to start talking about what that framework should look like,

  • and weíre very happy that youíre here to share in the dialogue.

  • Ben Pearlman: Andll just add, that I think it goes without saying, that food is important

  • to all of us, as are our landscapes, the quality of our environment, and this set of discussions

  • concerns all of that, and weíre lucky enough to be in a position in Boulder County where

  • we have over the last couple of decades, preserved this 25,000 acres of land and we have the

  • opportunity to decide how itís going to be managed. And I think thatís something thatís

  • very different than most communities across the Front Range, and I think weíre very lucky

  • to be in this position. Nonetheless, it is a challenging set of issues, and our goal,

  • as a county, is to come up with a path towards sustainable agriculture for the county. We

  • need to have these agricultural lands be productive on into the future, and not just for the values

  • that they provide for wildlife on the edges and the value for buffering between communities,

  • but our food. We believe that local food is going to a tremendous part of the future in

  • Boulder County. People want to be able to consume, eat food that is grown locally and

  • healthfully, and I think itís our obligation to try to work towards that as fast as we

  • possibly can. At a minimum, that means a few things. First, it means a commitment to continue

  • funding the open space program, of the filling out the gaps within our agricultural lands,

  • it means looking at our agricultural infrastructure, which always needs additional funding as far

  • as I can tell from our agricultural managers, but thatís everything from the ditches and

  • flumes and center pivot irrigation systems that allow the water to flow because again,

  • in the arid west, irrigation is tremendously important. Itís also processing facilities,

  • and other ways for farmers to add value to the crops that they grow, and I think we have

  • a lot of work to do on that as well. Itís also finding ways to allow farmers to grow

  • more organic crops on Boulder County open space lands, itís trying to grow farmers

  • themselves. We have some programs in place, and weíre working very hard to try to teach

  • farmers what they need to know in order to run these small farms, market farms, and be

  • successful at it. And then, of course, we need to do what we can as we manage these

  • lands to make available those opportunities to be able to lease out small parcels of land

  • that have the available water rights so that people can create something remarkable on

  • those landscapes. So, I think itís one of the most exciting things we do; I think weíre

  • very lucky to be in this position; weíre also very lucky that just a couple days ago

  • we had another open space ballot measure pass, by a very narrow margin, but this means that

  • we will have resources going into the future to be able to bolster and invest in our agricultural

  • infrastructure and in these lands. And so my thanks go out to the voters of Boulder

  • County and we appreciate their support in what has been a very tough last couple of

  • years in the local economy. Weíre very fortunate. Well with that said, we have some great people

  • to hear from; I think this, what weíre doing today, and what weíve been doing over the

  • last number of years, is I think, the last thing I wanted to mention, which is the engagement

  • of the public in how we manage our lands is tremendously important and weíre deeply grateful

  • to you for being here today. This a joint project, itís a community project, these

  • are all of our lands and how we manage them matters to all of us, so weíre just glad

  • that weíre going to have these kinds of discussions, and have a citizen advisory board for the

  • cropland policy to work with staff on developing that, and this is kicking that off, so thanks

  • to everyone for being here today. Back to David. (applause)

  • 8:12 Well first let me say thanks to the Commissioners

  • for showing up today and kicking us off, I appreciate that, and then I want to say welcome

  • to all of you that have given up a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November here in Colorado,

  • to come here and help us talk about sustainable agriculture here in Boulder County. My name

  • is David Bell, Iím the agricultural resource manager for Boulder County Parks and Open

  • Space. And because we have such a great group of speakers here, I donít want to take too

  • much time, but I think as I heard, even our commissioners talking about some of the terms

  • that we throw around as far as open space, and organic farming, and some of the history

  • weíve had here, I just want to ask, how many people have not been part of this conversation

  • before this forum? So thatís pretty impressive. So, like I said, I want to take a few minutes

  • to kind of put this forum into context of what weíre trying to accomplish, and also

  • kind of put the agricultural program in context of Parks and Open Space, because a lot of

  • times people think about open space programs, theyíre not thinking about agriculture, so

  • something that is unique, and Boulder County again in leading the way in that. So Boulder

  • County protects around 95,000 acres through the open space program. 35,000 of that is

  • through conservation easements. Conservation easements are a program that allows the county

  • to purchase the development rights of a property. And if you think of a property as being a

  • bundle of sticks, you can pull out individual sticks from that bundle. You can sell your

  • mineral rights, you can sell your water rights, you can also sell your development rights.

  • So the county has leveraged some of its funds by buying just those development rights, and

  • allowing the family farmers to keep those grounds, and manage them the way they have

  • throughout their familiesí history. Again, protecting the development of those lands,

  • because development is held by the citizens of Boulder County. The remaining 65,000 acres

  • are called ìfee simpleî propertries. This is property that the county has gone out and

  • found willing sellers, who wanted to negotiate with the county to sell their properties at

  • fair market value, and then once that happens, we as a county take on that property, and

  • the full management of that property. Of those 60,000 acres, 25,000 acres were purchased

  • for agricultural values. As a staff, we donít have the time, the resources, the talent,

  • to go out and keep those lands in productions, so because of that, we partner with local

  • farmers and ranchers to make sure these lands stay productive over time. We call these farmers

  • and ranchers our ìpartners in conservationand these individuals lease the land that

  • produces a diversified variety of crops for our local markets. They range from barley

  • and beans, to kale and corn. And not only do these farmers and ranchers help maintain

  • these lands, but the lease revenues go right back into the open space program. In addition

  • to that, these families farms put right back into the community. These family farms not

  • only purchase their seeds, their crops, insurance, their fertilizers from local dealers, they

  • also purchase food, school supplies and clothes, right here in Boulder County, so that these

  • family farms generate revenue right here in Boulder County as well. While we recognize

  • the importance of our farmers and tenants on open space, we also recognize that these

  • are public lands, and we as stewards of public lands are accountable to the public as well.

  • So, this is where it puts us to day as part of this cropland policy. The Department is

  • in the process of creating this policy which will help us make management decisions that

  • reflect the public values and sentiments of the public, while assuring economic sustainability

  • of agricultural operations, and respecting and enhancing the environmental systems for

  • the foundation of agriculture. This forum is the third in our engagement of the public

  • in this conversation. So again for those of you that this is your first time, weíve also

  • reached out and weíve had an open house at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, where the

  • public has had the opportunity to talk with staff, to talk with farmers about what ranching

  • and farming is like in Boulder County. From then we went ahead and we scheduled tours

  • out in the field. We heard from people that they wanted to get out and see these lands,

  • they wanted to hear from these farmers and ranchers what it was really like out there.

  • So we put together a tour. On our first tour, we rented a bus, we had 50 people, we went

  • out, we looked at a livestock operation, a row crop operation, and a vegetable operation. Those 50 people had

  • a wonderful time. Staff had a wonderful time. I just know when I got done with those tours,

  • you want to get back out again because it was, I think, a great experience. By the second

  • tour, we had over 100 people, by the third tour we had over 200 and some people signed

  • up for this, and again by the fourth, we had the public out there and it allowed over 400

  • people to see Boulder County agriculture on open space. The reaction that I saw from the

  • public was just amazing. It took people back to their childhood with being on farms, it

  • took people that had never been out in a field to see a sugarbeet or corn; the opportunity

  • to get their hands on the products and walk the fields, and again, I think talking to

  • the farmers was a huge part of that too. This now again is this third piece of this conversation,

  • engaging the public in this conversation, about how we manage our public lands for the

  • future. One of the things I want to be sure we are clear about as we talk about this is

  • that Boulder County Parks and Open Space lands and the cropland policy. So weíre only talking

  • about those lands that are owned in fee by the county. So this does not apply to private

  • lands or conservation easements. So with that background, Iíd like to spend a few minutes

  • on logistics of this afternoonís program. So, the program you received when you walked

  • in has a lot of information, so I wonít take a lot of time reading bios, but there are

  • a couple of things Iíd like to go over that will make things go a little smoother. There

  • will be three sessions this afternoon, and between each session there will be a short

  • intermission. During this time, youíll have a chance to purchase some local foods from

  • the 4-H groups out there. Those products were donated by local food merchants, so Iíd like

  • to thank Boulder Popcorn, Moeís Bagels, Boulder Chips, Justinís Nut Butters, and Seth Ellis

  • Chocolatier. All the proceeds from the sales will go back to those local 4-H clubs. Iíd

  • like to thank the kids for selling that as well, because when we talk about the future

  • of food, and we talk about the future of farming, those kids really are our future for farming

  • in this area. And again the adults who have spent time mentoring and teaching these kids.

  • There will also be book sales in the lobby, and the authors will be available to sign

  • those after the event. While we encourage you to buy your products, please enjoy them

  • out in the lobby, because there is no food and drink allowed in here, and weíre trying

  • to respect the school, and make it easy for the staff, so weíd like you to keep your

  • snacks in the lobby. Once youíre in the auditorium, please use the index cards you were provided

  • to write down questions you would like the panel to answer. And does everyone have their

  • index cards? Do we have enough pens to write down stuff? Because we can make sure we get

  • that to you guys as well. These cards will then be collected by staff and then given

  • to the League of Women Voters. They will go through those cards and then they will be

  • the ones to present those questions, and as many of those questions as they can to the

  • panelists when we get to the question and answer period of the program. So, with all

  • that being said, I want to get on to our speakers.

  • 15:55 So itís my pleasure to present the authors

  • of ìTomorrowís Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of FoodFirst, Raoul Adamchak

  • is an organic farmer and the coordinator at the University of California Davis student

  • farm. Pamela Ronald is a professor of plant pathology at the University of California

  • Davis, and directed the grass genetics at the Joint Bioenergy Institute. Being at what

  • is often considered opposite ends of the farming spectrum, this husband and wife team not only

  • co-authored a book, but are raising two kids and sitting down to dinner together and discussing

  • the future of food. I hope that this is a model for our community, that we can use to

  • begin a civil dialogue about what agriculture in Boulder County will look like. It is now

  • my pleasure to introduce Pam and Raoul.

  • 16:41 Pamela Ronald Thank you all for coming today, we appreciate

  • having you here on a beautiful day, and many thanks to David Bell, heís gone to extraordinary

  • effort to arrange this symposium, and heís been a terrific host. So thank you very much.

  • So before we start the talk, I wanted to just run a two-minute movie, because I find it

  • really frames the debate well. (You can hit the button.)

  • 20:26 And really, this is where Raoul and I began

  • our discussion. And we know through conversation with friends and colleagues, and family members,

  • that there still remain critical questions about agriculture, and particularly about

  • genetically engineered crops, and organic production. Many of our friends have asked

  • us if organic agriculture can produce enough food to feed the world, and many people have

  • asked us if genetically engineered crops are safe to eat, and safe for the environment.

  • So, this book is really our response to those questions, and what we try to do is take the

  • reader into the lives of an organic farmer and a geneticist, so the reader can find out

  • what we actually do. And also, we try to distinguish between fact and fiction in the debate on

  • crop genetics and genetic engineering. So, Iíd like to introduce my husband Raoul, who

  • will begin the talk, and thenll jump in in a little bit.

  • 21:08 Raoul Adamchak You might think that an organic farmer and

  • a plant geneticist wouldnít have much in common. But we do, I mean aside from food

  • and the kids and a love of the outdoors, we also have a sense that agriculture needs to

  • have an ecological basis, needs to be environmentally sound. The kind of agriculture we have today,

  • we have one where agriculture varies globally, in the west, we have a very productive agriculture,

  • feeds everyone, food is abundant, relatively low cost. In Africa and other parts of the

  • developing world, food production is a disaster. Thereís not enough food being grown, thereís

  • malnutrition, thereís starvation. Both in the U.S. and Europe, and the rest of the world,

  • there are a lot of harmful pesticides being applied, there are soluble synthetic fertilizers,