Thanks to our partners, sponsors and participants of the 3rd Annual Land Link Forum and pilot Visioning Course!

Guidestone’s Colorado Land Link program hosted its 3rd Annual Land Link Forum in conjunction with the inaugural offering of our Visioning  Course for aspiring farmers and ranchers on March 5-6 in Southeast Colorado.

The Visioning Course, held Thursday March 5th, was designed to help participants ask some key questions prior to starting an agricultural venture: what are my goals, what are my competencies, how am I going to accomplish this, what help might I need to do so?

Throughout the course, participants were given opportunity to learn about what resources and organizations are out there to help them achieve their farm dream through presentations and representation from CSU Extension, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Guidestone, Palmer Land Trust and more. There was a tremendous wealth of knowledge in the room!

Vision Course Participants sharing stories
Vision Course Participants sharing stories

Participants also were inspired by the location of the event at Excelsior Farmers Exchange Food Hub facility, which kicked off an afternoon of farm tours with several different farmers and operations in the region, including Hobbs Family Farm with Dan Hobbs, Knapp Family Farm with John Knapp, and an overview of operations at the CSU Extension Arkansas Valley Research Station. When asked to share a highlight from their Visioning Course experience, one participant said, “Farm visits! It’s always invigorating to see successful farms out there, especially of different models.”

We wrapped up the Visioning Course with a trip to local favorite, Boss Hoggs Saloon in La Junta, for a Farmer Social, sponsored by the National Young Farmers Coalition and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

That brought us to the 3rd Annual Land Link Forum on Friday, March 6th at Otero Junior College in La Junta. We were thrilled to bring the Forum to the Southeast Region of Colorado for the first time. As part of Colorado Land Link’s regional capacity building efforts, Guidestone will be moving the Forum around the state to different regions (SW Colorado 2016!) and working on forming Regional Steering Committees as we go.

A strong network of beginning and established producers, agricultural service providers, conservation professionals, political and other leaders attended the Forum, which was focused on building the capacity of Land Link in the Southeast and mapping a coordinated strategy for the future of Colorado’s agricultural lands and producers.

A Farmer shares his story
A Farmer shares his story

Attendees from outside the region gained a newfound insight and appreciation for the Southeast Region — for the agricultural opportunities, the cultural sites, and the community’s perseverance in the face of adversity — from presentations given by Matt Heimerich of Palmer Land Trust, Rick Manzanares of Canyons and Plains,  and Pam Denahy of the City of La Junta.

We wrapped up the day with a celebratory reception, including the old timey tunes of Guidestone’s own Andrea Earley Coen and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union’s Harrison Topp!

One of the agricultural service providers in attendance said, “The meeting of those in attendance and the ideas which they presented and discussed has been very beneficial in administering my programs to beginning producers.”

All in all it was a great event and leaves us here at Guidestone Colorado eager to keep building the capacity of the Colorado Land Link program, a program that matches farmers and ranchers seeking land opportunities with landowners or retiring producers that are open to transitioning their land. In addition to this matching service, Land Link serves as a resource clearinghouse for educational and training opportunities, technical resources and networking for technical assistance and support.

Special thanks to the sponsors of these two events: Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Flynn Wright & Fredman, LLC; Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas; and National Young Farmers Coalition.

Special thanks as well to the many partners and hosts that helped make this an extremely rich and successful few days: CSU Extension, Colorado Agricultural Development Authority, Hobbs Family Farm, Arkansas Valley Organic Growers, Knapp Family Farm, Palmer Land Trust, Canyons and Plains, Farm Service Agency ColoradoOtero Junior College, City of La Junta, and Boss Hoggs Saloon.



Meeting the Capital Needs of Beginning Farmers

One of the greatest barriers for next generation farmers is the enormous investment required for starting a farm operation. Not only can the cost of farmland be prohibitively high, but acquiring the necessary equipment and improvements can also be a significant financial challenge. Many next generation farmers have not had the opportunity to develop a financial track record that allows them to qualify for conventional loans. Such hurdles can be showstoppers for many seeking to follow their farm aspirations, but they don’t have to be.

Colorado Land Link has recently been exploring what opportunities exist in Colorado for next generation farmers to not only lease land but to purchase if they are so interested. Many excellent loan options exist out there to do exactly that, and Guidestone is developing resources that help Colorado Land Link applicants in reviewing and determining which federal or state loan program would best meet their start-up needs.

One such loaning agency is the Colorado chapter of the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Beginning farmer loans are available for real estate, livestock, inventory, and operations at very low interest rates. New producers who are looking to expand their operations may also qualify. Interested individuals may learn more about FSA Beginning Farmer loan programs by clicking here or find their local FSA county office here.

Other options that can help applicants navigate are offered through the Colorado Agriculture Development Authority (CADA), which has a Beginning Farmer Program that provides low interest loans to new farmers. The Colorado Rural Rehabilitation Corporation offers excellent loan opportunities to help beginning farmers get started as well. If qualified, there are real estate and livestock loans available for the full amount with no down payment.




Farmhands 2014 Summer Programs Lead Instructors

This summer Guidestone has three lead instructors for our Farmhands Youth Education programs held at the Salida School Gardens on Holman Ave., the Hutchinson Homestead Ranch & Learning Center in Salida, The Morgan Center for Earth Literacy in Poncha Springs, and The Meadows Farms in Buena Vista. Here they are! Say hi if you see them around town and ask them what their favorite part of Farmhands is. They’re pretty friendly, if you can’t tell.

Ann Colbert

Growing up in Colorado, Ann spent lots of time in the wilderness and in the garden developing a passion for the natural world, which inspired her to pursue a career in environmental studies. Ann has a BS in Natural Resources from Colorado State University and a MA in Teaching from Colorado College. Ann has worked as director and program instructor for a variety of land management agencies and non-profits in Colorado. Ann is currently Guidestone’s Education & Interpretation Specialist.


Karen Fortier

Karen combines two great loves in her life – teaching children and growing food – in her position as Education Specialist for Guidestone’s Farm to School Program. After spending 19 years in Alaska working as a Resource Education Park Ranger, she and her family moved to the Upper Arkansas Valley with the dream of growing more of their own food.



Suzanne Ward
Suzanne Ward is a Colorado native and a fourth generation farmer in the Arkansas River Valley. She and her husband Dave own and operate The Morgan Center in Poncha Springs, Colorado, where they do the Sacred Work of agriculture and Earth Literacy Education. Suzanne has a degree in Psychology from the University of Colorado, a teacher’s certificate from the University of Alaska and a Masters in Education from Regis University in Denver. She taught grades preschool to sixth in the public schools for 25 years. Suzanne spent a year on an organic farm in New Jersey in 2004, where she interned teaching Earth Literacy. She has certificates in Master Gardener, Master Food Safety and Food Preservation, and Permaculture. Suzanne and her husband, Dave, co-founded and serve on the board of the Central Colorado Foodshed Alliance. Earth Education and reviving local foods are her passions.

Colorado Farm Succession Coordinators Certified

Representatives from a number of agricultural organizations gathered in Denver on May 28thto learn of a new service being offered in Colorado – Farm and Ranch Succession Coordination. This meeting was convened by Guidestoneand Colorado State University’s Building Farmers in the West team to announce the team of Farm and Ranch Succession Coordinators that were recently certified through the International Farm Transition Network(IFTN), an organization that has been spearheading farm succession efforts since 1990. John Baker, founder and current president of IFTN, made a presentation about farm succession planning as a service to help retiring farmers and ranchers across Colorado design a transition plan to meet their family and financial goals.

Attendees at the meeting learned about Guidestone’s Colorado Land Link program and the role of farm succession planning in transitioning Colorado’s agricultural resources and heritage into the hands of next generation farmers and ranchers. The need for this service is stark in Colorado where the average age of principal farm and ranch operators across the state has risen to 58.3, as reported by the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture. This also amidst a population growth boom in Colorado that is three times the national average, which places intense development pressures on our agricultural resources and the families that manage them. Farm succession coordinators can be instrumental in facilitating farm and ranch families through the step-by-step process of creating a succession plan that will keep Colorado’s agricultural lands vibrant and in production.

The newly certified Colorado Farm Succession Coordinators will engage in continuing education programs with Colorado State University to ensure they can effectively help Colorado’s farm and ranch families through this process. Additionally a list of professionals, who have expertise in working with Colorado farmers and ranchers  and developing the legal and financial instruments crucial to a succession plan, is being organized for referral.


Farmhands and the Art of Growing Food


Guidestone’s Farmhands Youth Education programs have one overarching goal that guides every one of our programs: to teach kids the art of growing food. ‘Art,’ derived from the Latin ars, can refer to “a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice.” The art of growing food incorporates many different elements – like learning a sport or a musical instrument – yet when combined creates a skill that is a comprehensive whole that can be honed over time through practice, dedication, and joy. The art of growing food can be developed everyday – whether we’re in the garden, at a restaurant, in the kitchen, or at the market.
Guidestone’s Farmhands Youth Education programs get kids started down the path towards the art of growing food by first introducing them to the sheer sensory joy of beingconnected to the earth and its systems that allow us to grow food. You just can’t stop kids from having a good time when it comes to this stuff, whether they’re welcoming chickens to their new coop at the Hutchinson Homestead Ranch and Learning Center by preparing roosts and nesting boxes, or helping plant, weed, and harvest vegetables from the Salida School Garden that will eventually be served in local school cafeterias.


We hope that our Farmhands participants always continue to revel in the wonderful intersection of nature and culture that is agriculture, and bring this interest forward with them in life. As adults, no matter what their professions and interests become, we hope their Farmhands experiences in the art of growing food will help them to be thoughtful consumers and instill a lifelong respect for food and the people that produce it.

If you have little ones, please join us this summer for an exciting lineup of programs in Salida at the Hutchinson Homestead Ranch and Learning Center, the Morgan Center for Earth Literacy in Poncha Springs, and the Salida School Gardens. From gardens, to pigs, chickens, sheep, and goats, and historic homesteaders, we’ve got it all!


Click HERE for more info on all our offerings this summer and to sign-up. And if you believe in what we do, consider helping Guidestone reach its “Spring for Guidestone!” campaign fundraising goal of $10,000 before July 9th by making a donation here so we can continue providing great programming like this for years to come. Thank you so much!


*written by Guidestone’s OSM/VISTA member Gunnar Paulsen