Colorado Proud School Meal Day- A local and statewide celebration of Farm to School!

Guidestone  celebrated Colorado Proud School Meal Day with the Salida School District….highlighting locally grown produce served at lunch at the Elementary and Middle Schools and offering a healthy after school snack from the Salida School Gardens!  We are so grateful to Seasons Cafe for hosting our Colorado Proud Day- Farm to School fundraiser dinner and to El Regalo Ranch, Hutchinson Ranch, Little Red Hen Bakery, Vino Salida, and Elevation Beer Company for making the four-course, seasonally inspired menu so amazing!  We had a great turn out, building community and conversation around local healthy food and future generations.  We raised over $1,000 for Farm to School.   We asked Shaina Knight of the Colorado Department of Agriculture to share some thoughts about the origin of Colorado Proud School Meal Day and celebrations throughout the state.  Please read her blog post below to learn more!

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Colorado Proud School Meal Day
By Shaina Knight, Colorado Department of Agriculture

Governor John Hickenlooper  proclaimed September 30, 2015, as Colorado Proud School Meal Day. This statewide event encouraged schools to incorporate Colorado products into their meals, to celebrate Colorado agriculture and to educate students about healthy eating.

We have more than 100,000 students that participated in this year’s event from every corner of the state. Not only does this celebration encourage conversations with students about food and agriculture, but it also exposes them to new tastes and a wide variety of local products.

It is estimated that over 600 schools will be sourcing locally grown, raised, or procced items this year. Some examples of items served this year will be peach cobbler, an entirely locally sourced burrito bar, beef bolognaise with Colorado Proud Gnocchi, tomato and cucumber salad and a pepper slaw.

This celebration received added support this year and/or free materials offered from organizations such as the Colorado Department of Education, Colorado Foundation for Agriculture, The Colorado Farm to School Task Force, The Western Dairy Association, Slow Food Denver, CSU Extension Colorado 4-H Youth Development, The Colorado Egg Producers, The Colorado Farm Bureau, LiveWell Colorado and the Colorado Beef Council.

The Colorado Department of Agriculture and our schools rely heavily on our partnerships and the resources they offer statewide. Farm to school takes effort from all involved because schools are connecting with agriculture in a variety of ways; from sourcing local ingredients, to gaining support from their administration to break ground on a school garden and of course using agriculture as a teaching tool and topic in the classroom.

The ability to offer new STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) based materials to classrooms this year has been a fantastic addition and I am quite pleased to help associate such fantastic skillsets with the agriculture industry.

A noted 341 classrooms spoke about agriculture on Colorado Proud School Meal Day. Fourteen selected schools were paired with an agricultural expert, who spoke to a selected classroom of students reaching towns such as Yuma, Delta, Campo, Flagler, Castle Rock, Lafayette, Pueblo and Fort Collins. It is amazing and encouraging to witness people willing take the steps needed for the benefit of our economy and youth. This day encompasses the very nature of bringing community together with agriculture.
Shaina Knight
Business Development Specialist
Colorado Department of Agriculture

Colorado Proud, created by the Colorado Department of Agriculture in 1999, promotes locally grown, raised or processed products to consumers statewide. Currently, the program has more than 2,000 members which include growers, processors, restaurants, retailers and associations. For more information, visit or contact Shaina Knight at (303) 869-9176.

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Seasons Cafe Hosts Colorado Proud Day Dinner on September 30th!


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Proceeds Support Farm To School!

Salida, Colorado: Join Seasons Cafe and Guidestone Colorado on September 30th (6-9pm) for a four-course, seasonally inspired dinner featuring food from local producers including the Salida School Gardens!  Tickets are on sale through September 28th.  Purchase your tickets now!

Julie Kimbrough and Kristofer Sackett-Williams, Co-Owners of Seasons Cafe, expressed the following statement in why they are supporting Farm to School.  “We think that the Farm to School Initiative is very important to the future of food in this country.  Educating the younger generations about how food is grown and where it comes from is imperative to the future of food sourcing and food security in this country.  Exposing them to the difference in how food tastes straight from the ground or tree educates them on how enjoyable fresh food can be and might inspire them to be the next generation of great food producers or chefs…or just help to keep them healthier and happier in whatever they pursue!”.

Guidestone currently works with the Salida School District, LiveWell Chaffee County and other community partners to develop and implement education gardens at the Salida Middle School and Longfellow Elementary School as well as a four-acre production farm site on Holman Ave. Highlights of this effort include:

  • Growing over 10,000 lbs of produce since 2012 for the school district, youth farmers market, and other community markets.
  • Providing garden field trips and service learning experiences for hundreds of students throughout the Salida School District.
  • Supporting teachers and district staff in integrating the garden with core curriculum and food service.

Guidestone Colorado is a 501C3, non-profit organization that is growing the next generation of farmers and ranchers for a vibrant local food economy in Colorado.  Guidestone serves the communities of  Arkansas River Valley through education, community building and partnerships.  For more information about Guidestone or the Farm to School Initiative, please visit

Farmhands Summer Program Registration Deadline extended to May 15-Scholarships Available!

Greetings Farmhands Families-

As the days grow warmer and the land begins to green up, our thoughts turn to summer! Our summer Farmhands programs begin in less than a month, with Moonstone Farm Camp kicking off the season from June 1-4. We are excited about this year’s line-up of programs and have some exciting news to share.
In order to make our programs more accessible to more families we have decided to extend our early bird deadline to May 15. We are incredibly pleased because this year we are able to offer some scholarship funds due to the generous donation from Pinon Vacation Rentals and Lawton Eddy. Thank you so much Lawton for this amazing gesture! If you would like to apply for a scholarship please click HERE:
This year both Andrea Coen and Karen Fortier will be lead instructors for our programs. We will also be joined by our Farmhands intern Riley Ceglowski. It is sure to be a fun, interactive, adventurous, and engaging, summer for all involved!

See you out on the ranch or farm soon!


Karen Fortier

Director, Farmhands Education Programs

The Farm Bill for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers


The Agricultural Act of 2014 – otherwise known as the Farm Bill – contains news for beginning farmers and ranchers across the country. In total, it invests $444 million into beginning farmer initiatives over the next decade – a 154 percent increase from the 2008 farm bill. These initiatives generally fall under three categories:

1.    Beginning farmer and rancher training programs
2.    Financial assistance
3.   Conservation access and incentives

The following is a brief description of some of the specific initiatives in the Agricultural Act of 2014 that support beginning farmers and ranchers.

1. Beginning farmer and rancher training programs, such as the Building Farmers Training Program offered through CSU Extension, including right here in Chaffee County, are essential to the success of beginning producers. Plenty of passionate and intelligent young farmers adept in growing food are eager to get started; training in business planning, marketing, and financial analysis ensures they have the tools they need to succeed in the long run.

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program – this program, established by the 2008 farm bill, will be funded at $20 million per year through fiscal year ’18 for a $100 million total, up from $75 million in the 2008 farm bill. This program is the only federal initiative dedicated exclusively to educating beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers. This provision is being hailed as a major success by NSAC and NYFC.


2. Financial Assistance

FSA Microloans – the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Microloan program was codified. The Microloan program is designed to better serve “the unique financial operating needs of beginning, niche and the smallest of family farm operations” (USDA). It does this by making applications to credit more flexible. In its first year, the program made 3,000 loans.

Direct Farm Ownership Loans – access to this FSA program was made more flexible too, expanding the definition of the required 3 years of experience to better reflect current training structures and opportunities for beginning producers.

Down Payment Program – given the ever-increasing price of land, the FSA Down Payment Program raised the amount it will provide for a down payment on land from $500,000 to $667,000. Also, “Retiring farmers may use this program to transfer their land to future generations” (USDA).

o   The above three FSA loan programs aim to increase access to credit with minimal interest rates for beginning farmers who would otherwise have trouble procuring credit from a commercial lender.

Federal Crop Insurance – changes in this bill will make it easier for beginning farmers to access crop insurance programs by giving them a 10 percent reduction on premiums. Monetarily, this accounts for the largest provision for beginning farmers in the bill at $261 million over ten years.

Value-Added Producer Grant – the bill makes clear that beginning producers receive priority in this grant program, which allows producers to create new products and expand markets to increase income.


3. Conservation access and incentives – many changes have been made to Conservation programs in this farm bill, primarily to consolidate and streamline its programs.

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) – this new program, which incorporates the existing Farm and Ranchland Protection Program, makes specific previsions to ensure conserved farmland remains in agricultural production, rather than say, be sold to estate buyers. This is language directly from the bill:

The purposes of the program are to… protect the agricultural use and future viability, and related conservation values, of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural use of that land. (Sec. 2301)

This is in response to the growing trend of land in conservation easement with an associated Agriculture priority being bought by nonagricultural landowners. For more on this trend, see the NYFC’s Conservation 2.0 report here

Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentive Program(CRP-TIP) – funding for this program has been increased from $25 to $33 million. The Conservation Reserve Program pays farmers and ranchers to remove land from production for the duration of a 10-15 year contract, providing a source of income to producers, protecting and restoring environmentally sensitive land, and increasing future productivity on that parcel. The CRP-TIP program provides two more years of CRP payments to farmers whose contracts are expiring if they sell or rent that CRP land to beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers who will use sustainable grazing practices, resource-conserving cropping systems, or transition to organic production.

Environmental Quality and Incentives Program (EQIP) – the final bill upholds language in this NRCS-administered program that sets aside funds for beginning farmers and also increases the advanced payment amount from 30 to 50% of a project, such as those in the Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative.

Click HERE for more information on the Farm Bill

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

Summary of the 2013 Farm Bill

by David Lynch
Colorado Land Link Director

Having failed to pass a Farm Bill as scheduled last year, Congress is trying again. Like the last several Farm Bills, the proposed Farm Bill will generally support the large consolidated corporate agriculture system.  There are no proposals on the table for systemic changes, but there have been several potentially significant amendments on specific topics that affect sustainable farmers and local food consumers. Unfortunately the Senate passed the Farm Bill without having reached agreement on any of the following amendments. Watch to see what amendments will be brought up before the House of Representatives with their version of the Farm Bill.

1.  Amendment #1042 sponsored by Senator King seeks to support small, direct-marketing farmers by clarifying the exemption for small farmers under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed Congress two years ago, it included a very important provision that exempted small-scale, direct-marketing farmers from some of the burdensome new regulations.  The Tester-Hagan provision of FSMA was a vital protection for local food producers.

When FDA proposed regulations this year under FSMA, however, its interpretation of the Tester-Hagan provision undercut much of the intent.  Among other problems, FDA’s proposed regulations measure who is a small farmer based on all the food they sell, instead of based on the food they sell that is subject to FSMA.  The real intention of the Tester-Hagan provision was to judge size under FSMA based on the foods subject to FSMA, and Senator King’s Amendment clarifies that intention.  This will bring more farmers within the protections of the Tester-Hagan provision, preventing them from being driven out of business by new federal regulations.

 2.  Senator Tester has an amendment entitled “Classical Breeding Amendment #972”. The goal of this amendment is to support non-GMO seeds. More and more, corporations are control agriculture research and are focused on expanding their genetically engineered crops; every year farmers are left with fewer choices of seeds that are not genetically engineered. Farmers who want to avoid growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) simply don’t have good alternatives.  And when farmers have no options, consumers have no options.
In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress directed the USDA to make classical plant and animal breeding a priority for funding, but the agency imposed hurdles in the grant-making process that have undermined this Congressional mandate. Senator Tester’s amendment will prioritize the USDA’s breeding grants for classical breeding of public cultivars and non-GMO seeds.

3. There are several amendments that are dedicated to support farmer and consumer choice. Amendment #978 would require judicial review of non-GMO crops, amendment #934 would ban GMO salmon, and both amendments #965 and #1025 would support labeling requirements at both the federal and state levels.

4.  Senator Wyden’s Industrial Hemp Amendment would support American farmer’s freedom to once again grow hemp to the extent that it is allowed under state laws. Hemp is planted in many countries, and is legal to use in the U.S. – but it is not legal to plant it in the U.S. 

The seed is known for its healthy protein and rich oil. The outer fiber from the stalk can be used for clothing, canvas and rope; the inner core fiber can be used for construction and paper production.   This crop provides excellent opportunities for farmers for a sustainable, profitable crop.

5.  The 2008 farm bill included a provision for “Country of Origin Labeling (COOL)”. Senator Johanns amendment would eliminate it.

For years, American farmers and consumers have fought to get mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for food products, so that consumers could know what country their food came from.  The large meatpackers, however, don’t like this and are trying to get COOL eliminated in the Farm Bill. COOL is already the law of the land – it should not be reversed in this Farm Bill. Consumers deserve the right to know the source of their food and U.S. farmers and ranchers should be allowed to promote their products with pride.