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.