From The Ag Journal (Candace Krebs) via The Pueblo Chieftain:
Since Julie and her husband John Ott moved home to her parent’s farm, the James Ranch north of Durango, three decades ago, three other siblings have joined them on the 400-acre operation where they produce meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs and cheese that is sold through their own restaurant and market.
Demand has grown so much that they now partner with more than 50 local farms and ranches in the community as well as purchasing from Valley Roots food hub in the San Luis Valley and the Southwest Food Co-op.
Following on the heels of the much discussed United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the Institute for Science and Policy at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science convened a panel for the purpose of looking at how climate and agriculture intersect closer to home.
It was hosted in conjunction with Colorado State University System’s new Spur Campus in Denver.
The James Ranch is a model of conscientious integration of people, land and livestock. Taking a different but parallel approach is Tocabe, a two-location fast casual restaurant and market in Denver that focuses on native and indigenous foods.
Co-owner Matt Chandra said the goal was to create a pathway to the market for tribal communities in the region and beyond. His co-owner Ben Jacobs is a member of the Osage Nation of Northeast Oklahoma where the market’s bison meat is processed.
To him, doing right by the climate includes sourcing meat directly from Native American ranchers, dishing up smaller portion sizes and putting produce and vegetables at the center of the plate.
“There’s a huge consumer education piece to it. It’s about quality over quantity,” Chandra said. “It’s about the meal, memories and the impact it creates over being overly stuffed and full.” In Southeastern Colo- rado, Nicole Rosmarino believes the future lies in preserving natural ecosystems with native wildlife and vegetation.
“Bison are at the crux of restoration efforts, or at least they should be,” she said.
As founder and executive director of the Southern Plains Land Trust, she helps oversee more than 32,000 acres of shortgrass prairie. The flagship property, the Heartland Ranch, is larger than several national parks and even some countries, and continues to grow in size.
Whereas over 90 percent of the nation’s bison are managed as livestock, those on the Heartland Ranch are intended strictly to provide ecosystem services…
The preserve prohibits cultivation in perpetuity in exchange for participation in a carbon market, she explained. An estimate by an international climate standards group estimated the value of the biodiversity and climate services on their ranch at more than $8 million per year, she said.
“Every dollar we earn we allocate to acquiring more land and sequestering more carbon,” she said. “It’s a sustained and intentional effort to put dollars back in the local community, which is struggling with a poverty level three times the state average.” Climatologist Michael Mann uses the term “doomerism” to describe a feeling of irrational skepticism and futility that is becoming increasingly rampant, according to Brad Udall, a scientist and scholar with CSU since 2014.
“You see it from a lot of different quarters,” he said during the webinar. “We are facing challenges the likes of which humanity has never seen. But I like to think people will rise to the occasion and figure out how to work together.” Udall, who focuses on how climate impacts water resources in the West, particularly within the Colorado River basin, was previously with the University of Colorado but said he enjoyed being at CSU because of its connection to the agriculture community.
“In the water world, what gives me optimism is that people know each other now. The greenies know the ranchers now,” he said. “In this state people talk to each other and that’s where the solutions will come from.” Eugene Kelly, the deputy director of CSU’s Ag Experiment Station, echoed that observation, saying starting and having those conversations was important.
The panel, which took turns weighing in on the merits of animal agriculture, the potential for reducing water and energy use and the challenge of eliminating food waste, was overall mostly optimistic about moving forward in the wake of a global pandemic.
The James Ranch restaurant, which holds weekly dinners on Thursday nights to introduce diners to the farmers who feed them, has been like “an oasis” for many during trying times, John Ott said.