More than 50 citizens attended last Friday's annual meeting of the Delta Conservation District (DCD). The gathering took place at the Orchard City Town Hall.
The DCD is a special-purpose district with a mission of "providing for the preservation of natural resources and the agricultural heritage of Delta County." The organization's areas of emphasis are the removal of invasive weeds, support for micro-hydro projects, upgrading irrigation systems, monitoring soil moisture, and assisting farmers and ranchers with questions related to conservation measures.
Throughout the year the DCD provides a number of small group seminars and workshops which are promoted on its website, www.deltacd.net.
The annual meeting's agenda included a report on district activities by Vanessa Hoff, DCD secretary/treasurer, and a keynote address by Michelle Hayes, executive director of Region 10. Region 10 is a nonprofit organization which offers public programs to 18 towns and cities across six western Colorado counties. In her presentation, Hayes emphasized that Region 10 provides programs and services to address a wide variety of local and regional issues ranging from elder care to transportation. The goal of the organization is to leverage resources to create stronger communities. In this capacity, Region 10 works cooperatively with several other agencies. The organization's support for small businesses and regional economic development were of particular interest to the farmers and ranchers in attendance.
A highlight of the evening was recognition of this year's Rancher and Farmer of the Year. Paul Kehmeier, president of the DCD board of directors, introduced the awards by noting that each year the organization recognizes outstanding conservationists who demonstrate care for the land, water, and other resources.
Bill Roberts was honored as 2018 Rancher of the Year. According to a profile accompanying his award, Bill and Michele Roberts have owned Roberts Land and Cattle since 1999. They operate a 500-acre ranch on McClure Pass and 150 of those acres are irrigated for pasturing cattle. Roberts was recognized for his conservation efforts in converting open irrigation ditches to "gated pipe and big guns," referring to the use of flexible pipe and large sprinklers instead of using open-ditch or so-called "flood irrigation." These irrigation improvements have "stopped erosion and slippage, replaced lost top soil," and resulted in more "productive grazing ground for his livestock." By dealing with "the challenges of irrigating in varied and difficult terrain," the profile concluded, Roberts "has improved his soil quality and increased pasture growth substantially."
Honors for 2018 Farmer of the Year were bestowed on Brent Hines. According to his profile, Hines is a third-generation Delta farmer. On 1,000 acres the family grows onions, pinto beans, sweet corn, field corn, and -- occasionally -- wheat and hay. Since 2012, Hines has participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil practices program. The Delta Conservation District works closely with NRCS which has a field office in the city of Delta. According to Hines' profile, "Use of these (soil) practices included multi-species cover crops, nutrient management and use of compost." As a result of his good practices, his fields have twice been featured in cover crop tours sponsored by the Soil Health Group. Also, father and son Jerry and Brent Hines were among the first area farmers to participate in a project to raise onions with drip irrigation. Recently, their success in drip irrigation was recognized by a study conducted by Colorado State University.
The DCD's annual meeting concluded with a business meeting during which the board of directors discussed and approved the organization's 2019 budget. The DCD board's next public meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan. 14 at the USDA building in the Delta Industrial Park at 690 Industrial Blvd. Typically the board meets on the second Monday of every month at the same time and location.