Hundreds of people from suburban Douglas County recently arrived at the historic Lowell Ranch, near Castle Rock, for the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation’s Farm and Ranch Day.
Unlike CALF’s Harvest Day festival every autumn, this event was geared more toward education and directly accomplishing CALF’s mission of “connecting people to agriculture through authentic educational programs, community projects, and special events.”
Held at the 133-acre Lowell Ranch in Douglas County, everyone who attended the Farm and Ranch Day had the opportunity to learn something about agricultural and rural life. From livestock showmanship clinics to gardening classes to a temporary archery/air rifle range on the property manned by FFA members, people of all ages participated in activities located throughout the ranch.
“The focus really is education today,” described CALF president and CEO Brooke Fox, referring to the event while she talked near planters built to help educate school children about plants, crops and gardening. “We want to make this day about that and showing people a lot of different aspects of farm and ranch life. And we hope to expand that (in the future).”
The livestock showmanship clinics, held beside the historic barn on the property and run by FFA members, showed off CALF’s ability to allow young people the opportunity to have a 4-H animal project even if they don’t have their own barn or enough property to house the animals on their own.
“I think we have 14 (4-H projects at CALF), this year,” said Fox. “We are really, right now, at capacity. We are looking to expand our facilities.
“For the first time, this year, we have two steers, so we are thrilled about that,” she added with an enthusiastic smile. “We have a goat, we have pigs, we have sheep, we have turkeys and we have some meat birds, as well.”
Asked whether those young people signing up for 4-H projects with CALF are required to do their own projects or if they share the responsibility of taking care of the animals with others, Fox was quick to provide an answer.
“They are responsible for their own 4-H projects,” she revealed about the program. “We are really strict about that. You need to be responsible and you need to be sure you are the one that is responsible for the success or failure of your project. Hopefully, it is a fun environment where they can come out and be a part of a community and a group,” Fox added. “But it is primarily about learning responsibility.”
Learning was the name of the game for the Farm and Ranch Days. On top of the showmanship clinic, there were educational booths about agriculture located on the property, as well as set times for classroom-style presentations on weed identification/management, container gardening, and even the opportunity to learn about making mozzarella and ricotta cheese.
“I think it is awesome that there are so many free activities to experience,” said Castle Rock mom Lisa Stone while her daughter, Clara, honed newfound archery skills nearby. “We don’t normally get to do things like this, living in an HOA,” she offered with a laugh.
“It’s amazing,” responded Fox when asked about how exciting it is for CALF to bring agricultural education opportunities to school-aged children and suburban families through special events and regular activities on the ranch. “People see the supermarket, but they are so removed from where their food comes from. Here, we are trying to show them this is where it is done and we are trying to give them authentic experiences. They are digging their hands in the dirt, they are making butter and they are seeing how milk is converted. It is really rewarding the schools are valuing the concept of what we are trying to accomplish here. They are learning how important agriculture is to everyday life,” she summed up with conviction. “So it’s a good thing.” ❖
You can find out more about CALF and its mission by visiting them online at www.thecalf.org, or contact them by phone at (303) 688-1026.