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CALF continues to connect

Farm & Ranch Day in May brings ag and more to metro families

The Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation or CALF held its annual Farm & Ranch Day on May 28, 2022. After having to postpone it due to weather, the event went forward the following weekend on a smaller scale. The more casual approach brought a slow-but steady stream of metro area families with children to the historic Lowell Ranch in Castle Rock, Colo. Those families were treated to interactions with animals raised on the premises, along with having opportunities to purchase seedlings for gardens and take tours of the ranch grounds.

Visitors to 2022's CALF Farm & Ranch Days not only able to spend time on the grounds and see the animals being raised as 4-H projects, but they could also get some new plants to transplant into their home gardens.

Despite the low-key feel of the day, CALF officials felt it was important to hold the event on their way to ramping up activities after experiencing the downturn effects from COVID related restrictions and loss of volunteer and visitor numbers over the last couple of years.

“My expectations went from it being an event to it being an Open House (to) come and relax,” said Brooke Fox, CALF’s CEO, about 2022’s Farm & Ranch Day. “We are still feeling the effects of COVID from a volunteer perspective, so we managed our expectations and hopefully people will enjoy themselves.”



Although overall vistor numbers were decreased at 2022's annual CALF Farm & Ranch Day as a result of a slow ramping back up from the long COVID shutdowns and slowdowns, there remained a steady stream of families and children eager to see the animals and walk the grounds of the historic Lowell Ranch on May 28, 2022.

A main draw was the chance for visitors to get acquainted with a variety of farm animals. CALF program youth were on site with their young pigs, turkeys and sheep for visitors to ask questions about, as well as touch and pet. That hands-on experience provided a tangible introduction for metro families out of touch with the world of agriculture.

“I love sharing with everyone all about animals,” said high school junior Kenzie Summervill while showing off her sheep to the families coming by the pens. “I like seeing their faces when they see the sheep and petting them and saying ‘Oh, they are all so soft.’”



Flanked by his family, 2-year-old Hays McWilliams from Castle Rock, Colo., leaned over the gate in order to get closer to sheep being handled by Kenzie Summervill (from Castle Rock), who has raised a wide variety of animals on the CALF grounds over the last four to five years. "I like seeing their faces when they see the sheep and when they are petting them," said Summervill about taking part in the CALF Farm & Ranch Day.

Experiencing animals in a personal fashion was one benefit of the event, but CALF’s goal is for that experience to turn into a desire to learn more about agriculture or even go further and raise their own animal on the CALF grounds. The Farm & Ranch Day’s interactions fuel the mission of CALF to connect youth and agriculture and raise the awareness of its importance to our future. Those building blocks can turn into the agricultural leaders of the future, like a number of CALF participants have already become, ranging from a doctor of meat science to getting into the field of cattle genetics. It starts with the step of raising and caring for farm and ranch animals.

“I have always loved working with animals since I was little,” said CALF program participant Isabelle Carlblom, while she was introducing visitors to Chip, a 4 month old purebred Spot pig. Sixteen-year-old Carlblom raised small animals like rabbits at her own home, but then visited CALF and realized she could raise larger animals at their facilities.

Virginia Corbett (from Montana) helps her almost 1-year-old son Pearson experience interaction with a friendly pig named Chip, who was being handled by 16-year-old Isabelle Carlblom (Castle Rock) of the CALF program.

“I came down here one time with my friend and they had cows down here and I was like, I would love to do this,” she recalled with a grin. “I absolutely love being able to do larger animals here at CALF.”

STRONG SUPPORT

Despite COVID and its fallout playing havoc with volunteer numbers and visits from schools, CALF’s financial support remained strong and has left them in position to ramp up and expand programs and efforts to get the word out. Those efforts are timely in a culture of skepticism towards — and misunderstanding of — agriculture and animal husbandry.

The iconic red barn and silos adorn the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation grounds at the historic Lowell Ranch outside of Castle Rock, Colo. The Lowell family donated over 100 acres of their ranch into a trust to help preserve a piece of rural life within the suburbs and promote agricultural education.

“We are really starting to build,” said Fox about 2022. “We can start marketing and getting more people out here to tell this story, because it is so important. For us, I feel like (the culture’s distance from agriculture) is an opportunity to bring people in and really make that connection to the land. We are people of the land and I think that people need that connection. From my perspective, I feel like we have additional opportunities to educate and to show and to help people understand agriculture.”

Is any farm and ranch day complete without seeing a well-used farm truck on the premises?

CALF’s new Program Manager Alyce Todd, was in agreement.

“It is important to understand we are connected to agriculture in everything,” said Todd about ag production and getting people to consider “keeping it in house” to adequately supply the needs of our own populace. “The pandemic, if it didn’t teach us a whole lot, it taught us that we need to be more self-sufficient and not so dependent on that import/export (global market) or really re-evaluate our dependence on that import/export market to understand what can we do in house.”

But there are also deeper reasons to reconnect the culture to agriculture and the land, and those reasons are playing out in current headlines.

Young turkeys (about 8 weeks old) prowled their enclosure during the 2022 CALF Farm and Ranch Day in Castle Rock, Colo., on May 28.

“The other thing is where we are in society,” said Fox with emotion as she discussed the recent tragedy in Texas. “We have the ability to help give people a break from their phones, from playing video games or whatever it might be. There is a whole world here that is different. The values we are trying to impart; those are important.”

Families from Parker and Castle Rock, Colo., met at the 2022 CALF Farm and Ranch Day to introduce their young children to farm animals in a close-up fashion.

“I think it is a good thing,” said Carlblom about being a part of CALF. “It is a good way to help kids like myself that don’t have the land to be able to have the experience in a good way. There are definitely a lot of positives here.”

For more information on CALF, its programs and its upcoming events, you can find them on the web at http://www.thecalf.org – by email at calf@thecalf.org – or by phone at (303) 688-1026. They are also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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