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CSU aims to Spur ag for all of Colorado

“CSU Spur” project at National Western Complex raises three new buildings to propel Colorado Ag into the future

Story and photos by Lincoln Rogers
for The Fence Post

Included in the $1 billion-plus expansion and construction taking place at the National Western Center in Denver, is a trio of Colorado State University buildings. Named Vida (focus on human and animal health), Hydro (water focused) and Terra (focus on food and agriculture), the three buildings comprise the CSU Spur campus and are intended to integrate education and research, with accessibility designed to inspire future generations to consider animal health and agriculture as careers.

“The whole premise behind CSU Spur is to put science on display and have it free and accessible to the public,” said Tiana Kennedy, assistant vice chancellor of external relations for the CSU System. “We want to show real science or Science with a capital S on display… to really inspire the next generation to connect them to these big important issues of food, water and health.”

During the summer of 2021, Tiana Kennedy, assistant vice chancellor of external relations for the CSU System, described the CSU Spur's Vida building in the background and how it will be completed and open for the public to tour during the upcoming 2022 National Western Stock Show in January of 2022.

Working with organizations like the Dumb Friends League, CSU effectively communicates to urban and suburban audiences regarding the future ability to observe small animal surgeries in progress and to speak with veterinarians on site. On top of that, people will be able to watch horses rehab on water treadmills, and families will be able to drop in and have their kids perform water experiments. But will rural Coloradans be left out as a result of that focus on reaching out to urban and suburban demographics?



No, says CSU. And they are passionate about that answer.

In a September 2021 photo taken from the roof of CSU Spur's Terra building, the view takes in the nearly completed Vida buidling in the foreground that is scheduled to be open and ready for tours during the upcoming January 2022 National Western Stock Show. To the left of the photo is a corner of the Hydro building that is under construction and will be finished later in 2022.

AG LIFE AND COMMUNITIES



“There are a number of different ways that the Spur campus will enhance agricultural life and agricultural communities in Colorado,” explained Jocelyn Hittle, assistant vice chancellor of the CSU Spur Campus and Special Projects. Hittle has been involved with the CSU Spur project since January 2014, and is intimately familiar with its goals and designs. Sitting down for a conversation on the CSU Spur grounds in September, with the bustle of construction occurring in all directions, Hittle was ready to discuss the massive construction project and what it means not just for outreach to metro areas, but for agriculture throughout the entire state. As someone whose grandparents were farmers and ranchers, Hittle was enthusiastic to talk to an agricultural audience.

Standing in the middle of what will eventually be a K-12 educational floor, Jocelyn Hittle, second from right, describes the interior construction and function of the Terra building's room to a small group that is touring the site. Hittle is the assistant vice chancellor of the CSU Spur Campus and Special Projects and has been working on the project since January of 2014.

“One of the things we feel is really important is to inspire the next generation — whether they come from an ag background or not — to know that they can be part of the food system,” said Hittle. “The Fence Post readers know this better than anyone; the numbers of people that are engaged in ag has decreased. What we are hoping to do is reconnect youth with where their food comes from and to show them that regardless of their background or their interests, that there is a role for them to play in helping us to meet global food challenges. We want to really inspire young people to say you can be a part of this.”

An exterior shot of CSU Spur's Hydro building under contruction in September 2021. According to CSU Spur spokespeople, the Hydro building has connectivity down to the river and lots of flexible programming spaces. On the right side of the building is the start of what will be a signature circular staircase that is symbolic of a river eddy.

In preparing for the CSU Spur build, project leaders implemented a statewide listening tour with extension agents and ag educators to understand what they were doing in order to potentially showcase successes and amplify work to new audiences in the metro area. While they don’t have all the details worked out, CSU Spur personnel are interested in developing programs that bring rural and metro area youth together to see the connections of the food system across the rural to urban spectrum.

On the topic of how CSU Spur seems to be dialed in on small animal and equine health and education in their nearly completed Vida building versus what appears to be a lack of cattle education, Hittle pointed out the complementary role the Spur Campus desires to play on the grounds of the National Western Center.

“We have less of a focus on cattle at the Spur Campus because, in part, we are here at the National Western Center, where there is such an amazing opportunity to learn about cattle and other livestock throughout the year. The information we will have available will of course include cattle and livestock in the educational exhibits, but we don’t have any cattle on site at this time, just because they are everywhere around here, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association will be here. We are here to collaborate and complement. It is not that we are downplaying the importance (of cattle and livestock), we are just trying not to duplicate information that is available right next door.”

Amid the ongoing noise and acitivty of heavy machinery and construction, CSU Spur Director of Education Kathryn Venzor, foreground, left, describes the construction progress and purposes of the campus to a group touring the site. The building under construction in the background is the exterior of the Terra building, which will focus on land and agriculture.

WIDE AND VARIED SCOPE

Along with university level education and scientific research, the CSU Spur campus will encourage K-12 experiential education in all three buildings. Field trips from across the state will be able to access the campus and have unique access “with real agricultural, water and animal health professionals at work.” Families will also be encouraged to take advantage of those same opportunities, no appointment needed. Rotating exhibits are planned to keep education fresh and showcase not only what is going on in Colorado, but talk about Colorado products. The scope is wide and varied.

A tour through CSU Spur's Vida building shows an equine water treadmill under construction. The Vida building will focus on human and animal health, and will include — among many other things — equine assisted therapy and equine rehab, along with small animal surgeries and treatment.

“You can think about the Spur Campus being a place that is great for telling the story of agriculture, the food system, and the state of Colorado,” said Hittle. “The connections between food, water and health. It is about how we are looking at human health, animal health, and environmental health together, which is something the agricultural community has done for time immemorial. You can’t separate those things.”

“We are building these buildings to bring tons of people in all the time,” summarized Kennedy. “When we think about our audiences for Spur, it is kind of everyone. We want to have people from all walks of life to come through these doors.”

For more information on the construction progress of the CSU Spur campus and the National Western Center, visit http://www.csuspur.org and http://www.nationalwesterncenter.com or check out csuspur and nationalwesterncenter on social media.


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