Larry Brown, one of the original organizers,
reflects on event’s beginnings


LARRY Brown chuckles when he thinks back to the beginning and then the amount of work that remains a few days before the start of the 40th annual Southern Rocky Mountain Ag Conference.

“My gosh what a monster the thing has become,” Brown says.

It hasn’t really been 40 years for the Ag Conference; rather, it’s been 40 years since the CSU Extension Potato and Grain School, founded by Extension Agronomy Agent Merlin Dillon in the early 1980s, held its first event in February.

A few years later, Brown, then the SLV Extension livestock agent, started an annual Livestock Producer’s Seminar, held in early December. In the late 1990s the two ag shows were combined into the Southern Rocky Mountain Ag Conference and the annual gathering has been happening ever since.

“As I reflect on hitting 40 years, we have stayed tied in to ag producers and connected to the farming community,” Brown says. “It’s not just the extension agent and research guys, but we always have a committee that tells us ‘Here’s what we really need to learn more about and here’s our problems.’ That’s how we stay grounded and how we are always striving to bring in what people need.”

Originally from Las Cruces, NM, Brown’s first “tour of duty” as he calls it was to serve as the SLV Extension livestock agent from 1986 to 1995. The CSU Extension operation was much larger than it is now, with eight extension agents covering the six-county San Luis Valley and a total of 14 staff members.


PODCAST: Ag Conference organizer Marisa Fricke talks about what’s in store at this year’s event. LISTEN HERE

EARLIER COVERAGE: How the new Ski Hi Regional Events Center came to be

Full Ag Conference schedule HERE

Now CSU’s San Luis Valley Area Extension director, Brown is busy remodeling the educational outreach efforts and working to build the SLV office as a six-county, valley-wide office rather than operating county-by-county as it did before.

“The point being our San Luis Valley Area Extension is a six-county area program collectively,” Brown says.

“I came back to see if I could help rebuild the program and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he says of his second stint with CSU in the Valley. He earned his undergraduate degree from his hometown New Mexico State University and his master’s degree from Colorado State.

“We are in the process of rebuilding specifically our San Luis Valley Area Extension, and we’re making some progress with that,” Brown says.

“We have very intelligent, very progressive farmers here. They are not waiting for us to solve their problems for them, they’re solving their own problems.”  

The ag conference, which opens Tuesday and runs through Thursday at the Ski Hi Regional Events Center, has a particular focus this year on soil health and water, two growing topics for Valley farmers and ranchers. 

The SLV Area Extension will present its research on soil health during the conference. The closing day of the 3-day conference is dedicated to water and the Upper Rio Grande Basin.

Brown says soil management is critical in an era of drought. “There is so much about management (of soil) that can either lessen or make worse the impact of drought.”

“We have very intelligent, very progressive farmers here. They are not waiting for us to solve their problems for them, they’re solving their own problems,” Brown says of the Valley’s ag community. “But their whole livelihood and ability to do what they do is being threatened by the water situation.”

Brown will kick off the 40th Ag Conference with welcoming remarks on Tuesday morning. Then it’s session after session as farmers from the Valley, northern New Mexico and elsewhere gather to figure it out together.

PHOTO: Larry Brown, second from the right, with other Ag Conference organizers.

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