Three-day ag conference set for February


When the 40th annual Southern Rocky Mountain Ag Conference kicks off in 29 days, attendees will christen the new Ski-Hi Regional Complex east wing complete with its spacious conference rooms – and avoid having to shuttle around to other venues in Monte Vista to catch the full flavor of the three-day event.

It’s a dream come true for event organizers Kyler Browner and Marisa Fricke, who now can envision a growing regional conference with daily guest speakers, concurrent breakout sessions, a trade show, and cattle ranchers and crop producers together in one space networking, sharing best practices, and swapping stories.

“Having everyone in one campus, one spot, just makes the logistics so much better,” said Browner.

“We are super excited to be in this new space,” he said. “That was a huge limiting factor toward our growth and our ability to take this conference to the next step.”

What attendees won’t see is the rush to finish. On Monday, Alcon Construction crews were busy building handrails, installing countertops, and pushing forward to complete the work before the conference’s opening day on Feb. 1 rolls around.

With the COVID pandemic at play, it’s been that way throughout for Alcon on this project, first racing to get the main entrance on the west end completed in time for last July’s 99th Annual Ski-Hi Stampede and now racing to finish the east end of the 54,473-square-foot building to welcome farmers and ranchers back to the all-important ag conference.

Alcon has done yeoman’s work, understanding the importance of the Ski-Hi Regional Complex as a Valley-wide events center and the critical task of completing it in time, first for the Ski-Hi Stampede, and now the second half of the building for the regional ag conference.

The regional ag conference, established initially by CSU-Extension in the San Luis Valley to help share its research and embed itself among the Valley ag and farming communities, is the first big business and social event of the year in the Valley. The Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce brings the trade show together, with the goal this year of 30 additional vendor booths from years past.

Browner has a schedule in mind on the sessions he’d like to catch: A panel with some of the top producers of meat goat; a grazing seminar with Jim Gerrish, author of “Management-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming;” a discussion with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union on federal and state legislation affecting farmers and ranchers; and then on Feb. 3, the final day of the conference, a heavy discussion on a topic that is on the minds of everyone – water and the road forward.

“Whenever I talk to producers, I feel a lot of uncertainty,” said Browner on the mood of today’s Valley farmer. The rising cost of fertilizer and fuel, concerns about water and drought conditions, the difficulty in finding labor, all weigh heavily on the Valley’s ranchers and producers.

“Farmers are by nature a very optimistic, stubborn bunch,” Browner said. “You don’t become part of the one percent of the population growing food without being a pretty hardy group of people.

“We just think we need to solve our own problems ourselves, but this kind of conference gets you out of your little bubble and helps you reconnect with people and with a set of resources we have in the Valley.”

Alcon Construction will do its part and have the hall ready in time. When they step inside, attendees and participants to the 40th annual Southern Rocky Mountain Ag Conference will have a home that can serve their needs and bring them together like never before.

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