THE CITIZEN marked a milestone this week with our 100th episode of The Valley Pod. It’s been illuminating to talk to all these interesting people. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite episodes. Catch up when you can. And subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll experience the Valley in a whole new way.
Valley farm to Valley table
Episode 96: The Valley Roots Food Hub, Nick Chambers & Al Stone
During its eight years in operation, the Valley Roots Food Hub has aimed to access the agricultural bounty of the Valley and bring it to people’s tables. The Hub wants you to know your farmer – like Abe and his eggs. Eating locally grown, soil-conscious, organic food is more than just a trend for the people at The Valley Roots Food Hub, it’s a life change. It’s personal. It’s a process. It’s education.
Agua es Vida
Agua es Vida in the San Luis Valley. Snowpack determines what life looks like here. The Colorado Water Conservancy District has made a multi-year effort built off of decades of work, which includes installing Snotel Sno-Lite stations to manage and measure snowpack. Ground truthing mixed with geographical strategy creates a clearer picture for San Luis Valley snowpack levels. With these truths in mind, Heather Dutton and the Colorado Water Conservancy District work to bring more insight on where we get our water.
The SLV Affordable Housing Coalition is growing in properties and staff, and the ball keeps on rolling with new projects. December offered new hope to the residents in the Century Mobile Home Park, when after months of uncertainty, they voted for a non-profit to purchase the property. The SLV Affordable Housing Coalition stepped in as that non-profit and continues to make improvements.The Affordable Housing Coalition also is working in Mineral County to get more housing in Creede for seasonal employees and full-time residents. Learn how Melgares and team are looking to fill the affordable housing gaps all over the Valley.
Building community leadership
Power couple Jamie and Crystal Rae Dominguez have spent years on their non-profit chops. They believe in building up communities, and that representation matters. When the see a need, they figure out a way to meet it. Now they’ve embarked on a new project: the Shooting Stars Cultural and Leadership Center on Alamosa’s south side.
Alamosa High’s innovations
With a rough start to the school year after a SWATting incident, Alamosa High School is settling into a “new normal” post-COVID. From last school year to now, bad behavior has been fairly low among students. And according to state academic standards, AHS is excelling. Principal Andy Lavier notes “it’s good people doing a good job,” giving the staff credit for sucesses. Lavier is focusing on college preparation and career readiness that includes a multitude of opportunities such as the National Guard, a potato seed-growing enterprise with local farmers, and CNA certification.
On our history and culture
Adams State history Professor Nick Saenz was originally a European history specialist when he began his journey in the San Luis Valley. He found the Rio Grande is the water that connects it all, tying a shared history from Southern Colorado down through New Mexico and even into Texas. The San Luis Valley is a transit point, connecting a multitude of peoples. The borderlands share a unique past with overlapping stories that Saenz illuminates for listeners.
What keeps Phil Weiser up at night
A frequent visitor, AG Phil Weiser feels that the Valley is a unique place. He takes a special interest in the resolution of the opioid settlement, and the Valley’s continuing issues with narcotics and drug use. The wide-ranging conversation includes his thoughts on the 12th Judicial DA office, rural broadband, and Renewable Water Resources.
New York-based author Ted Conover dives into his account of the Valley off-gridders he profiled in his book “Cheap Land Colorado: Off-Gridders at America’s Edge.” The process was extensive. Conover became a part-time resident to fully capture the lives of the people he wrote about: “Stories of seekers, dissenters, people willing to risk everything in hopes of finding, or forging, something better.”
Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year
An amazing student and presenter, Amaya Garcia White Buffalo (or Amaya GWB) was the Boys & Girls Clubs of the San Luis Valley Youth of the Year. GWB went on to win the Colorado state competition. This Antonito local dives into her platform Wolf Pack Unity and the positive messages that inspire youth across Colorado.
On starting a high-end restaurant
One of the Valley’s go-to restaurants is only a little over a year old. We were there at the beginning with The Friars Fork and Sanctuary owner and chef Denise Vigil to talk about her vision for a quality dining experience. Since then, her hard work has paid off: she’s been honored as a James Beard Awards Finalist. The project carries on Valley native Vigil’s initial dream, a culmination of her life’s learning and work.
Japanese Americans in the Valley
History is never farther than your own backyard. This sentiment becomes abundantly clear as Konishi chronicles the story of Japanese Americans in the San Luis Valley. She narrates her family’s experiences from pre-WWII to present day. As a Japanese American woman growing up in the San Luis Valley, Konishi’s life gives perspective to the diversity of our community.
The Maestas school desegregation case
A discovery from the San Luis Valley’s early days turned out to be the first documented school desegregation case in U.S. history. The Fransisco Maestas case of 1914 challenged the segregation of English-speaking and Spanish-speaking students in Alamosa, and the ruling in Maestas’ favor opened doors to generations of Valley school children. Retired Judge Martín Gonzales has made it a mission to ensure the people of the Valley know of its importance and how its legacy continues into the present day.
The corrido tradition lives on with Dr. Antonio Equibel, who wrote the Corrido de Francisco, a folk song about the Maestas Case that tells the experience of young Maestas and his father, and chronicles the case that “sat in the courtroom in front of the West.” Performed by Esquibel, Reuben Dominguez, and Rose Villapando, and recorded at The Citizen’s southside studio.
A superintendent with purpose
In one of our most popular episodes, we caught up with Curt Wilson a few months before he retired as superintendent of the North Conejos School District. He spoke of the challenges of COVID schooling, and how he was feeling an upswing. Through the struggles that COVID presented, Wilson maintained an attitude that “students are not numbers” and that the “community is his family.” Adaptation is something that Wilson believes reveals character in the time of adversity. Through education, athletics, and community support the North Conejos School District continues to succeed.
‘Our pharmacy is in the garden’
Dr. Devon Peña tells us the story of creating the People’s Market, and how the Acequia Institute in San Luis aims to make “food the medicine” of Costilla County. For Peña, the garden is the soul, and teaching the next generation of small farmers how to tend crops is also tending the community.