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  • Jane Shellenberger

Editor's Letter: Harvest 2019

At Northern Water’s Annual Water Symposium in late May I had the opportunity to hear and meet Kate Greenberg, Colorado’s new Commissioner of Agriculture. What a breath of fresh air! Greenberg, one of 13 women across the country now running state agriculture departments, is 31 years old. After farming in Washington State and working for the Sonoran Institute on conservation issues, in 2013 she became Western program director for the National Young Farmers Coalition based in Durango.

With his appointment of Greenberg, Governor Polis showed that farm succession is a top priority for his administration. Due to the aging farmer population, “We have some big decisions to make…if young people are going to be able to build lives and businesses, and if existing, retiring producers are going to be able to keep their legacy alive by having future generations to pass it down to,” says Greenberg.

Agriculture is the number two driver of Colorado’s economy. Two other “Wildly Important Goals” that Greenberg is advancing at the CO Dept. of AG are: 1) diversifying and advancing markets; and 2) soil, water, and climate issues of sustainability. “However you frame it, it’s making sure that farmers and ranchers have the resources they need to invest in building soil health, in protecting and conserving water, in protecting the climate and being active partners in climate mitigation – in a way that works for them.”

It’s good to know that Colorado is focused on the future, especially in light of the recently released UN Report Climate Change and Land. (See Notables).

I heard another noteworthy talk at the Annual PlantSelect meeting in June. Scott Denning, Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, laid out the undeniably scary facts about climate change, but also spoke of his confidence in smart and capable Millennials, and the very real affordability of alternative fuels today (“despite what you may hear”) that he says makes it entirely possible to move away from fossil fuels now - in time to prevent catastrophe.

Moving from the big picture to our Harvest Issue, here’s what’s inside.

Gary Raham will educate you about the (dreaded) Black Widow spider, including speculation about why it possesses such powerful venom.

Denver resident Bruce Webster is focused on soil health. This led him to “bokashi”, the art and practice of fermenting organic matter that yields a mycelium-rich nutrient concentrate that supercharges the soil web, as Lee Recca explains.

David Salman of High Country Gardens also spoke at the June PlantSelect meeting. A champion of native plants, he told me there is a lack of available native woody plants, including in the PlantSelect program, so he has written about some of these shrubs here.

In “Unexpected Relationships” Paula Ogilvie discusses the shadow side of plant life –parasitic and hemi-parasitic plants that survive by stealing nutrients and water from other plants, plus a few that simply overwhelm others with their speedy, vigorous growth.

Goji Berry is a “superfruit” grown and produced mostly in China, though there are a few Western North American species. Mikl Brawner tells you how and which ones to grow here.

Bob Nold has written three books: Penstemons, Columbines, and High and Dry: Gardening with Cold-hardy Dryland Plants. For several years now he has grown mostly fall planted bulbs out of “laziness” he says. Fritillaria is his topic here.

Because it’s harvest season Pam Sherman offers 9 ways to preserve what you grow in your veggie garden. She and her husband have been doing this for decades and, as a result, they shop for groceries a lot less frequently than the rest of us. In his Q & A Kelly Grummons confirms what many of us have noticed in our gardens this year – more “pest” insects than usual and A LOT of Japanese beetles. He also discusses organic mulch vs. gravel/rock mulches.

Finally, Thea Tenenbaum has written another lovely piece about growing in the Italian tradition for this issue. See “Cucuzza, Gagootz!” on page 3. Sadly, Thea passed away suddenly in early August. We shared attempts (and some successes) at fiction and non- fiction writing for over 10 years, and I will miss her brave self dearly.

We publish again in March 2020.

Jane Shellenberger



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