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CDA’s New Next Gen Leadership Program Grants to Fund Scholarships, Equipment, Policy Training

In a piece of encouraging news for Colorado’s often embattled agriculture producers, the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) has announced a new commitment to expanding access to learning and leadership opportunities for future generations in agriculture. Among the grant recipients are Chaffee County’s own Guidestone Colorado program, the Mountain Roots project in Gunnison, and the San Luis Valley Local Food Coalition.

In the fall of 2022, CDA announced the brand new NextGen Ag Leadership Program offering small grants to organizations advancing youth education and leadership in agriculture. Through that new program, CDA awarded $186,820 to 13 organizations across the state as part of the NextGen Ag Leadership Program.

“The organizations that received funding will help lead new people into careers in the food and agriculture industry and help prepare them to become the industry’s leaders of tomorrow and beyond,” said Colorado Department of Agriculture Markets Division Director Tom Lipetzky. “CDA is committed to advancing our support of educational and leadership opportunities for future generations of agricultural producers, aspiring producers, and young people across the food and ag value chains.”

The Guidestone Colorado program is based at the Hutchinson Homestead and Learning Center on U.S. 50 in Salida. Its motto, “we grow food, farmers, and community,” sets out the nonprofit goal to nurture agricultural landholding and the next generation of ranchers and farmers, while educating the community on the area’s agricultural roots and the importance of local agricultural resources.

Another of the projects receiving funding from the NextGen Leadership program is using the funds to educate young agricultural leaders about federal agriculture policy.

Colorado Potato Administrative Committee members in Washington D.C. at the National Potato Council meeting.

“The NextGen Ag Leadership program grant allowed us to fly five young potato growers to Washington, D.C. for the National Potato Council for a week,” said Colorado Potato Administrative Committee (CPAC) Executive Director Jim Ehrlich, about the grant they received.”This helped them meet potato industry leaders from across the nation, key federal government leaders like Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, and the Colorado congressional delegation for personal meetings on critical issues for our industry. They learned so much and are eager to learn more about future leadership roles they can fill.”

Agriculture is a critical industry providing food, fiber, and fuel for everyone. Agriculture employs not just farmers and ranchers, but also people trained in the biosciences, nutrition, meat science, veterinary science, agronomy, soil health, engineering, food safety, technology, product development, marketing, and logistics.

The Fall 2022 awardees include organizations that serve food and agricultural communities all across our state.Projects marked with an asterisk (*) will benefit underserved communities (which includes people in agriculture-related fields who are: beginning; women; minorities; from socially disadvantaged communities; veterans; or have limited resources).

  • Guidestone*, Chaffee County: Support for AgriSummit conference, FTE and scholarships
  • Mountain Roots*, Gunnison County: Beginning Farmer Training in Cold Climate Regenerative Agriculture
  • San Luis Valley Local Food Coalition*, Alamosa County: Expanding Youth Farmer Education in San Luis Valley
  • Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Rio Grande County: Federal Policy 101 for Young Potato Growers, trip to Washington D.C.
  • Corn Administrative Committee, Douglas County: Leadership Cultivation Initiative
  • Douglas County High School*, Douglas County: Hydroponics equipment
  • Quivira Coalition*, La Plata County: Leadership and Career Development for NextGen programs
  • Living Earth Foundation, Boulder County: Advanced learning opportunities in regenerative agriculture for NextGen
  • Fort Collins Conservation District*, Larimer County: Agricultural Check-out kits for K-12 students
  • Colorado Foundation for Agriculture*, Statewide: NextGen issue of Colorado Reader
  • Colorado FFA* in Elbert, Delta and Washington Counties: Scholarships
  • Fort Lewis College*, La Plata County: Scholarships for the “Farmers in Training” program
  • Colorado State University*, Denver County: 2 scholarships for Masters in Agribusiness at CSU Spur

Starting this year, the NextGen Ag Leadership program will accept applications annually. The next application period will start later this spring with a May deadline and awards set to distribute funds with the start of the state fiscal year, July 1. More detailed information is expected within the next month.