Community Based Projects

Our recent EDA grant provided our students an opportunity to integrate real world research questions into their MS Theses or Technical Paper. Check out these projects.

Economic Impacts of the Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference

Rebecca Hill, Matt Burkard, Larry Brown, and Jim Clare

The Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference (SRMAC) has been taking place in Monte Vista for 41 years. It is unique among agricultural shows in that it began strictly as an educational event and is one of the few that remains a true educational event, now married with what has grown into a significant agricultural trade show. The conference serves the farming and ranching communities with education topics ranging from water saving production practices and latest research findings to legislative and market updates, and from financial management and estate planning to soil health and farm family health. It also serves as a major peer to peer networking opportunity and connects ag producers directly to ag service and supply businesses. The conference brings in a variety of individuals from Colorado and other states. These individuals spend dollars in the local communities and those dollars support local industries and provide broader economic impacts to the community. The community recently made a major investment in building a new facility with both conference and large event capabilities, at which the SRMAC is hosted. This gives the valley a premier facility to host many events and activities. Given the recent investment in the facility and the economic impacts that this conference has on the local community, the SRMAC committee reached out to the Regional Economic Development Institute (REDI) to conduct a study to quantify the economic impacts the conference has on Monte Vista, Alamosa, and the larger San Luis Valley region.

This study quantifies the economic impacts of the SRMAC conference and explores what is important to conference participants and vendors. To evaluate the economic impacts, we developed and conducted two surveys, one survey targeted conference participants and speakers and the other targeted at the conference vendors. In addition, we collected expenditure information from the conference organizers and incorporated those expenditures into the analysis. Each survey gathered information on participants’ expenditures in the community and the region as well as general information on their conference experience. The survey was conducted from February 7th – 9th, 2023 during all three days of the conference. Surveys were administered by Adams State Students, One Colorado State University Graduate Student, and a Colorado State University Extension Professor. Each surveyor was given a surveyor number so that checks to ensure consistency across all surveys in the sample could be conducted. Sample participant responses were aggregated to the entire population of conference participants using registration data given by the SRMAC conference board. All conference vendors were surveyed so no aggregation from sample to population was needed for the vendor survey.


Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference (SRMAC)

Organizers of the Southern Rocky Mountain Agricultural Conference (SRMAC) reached out to us to help them understand the economic impacts of this important event on the community of Monte Vista as well as the larger region. They are also interested in understanding how the community can increase the economic impacts that the community retains from this event.  We conducted an economic impact analysis, produced a white paper and made several presentations in the community to the San Luis Valley Commissioners as well as the Monte Vista Chamber of Commerce.

San Luis Valley Community Food Assessment

The San Luis Valley conducted a community food assessment this year but did not have enough budget or human resources on their team to thoroughly collect and analyze the data needed to form the community food assessment. We were able to not only serve on the steering committee for this process, but also assist them with the community discussions and theme analysis of the data. The purpose of this project was to explore the impact of the food system on health, economic opportunity, and quality of life for the region. In addition, the project allowed them to discover potential projects and priorities for the region. A goal of this project was to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice in the food system and to assist in strategic planning such as the creation of an emergency food plan, identify economic opportunities and gaps as well as collect and summarize relevant secondary data. The final report for this project is available at the link below:

Delta County Collaboration

Originally, Delta County prioritized a feasibility study to explore an Individual Quick Frozen (IQF) plant for their producers who had seconds and were interested in creating a new value-added market.  The initial study showed little promise, but we still had resources for implementation, so we decided to explore other options.  Since Delta County had identified the frozen and dehydrated market as a potential new market channel for fresh products out of the region and they are looking to develop marketing and production implementation plans to bring together the right operational and ownership partners in a public-private partnership effort, we let potential producer-partners help to identify new directions.

  • The Food Bank was supported through a cost-share on purchase of equipment needed to expand dehydration, labeling for markets and the labor to conduct and track data on test batches.
  • Four producers had the chance to pilot production. They were compensated for their product as a means to account for the time they spent setting up logistics and tracking data for the pilot.
  • The consumer feedback surveys on individual dehydrated products were conducted throughout November and December at the CSU SPUR campus in Denver (photo below). A technical report on findings is being shared with producers in Spring 2024 and stay tuned for a summary report on the CSU REDI website later in 2024.

Tradeoffs of Soil Carbon Solutions

Water and conservation issues are at the front of mind in the SLV region and a variety of conservation options will be important to solving problems going forward. Climate smart grants are being awarded across the state and CSU is involved in four of these projects. This research will help the SLV compare different conservation options available to them. In the project we explore how farmers will adopt climate smart or conservation practices and how these conservation payments might affect the regional economy (with a specific focus on the SLV region or Colorado). This research project resulted in a Master’s Technical Paper by David Rice entitled, “Tradeoffs across Proposed Soil Carbon Solutions, Implications for Water Use”.

Little Yampa River Project (BLM Little Snake Field Office)

The Bureau of Land Management reached out asking for technical assistance to help them explore the economic impacts of a land purchase on the Yampa River which would expand recreational opportunities and protect critical habitat in the area. Results of this analysis will help them communicate to local stakeholders the economic implications on the region if they were to purchase the land and to weigh the different options available to them. This project ended in a completed Master’s Thesis by Matt Burkard entitled, “The Economic Contribution of River Recreation on the Little Yampa Canyon, Colorado”. The Yampa River is a key driver of outdoor recreation opportunities in the Craig community. Opportunities to enhance access are important to this region to diversify its economic portfolio considering transitions occurring in the energy and agricultural sectors. This research provides information for stakeholders on the economic implications of a land acquisition proposal by the Bureau of Land Management to expand public access to the Little Yampa Canyon.

For a short, outreach-oriented summary of results, a 2023 REDI report can be accessed here:

The Economic Contribution of River-Based Recreation in the Little Yampa Canyon, Colorado

  • The Economic Contribution of River Recreation and Tourism in the Little Yampa Canyon, Colorado (Matt Burkard, Thesis), focused on the San Luis Valley region.  BELOW:

Fishers Peak Economic Analysis

The Trust for Public Lands reached out to our team to better understand the economic impacts of this brand-new state park, Fishers Peak in Trinidad, Colorado. Of particular interest to them as well as the city and other community stakeholders was how the development of the park impacts individuals from underserved backgrounds and the distributional effects of the economic impacts from the park. This research culminated in a completed master’s thesis entitled, “Exploring the Overall, Distributional and Resiliency Implications of Investments in Rural Outdoor Tourism:  The Case of Fishers Peak State Park”.  The study highlighted the potential the new state park offers to boost the economy of Las Animas County.  It also highlights that traditionally economic benefits to regions from new tourism opportunities are not experienced equally by all members of the community and explores the overall distribution income effects of the State Park.  It offers insights into how different development approaches may affect community outcomes.  The timing of this study is such that the park planners can incorporate the lessons into the future planning for the state park and affiliated economic development initiatives and investments.

  • Exploring the Overall Distributional and Resiliency Implications of Investments in Rural Outdoor Tourism: The Case of Fishers Peak State Park (Skyler Shuck, Thesis), focused on San Luis Valley region.
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