Setting the table for rural-urban collaboration at Spur – Greeley Tribune

Food brings people together – at the dining table, at picnics and on the terrace of restaurants.

Sometimes, however, food production and its complexities fuel tensions between rural and urban communities, driving us apart. But today, no matter where we live, the pressing challenge of feeding our world while grappling with diminishing water and land resources must bring us together like never before to create new opportunities and solutions and protect the planet that supports us all fed.

“Feeding the world” is an increasingly arduous task. The world population could easily reach 10 billion by the mid-2050s when today’s high school graduate is in their mid-40s. With the demand for food booming in tandem with our population, the resources needed to grow our food remain limited.

The availability of arable land and water is declining, while drought and warming temperatures severely affect food production around the world.

And as the need for increased food production increases, the proportion of our population directly involved in producing our food decreases. Today, an estimated 2% of our US population is directly employed in agriculture and ranching.

This means that knowledge of food production has narrowed, leading to a disconnect between urban and rural cultures on a wide range of issues – even as urban dwellers are increasingly interested in the sources of their food and how it is grown.

That brings us to Terra.

When we came up with the idea for Colorado State University’s Spur campus in Denver, we envisioned a place that would help people far from the food production system to understand where their meals come from — and the hard work that goes into it to bring food from the farm to the table.

Terra, the second CSU Spur building to open on the National Western Center’s three-building campus, is the realization of that vision: a place dedicated to learning, discovery, and exploration of food and agriculture. With its rooftop gardens and greenhouses, kitchen labs, agricultural exhibits, and meeting spaces, Terra is a 60,000-square-foot, high-tech mecca for learning about the science, business, and beauty of food production in all its phases.

As with all of our CSU Spur facilities, we hope Terra becomes a center that drives collaboration and innovation – a place where children and adults alike can take on the challenge of preserving our people and our planet.

This federally supported urban campus in the heart of the Denver metro area comes to life as the CSU System Board of Governors committed more than $8.5 million in new resources to expand service and support to rural communities in Colorado. This commitment includes a nearly 25 percent increase in the number of Extension staff serving directly in Colorado counties, as well as new scholarships for rural Colorado students.

This commitment grew out of the recognition that Colorado is a microcosm of the rural-urban issues and sustainable food production challenges that impact communities around the world. Our agribusiness is a fundamental element of Colorado’s economy, contributing an estimated $47 billion to the state economy each year and employing more than 195,000 people.

At the same time, about 85% of our state’s population resides along the Front Range Corridor—a booming urban population surrounded by agriculturally-oriented rural communities struggling to improve and maintain socioeconomic dynamism. This brings out clearly all the problems related to urban encroachment on long-standing agricultural land and the competition between cities and agriculture for dwindling water supplies.

Sometimes these and related dynamics cause Colorado’s rural and urban communities to view each other as competing factions rather than interconnected pieces of a diverse western state. However, these defining aspects of our state also make it the perfect place to urge collaboration and explore the new ideas that naturally arise from seams of tension when people are open to seeing them.

Just as food brings people together around the table, food is also a fundamental connecting point between rural and urban communities. Whether we’re avowed carnivores (“steak; keep the veggies”) or committed vegans (“vegetables; keep the steak”), our food is grown by farmers and ranchers who populate rural communities who make significant contributions to the food system and economy of our country afford , history and culture.

If we eat, which we all do, then we have an interest in our rural communities—just as our rural communities have a vested interest in urban communities, where the majority of consumers (e.g., customers) reside.

The unique center of innovation and education being built in Spur, coupled with CSU’s renewed investment in rural Colorado, provides a catalyst that will move our state forward in connection and collaboration. We invite urban and rural voters alike to visit CSU Spur and join us in exploring how our urban and rural communities can work together as one Colorado, a place where we produce food, enjoy food, and understand and appreciate all that to a healthy and evolving food system.

— Tony Frank is the chancellor of the CSU system. Kathay Rennels, Special Adviser to the Chancellor, CSU System. Setting the table for rural-urban collaboration at Spur – Greeley Tribune

James Brien

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