Ag department’s loss not felt just at Fort Lewis

As spring quickly arrives, things quickly move into high gear in our agriculture community.

This year, we were fortunate to have a couple of students from Fort Lewis College come to assist us and learn about the operation of our sheep farm. Heather and Eric came out for a day while I was shearing our flock of sheep at La Plata Farms. They also assisted with the skirting and prepping of our wool for its many uses by my wife, Pam.

It was an enjoyable time that is not likely to occur again as FLC is shutting down the agriculture department and programs that have been a part of its curriculum since its beginning in 1911. The termination of the agricultural department means the elimination of 16 agriculture classes that include livestock and crop production, range management, marketing, agricultural accounting and soils.

The FLC ag department and its various classes and majors will close at the end of this month with the completion of the current school year. While the program has not been large in recent years, it has been a great opportunity for many students from various departments to learn about the various aspects of producing the food and fiber that we all depend on.

Pam and I both are saddened by this move as we both have roots in the ag department starting back in 1973. Pam completed an animal science degree from FLC, and I obtained an agronomy degree from Colorado State University after beginning at FLC for two years.

I find it disappointing that a program that fills an important need in Southwest Colorado but does not attract large numbers of students is considered unneeded and of limited value. With less than 2 percent of Americans involved in agriculture nationally, opportunities for students to attend higher education in rural areas are important.

With the Old Fort Lewis campus near Hesperus, the agriculture department has a great facility that the students could use to get hands-on experiences with many aspects of agriculture. The projects that have taken place on the Old Fort Lewis property in the last few years have been exciting and worthwhile for many students and community members. With the world becoming a high-tech jungle, we need to remember that the people who work the ground to produce the food and fiber are just as important as the computer programmers.

With the closing of the agriculture department, FLC and the community will sadly lose an important part of our history.

Doug Ramsey has farmed in La Plata County for more than 30 years. He can be reached at 385-4375.