High Desert Conservation District

The High Desert Conservation District is one of 76 special Districts throughout Colorado formed for specific purposes. Started in 1942 as the Dolores Soil Conservation District, the name was recently changed. “Our name didn’t accurately describe the area we serve and was very confusing to the public,” explains District Manager, Judy Garrigues.

Garrigues explained how the SBDC assisted in the name change. “We do not just serve Dolores and we oversee more than just soil. It was important for the public to recognize who we are and what we do.” The District is responsible for conservation and preservation of natural resources, focusing on agriculture and including the control of wind and water erosion and the reduction of damage resulting from floods.

In 2011 Judy contacted Joe Keck, who offered the services of SBDC to help her organize a round-table discussion with the agricultural community. The District wanted input from locals to assess what would be needed to keep farming a viable business. SBDC advisors Carolyn Dumire and Nancy Schaufele helped to coordinate the special meeting with 35-40 local farmers to gain their input on problems they were encountering.

The District serves as the liaison between the farmers and the resources they need. It is their job to protect the resources like water and soil and to prevent the degradation of the soil from erosion. When the farmers identify a problem, like the water is running down a ditch and taking the soil with it, the District, facilitates the solution by enlisting and coordinating the help of local experts, all types of non-profit and for profit organizations, government agencies and others resources with the expertise and technology to solve the problem.

After the round-table forum, advisor Cindy Dvergsten completed the final document outlining the needs and frustrations of the farmers and describing how farming contributes to the economy in Montezuma County. Many local farmers were interviewed by Mary Vozar, a local producer and partner in Confluence Farm. The local farmers provided valuable input for the document. Numerous economic and marketing issues were also uncovered.

Nancy Schaufele facilitated two retreats where the Vision and Mission statements for the new direction of the District were discussed and decided upon. As the District more clearly understood its purpose and the needs of its constituents, they realized that education for beginning and small to mid-size farmers was one crucial factor. Over the course of a year, Advisor Terryl Peterson helped formulate the Business Plan and including what the agency wanted to achieve and how they would move forward.

Realizing their need to brand and market, they enlisted the help of Advisor Louise Garnett, who contributed to the marketing section of the High Desert Conservation District Business Plan. This essential element was necessary to help consumers learn about the District and the services it provides. Once the producers are connected with the District, the District can help them find the resources they need to create a successful and profitable business.

Marcy Mitchell, of MTECH, wrote the web copy and helped the agency rebrand and educate the public about the services they provide. A new logo was designed and “a strategy was implemented to reach the farmers who aren’t big on technology such as Facebook and Instagram,” Judy shared. “They have a voice in the programs and assistance they receive. We just locate and provide the specialist or the resources that are available through the County, State or Federal Government.”

A beneficial synergistic relationship was created since the Conservation District now refers individual farmers back to the SBDC for one-on-one consulting with advisors and to classes such as Tilling the Soil of Opportunity facilitated by Cindy Dvergsten.

Judy summarizes, “We are happy to be the liaison and coordinator in the agricultural community pulling everybody together to keep us a viable agricultural landscape.”

The Wigglin’ Pig: Where the Food Tells Its Story

After years of working in various restaurants, Ernie Padilla decided he was ready to open his own business. Food trucks were fairly new to Cortez, and he knew they would be a hit. So, in 2018, he opened The Wigglin’ Pig. After finding success, he was ready to grow and added a brick and mortar establishment to the mix. Both the truck and restaurant serve American BBQ food with a variety of delicious favorites ranging

Read More »
Watikuh Assistive Technology

‘Watikuh’ is a Hopi word which means to run for it.  The word is also found in the name of Kayla Hefner’s business, Watikuh Assistive Technology Services (WATS).  Kayla stated, “starting a new business is any environment is tough.  But starting a business in physical, emotional and mental chaos, and having a vision at the same time is overwhelming.”  What did Kayla do?  She went for it. For seventeen years, Kayla was a partner and

Read More »
San Juan Trading Post

By Malia Durbano Ryan, Tom and Ellen Beavers are all partners in San Juan Trading Post, a new business that opened in Pagosa Springs in October of 2013. Parents Tom and Ellen live in Pagosa and develop properties there. Son Ryan was managing a pawn shop in Ohio. When Tom and Ellen looked around, they realized there wasn’t a pawn shop in Pagosa and thought it might be a good place to open one. Ryan

Read More »
Alpine Medical

Tabitha Zappone loves the conveniences in Pagosa Springs and considers it a “big city with coffee shops and restaurants.” Before moving to Pagosa, she and her husband both worked in a hospital in rural Alaska, in the town of Bethel. He is an Emergency Room nurse and she is a Nurse Practitioner. The two served people from 57 villages. “They would come in on dogsleds, four wheelers or small airplanes. In the winter it would

Read More »
Countryside Disposal

Herman Rosas has worked in the trash disposal business in Cortez for twenty years.  He had developed a stellar reputation amongst the customers he served over that span.  In 2016, one disposal company Herman used to work for sold their business to their corporate competitor, which made them the only disposal business in town.  He and his wife, Kim, started to receive calls soon after from former customers.  The people asked them to start their own business.  They were unhappy

Read More »
Four Corners Guides

Lizzy Scully, CEO, and Steve Fassbinder, Head Bikeraft Guide, co-founded Four Corners Guides, a multi-sport guide service (bikepacking, packrafting and bikerafting), headquartered in Mancos, CO.  This dynamic pair incorporated their passion for adventure with the natural wonder of the Four Corners area to offer guided tours and upscale camping experiences (referred to as glamping, glamourous camping) at their Scullbinder Ranch.             Lizzy and Steve first shared their dreams with each other about teaming up to

Read More »
Skip to content