Program Offers Insight into Rural, Agricultural Issues

The Colorado Agriculture and Rural Leadership Program, or CARL, provides graduates with valuable perspectives into agriculture and people from all professions and cultures – and critical issues intertwined between the two.

As CARL gears up for a new two-year program starting this fall based at Colorado State University, it is being formulated to reflect issues faced by rural and agricultural communities today: growth, natural resource management, water, drought, government policy, global markets, technology, cultural diversity and constant change.

"CARL is for people who are interested in working hard to understand the pros and cons to the many issues that we face related to agriculture and rural areas," said Brad Wind, CARL graduate and current water resources engineer with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District in Loveland. "For example, two groups that are counter at times are environmentalists and agriculturists. CARL can help those who want to dig into these issues enough to understand how both groups think and to see that both groups generally have common ground to share.

CARL can help the person who is willing to cross those boundaries, garner information from both sides, share it, and help both groups realize that in many cases, there is middle ground. Often, the desires of groups that represent different sides of rural and agricultural issues desire are not clear to the left, not clear to the right, but in the middle of the road."

The CARL program was started and formerly managed by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The program will be integrated into the Colorado State University College of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension, as a partnership between the three entities.

The two-year program enhances leadership skills of rural Colorado citizens who are in or who are working toward positions of influence and leadership within their communities and agricultural organizations. A large portion of the program entails travel around the state, nation and world so participants can explore issues that relate to and transcend the agricultural industry including community issues, growth, water, natural resources and international trade.

Lynne Sherrod, a CARL graduate who lives near Steamboat Springs and is the director of Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust, was encouraged to enroll in the program by previous graduates.

"Through CARL, I had an opportunity to see how people who are really engaged in their communities and organizations can make a difference on a local level, but also on a larger scale," said Sherrod, who cites her visits to Washington DC and Costa Rica through the program as highlights. "There’s no denying that it’s a huge commitment of time and resources, but frankly, it’s worth while because it gets participants outside of their own skin and helps them look at agriculture and rural issues from another point of view, and that’s essential. The more you can understand about how others do things, the more perspective you get about how we are as people and where our futures can and should take us."

Dusty Tallman, who just concluded his term as president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, cites the networking skills and contacts that the program offers as the most valuable contribution of CARL in the more than 10 years since he graduated. Tallman, who lives in Brandon, still calls former classmates and friends made through the experience to get advice and hear different points of view when working out issues. He started forming a network within CARL during the class with discussions into the wee hours of the morning about everything from how farming in Cortez varies from farming along the Front Range to how agriculture varies internationally.

"Perhaps today more than ever agriculture and rural communities are facing challenges of a vast variety," said Don Nitchie, program director. "This program offers the development of leadership skills to citizens interested in becoming catalysts for positive change."

The application deadline for the next two-year CARL program is August 5. Those interested in applying or wanting more information can view more details and get the application by visiting or by contacting the program office at 970-491-2246.