Finding Innovative Water Solutions through Local Farmers and Ranchers

March 28, 2023

The Lor Foundation is awarding rural farmers and ranchers in Colorado and New Mexico grants to implement innovative water solutions. LOR believes those closest to a problem—Western farmers and ranchers in this case—have the best solutions. Through the Field Work initiative, farmers and ranchers in rural parts of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming are eligible for up to $10,000 to implement innovative water projects. The goal is to find the best solutions for using water to grow food in the West. By Connor Shreve. This story is sponsored by Southwest Health System and TruWest Auto

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A new initiative is putting the power of innovation and conservation in the hands of local farmers and ranchers. This edition of the Local News Network is brought to you by Southwest Health System and TruWest Auto. I'm Connor Shreve. The new Field Work Initiative by the LOR Foundation aims to find the quickest and most innovative solutions to the West's water crisis by awarding Western farmers and ranchers up to $10,000 to implement innovative water projects.

So it's so important that we listen to the people who are closest to the problems. And if we're going to talk about drought in the West and we're not engaging our agricultural producers, we're missing one of the most important voices at the table.

LOR Foundation Strategic Initiatives Officer Bill Jaeger says agricultural production directly relates to the LOR Foundation's commitment to quality of life in the West.

I'd say we have two major goals. One is to surface innovation because those farmers and ranchers who are really tinkering, solving, implementing creative ideas on the ground need help getting those ideas off the ground and elevating their stories. So one goal's innovation. The second is to really help solve some of these challenges.

According to the International Association of Agricultural Economists, global food demand will rise between 60 and 100% over the next three decades. And with the West in the midst of drought, feeding its residents will become increasingly more difficult. It's why Jaeger says LOR wants to help find solutions as quickly as possible.

And so, absolutely, we know we're facing some of the driest 20 years in the last 1200 and that agricultural producers are the ones who are having to think most creatively in terms of overcoming those challenges. And so our efforts to support them in innovating and learning from them are all in the context of a challenging resource environment that if we don't all sort of come together and help resolve, we're going to face deeper challenges down the road.

The Foundation is currently in the process of informing those who have won the first round of grant money. Jaeger says the variety of ideas is exciting.

Everything from creative adaptations to their soil to make it retain water better, to innovative rainwater catchment systems that allow for repurposing of water, creative ideas about the use of greenhouses and underground, sort of, systems of water management, heating and geothermal.

There were also many innovations for water movement and filtration. Jaeger says in some ways that justifies the intention of the Field Work Initiative.

But we think that there's sort of a missing voice sometimes around that farmer or rancher who's on the ground every day seeing these challenges and their ability to try something out and then tell their story. And so it absolutely is validating that there's innovation happening out there. And with a modest amount of support, people can get some ideas off the ground.

Long-term, the LOR Foundation hopes this initiative could be the first step in improving the way we grow food sustainably in the West. Short-term, it's watching how effective this first round of winning proposals turns out to be. Thanks for watching the Local News Network. I'm Connor Shreve.


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