Identifying, supporting, and elevating innovative water solutions from Mountain West farmers and ranchers

College of Agricultural Sciences

Agriculture and Resource Economics



(Larimer, Montezuma, Rio Grande)

Primary Topic:

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Other Topics:

Food and Agriculture

Lead Mentor:  

Dawn Thilmany McFadden

Co-Director, CSU Regional Economic Development Institute & Professor, Ag and Resource Economics

Internship Overview:

The LOR Foundation ( recently announced a new initiative, Field Work, to provide funding for farmers and ranchers to implement innovative approaches to using water in agriculture. Farmers and ranchers in rural parts of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming are eligible for up to $10,000. The hope is that this real-world research will reveal solutions that can be used throughout the West to grow food while contending with unprecedented drought.

The Foundation has benefited from insights and connections from CSU faculty both on-campus and working in Extension to-date on this project. The next step, following the identification and selection of innovative projects in March of 2023, will be to support farmers and ranchers with successful implementation and planning of follow-on activities, elevating learnings from the initiative, and distilling findings from the initiative.

Between May and August of 2023, the Foundation will be conducting several activities that require support and expertise from a graduate-level student with an interest in agriculture, water, and public policy. Specifically, the Foundation is seeking assistance in several areas, including:
1. Working with farmers and ranchers on sustaining the work begun under their “Field Work” funding. This may include research into additional funding opportunities, markets for their innovations or newly developed products, identifying business support and opportunities for farmers and ranchers, or specific data or information that would help a farmer or rancher secure additional funding.
2. Elevating preliminary or anticipated learnings from the “Field Work” initiative. This may include identifying stakeholders, researchers, funders, and policymakers, who may be able to incorporate the lessons from the initiative into broader and more systemic changes.
3. Assisting LOR Foundation staff in distilling information about the Field Work initiative. This may include summarizing information about program participants, innovations, or preliminary learnings into reports and summaries that can be shared with specific audiences.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

The Field Work initiative is designed to both 1) support individual farmers and ranchers in addressing their water-related challenges or opportunities in innovative ways AND 2) ensure that the lessons about funding, innovation, and impact are elevated for public benefit. This internship can accelerate both of these goals by providing support directly to a subset of producers participating in the initiative while also distilling learnings and identifying forums and audiences who would benefit from the insights the project generates.

The goals of this internship are to:
1) Assist farmers and ranchers in sustaining their innovations begun under their “Field Work” funding, 2) Elevate preliminary learnings (or anticipated insights) from the initiative across the range of projects that are supported, and 3) Assisting in the distillation of insights, opportunities, and audiences that would benefit from learning about these farmer- and rancher-led innovations.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

The LOR Foundation, farmers and ranchers supported via the Field Work initiative in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and other stakeholders who can elevate the impact of this initiative.

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

1. Develop skills to communicate innovative practices and to encourage adoption of innovative water use improvements among farmers in the Mountain West.
2. Deepen understanding innovative solutions sourced from farmers and ranchers to address water-related challenges.
3. Grow the capacity to identify resources, opportunities, and decision-makers who can utilize learnings from the Field Work initiative to support innovative solutions on the ground in the Mountain West.
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