Friday, July 20, 2012

Beer and conservation: A visit to Barley Days

In 2009 The Nature Conservancy in Idaho and MillerCoors began a partnership for water conservation and habitat improvement projects at Silver Creek. A focus of this work is to put sustainable practices into action at barley farms around Idaho. Silver Creek Preserve Manager Dayna Gross recently attended Barley Days, an event to thank local farmers for their work. Here's Dayna talking about her recent trip to Barley Days:
Barley at the experimental farm.
Photo courtesy of Dayna Gross.

Rich Rosengren (TNC, Corporate Sponsorships) and I arrived at the hotel to find a bus waiting for us.  The bus was packed, and based on the recycling bag, had been waiting for awhile.  Once on the bus, we were immediately handed tall, cold Coors Lights before heading off to the Snug in Eden, Idaho for dinner. By 9:15 p.m., I was exhausted and lucky to find a ride back to the hotel (the bus returned a few hours later). No, this was not college revisited—this was MillerCoors’s Barley Days in Burley, Idaho!! 
The next morning we were set to present The Nature Conservancy’s work in Idaho to the executive team- including Pete Coors. Since 2009, we have been working with MillerCoors on a variety of water conservation and habitat enhancement projects in the Silver Creek watershed.  
First, we embarked on a watershed planning project that included developing an ecological model of Silver Creek and the surrounding area. This model will allow us to plug in management actions and see the results.  
Pete Coors listening to a presentation at
Barley Days. Photo courtesy of Dayna Gross.
During the planning process, we prioritized areas in need of enhancement or protection with a focus on working with barley farmers to help us protect Silver Creek while ensuring their farms are sustainable, healthy, and productive in the long term. Following the planning and pilot programs, we developed a list of best management practices for barley farmers and implemented as many of them as we could on one farm, the "Showcase Barley Farm."
This is a model for other farmers in Idaho and how they can conserve water, resources, and energy while protecting and enhancing important habitat. A summary of this project, including resources and contacts for farmers, will soon be available. 
Barley Days is a time to thank the local barley farmers for all their hard work and to celebrate their product. Several people commented that it was the first time they had seen The Nature Conservancy people at Barley Days. And finally, after three years, I got a Coors hat. Thanks to MillerCoors and all those making sustainable farming a reality.

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