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A conservation celebration

Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2013

Jaroso residents Carlos and Annette Benavidez accept the 2012 Costilla Conservation District Conservationist of the Year. The 2012 Costilla County poster winners. Back row: Alexis Lobato, Centennial, Brooklyn Sandoval, Sierra Grande, Jocelyn Carter, Sierra Grande. Front row: Genna Aguilar and Angela Munoz, both of Sierra Grande. Courier photos by Lauren Krizansky

Courier staff writer

SAN LUIS — Conservation was at its best Monday night when Costilla County land stewards gathered for their annual meeting.

Aside from Mariachi music and dinner, the meeting’s highlight was recognizing the Costilla County 2012 Conservationists of the Year and the fourth grade poster and essay contest winners.

Jaroso residents Carlos and Annette Benavidez were awarded the 2012 Costilla Conservation District Conservationist of the Year.

“This is a big honor,” said Costilla Conservation District Board Supervisor Jerry Gallegos. “It takes a lot of hard work.”

After moving to J-Cabz Farm full time in 2009 after a life of agriculture in New Mexico, Carlos started precision leveling the existing flood ground for hay production. He realized he had shallow soils with limestone topsoil and found a remedy with help from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The leveling has increased his flood irrigation on 160 acres, a little less than half his property, from 30 percent to 45 percent efficiency in regards to supplying water to the plant’s root zone.

“That’s the one thing I could do here to make it work,” Carlos said upon accepting his award with his wife. “They thought I was crazy, but it works.”

Costilla County Conservation President Harold Anderson agreed, “He proved us wrong. It does work.”

Today, Carlos and Annette have five flood group fields under cultivation. Four fields contain alfalfa stands and the fifth is set aside for pasture hay. The melga (lands) range from 20 feet to 120 feet wide, and each is leveled differently to meet spot specific needs. Last year, Carlos took nearly three hay cuttings off his fields.

Sierra Grande’s poster contest winners on the topic of “Soil to Spoon” were Jocelyn Carter, first place, McCormick Edward, second place, Brooklyn Sandoval, third place, and Antonio Martine, honorable mention. Centennial’s winners were Alexis Lobato, first place, Angelique Sanchez, second place, and Mercy Montoya, honorable mention.

Sierra Grande essay contest winners were Angela Munoz and Luke Rivera, first place, Jessica Mitchell and Alexa Ontiveros, second place, and Genna Aguilar and Dominic Trujillo, third place.

Centennial did not enter essays this year.

In other Costilla County Conservation District news, the board unveiled the district’s new logo, and shared a number of projects including a Living Snow Fence project on La Veta Pass, grazing seminars and other education-based activities.

The Costilla Conservation District was organized on April 9, 1975 as the result of a consolidation of the Mount Blanca, Sanchez, and Culebra Soil Conservation Districts. The Secretary of State of Colorado issued a certificate of organization on May 23, 1975. Overall the districts have a combined history of 67 years of active conservation.

Costilla Conservation District encompasses all the land in Costilla County except for those areas that had been previously excluded. Total acreage is 718,312 acres of privately owned land.

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