Crop art for President pushes river protection

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As President Obama flies into Grand Junction tomorrow, he'll be able to see a unique piece of work made just for him: crop art carved into an alfalfa field.

The 360-foot natural canvas with letters 30 feet high spells out “Mr. Prez – we rely on the Colorado River.”

The one-acre work tells about our common need for one resource: the river.

"If it was a company in Colorado, it would be the biggest employer. Eighty thousand people rely on the Colorado River for their job in our state, and $10 billion is brought to our state every year," said Molly Mugglestone, the coordinator for conservation group Protect the Flows.

The organization hopes will catch the eye of President Obama as he lands at the Grand Junction Regional Airport. They plan for him to see it, and then they will send him a letter to explain their intent.

That letter asks for his support on the Farm Bill, on which the U.S. Congress must vote.

Protect the Flows is especially interested in one of the bill’s provisions.

“The Regional Conservation Partnerships Program, which would provide for resources to farmers and agriculture to increase their efficiency, use the latest technology, to use water better," said Mugglestone.

Mesa Park Vineyard owner Brooke Webb said she supported the crop art whole-heartedly because for her, the river is life.

"We rely on it completely. We have eight acres of grapes over on East Orchard Mesa that's irrigated 100 percent by the Colorado River."

Crop artist Stan Herd had four days to create the piece.

"We lay the image out with flags, measure it out. The letters are 30 feet tall, and then carve blocks out, and then I come back and carve each letter out," said Herd.

He's a Kansas farm boy himself.

"So the issue of how we embrace this ecosystem and this river, and balance out the issues that are inherent in trying to steward this resource is incredibly important," said Herd.

Winterhaven Farm owns the field, and its horse trainers and managers use the alfalfa to feed their animals.

The crop art cut out about one fourteenth of their cut.

"But we believe in the cause,” said Kim Brussa, the farm’s barn manager. “It's very important to all of us as Coloradans, and it was worth sacrificing some hay."

Protect the flows will compensate Winterhaven Farm for the lost alfalfa.

But that pretty piece of land comes with a pretty price tag. It cost $17,000 in all to make it happen.

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