BY WATCHING ADAMS STAFF – 12/22/16
Despite a written partnership with the university, the locally-based hemp farming operation Rezolana Institute (of Rezolana Farms) was excluded from the recent San Luis Valley Hemp Symposium and has voiced its discontent to Adams State University (ASU) President Beverlee McClure and ASU Community Partnerships Executive Director Mary Hoffman. The Rezolana Institute is based in San Luis, Colorado and run by two ASU alumni. About 20 panel members and presenters were scheduled for the November 5th event at ASU, as well as 18 sponsors and exhibitors, but not Rezolana Farms or their partner, Fibershed.
According to the Community Partnerships website, this collaboration was officially designated, stating:
“Hoffman was approached by ASU graduate Arnold Valdez of Rezolana Farms in San Luis, Colorado, and Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed in San Geronimo, California. They proposed a collaboration with ASU, with the end goal of determining the viability of hemp as an agricultural product for the San Luis Valley … In the ASU collaboration, the primary interest is the commercial potential of hempcrete and hemp fiber … After consultation with the school’s attorneys, the collaboration received the blessing of former ASU President Dr. David Svaldi and incoming president Dr. Beverlee McClure.”
The lack of an invitation to the symposium has left hemp farmers Arnold “Arnie” Valdez and Maria Mondragon-Valdez believing that their exclusion undermines the university’s mission as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) whose role includes “developing and cultivating relationships with alumni and supporters.”
President McClure maintains that the symposium was hosted by ASU but accepts no responsibility for scheduling or planning the event.
REZOLANA FARMS COMPLAINT
In a letter dated December 21st, 2016, Rezolana Farms co-founder Dr. Maria Mondragon-Valdez wrote by concluding:
“I’m not sure why ASU via Community Partnerships excluded Rezolana Institute and Fibershed from meaningful involvement in the university-sponsored Hemp Symposium … No email or calls or communication to attend planning meetings, no request to be on a panel or to make a presentation, and no invitation to set-up an exhibit. Instead, we learned of the symposium in the newspaper.
Participation in a panel would have been a wonderful opportunity for Arnie who could have given a scholarly presentation about his experiences with growing hemp at high elevation using acequia irrigation techniques, sharing his large archive of hemp photos, or showcasing his experimentation with integrating hemp fibers into adobe. We recognize a valuable opportunity was lost for us to meet hemp advocates/resources from the region and state to talk shop, share ideas, and make contacts.
The absence of a local project initiated by multi-generation Hispano alumni in a historic community … defeats the purpose of a Hispanic Serving Institute. It would be beneficial if the university deeply reflected on what occurred, as exclusion benefits no one.”
In the letter, Mondragon-Valdez explains that the Rezolana Institute has been cultivating a one acre plot of industrial hemp in Costilla County since 2015, partnering with the California-based non-profit Fibershed (who first began hemp agriculture in San Luis in 2013).
Maria Mondragon Valdez and Arnold “Arnie” Valdez had previously been involved with ASU Community Partnerships in endeavors such as an April 2016 Noon Time Talk.
Mondragon-Valdez cited a Memorandum of Understanding with Adams State University to conduct a hemp research project and to integrate ASU by “provid[ing] tours of the site upon request for Adams State University professors and their students to expand curricular opportunities.” A 2015 SLV Hemp Research document from Fibershed further identifies these partnerships.
Reacting to not being invited to the San Luis Valley Hemp Symposium, Mondragon-Valdez stated, “It’s like we were over-educated farmers being put out to pasture. We are both alumni, as is one of our sons. We have a good track record and were part of the solar movement in the SLV in the 1980s. We actually were featured in a PBS special ‘The Land of Cool Sun.’ Mary [Hoffman] knows this. Why hang us out to dry? Now what do we do with the sign?”
Mondragon-Valdez pointed out that “Community Partnerships operates under ASU’s authority, is housed on campus, and obtains outside funding using the university as its mothership. Beyond this, the very last of ASU’s 2020 Goals includes working with alumni.”
This is in reference to Adams State University’s 2020 Strategic Plan Initiative 5.6: “Develop and cultivate relationships with alumni and supporters to benefit students, campus, community, and connection to the university, and promote opportunities for life-long learning.”
ADAMS STATE UNIVERSITY RESPONDS
In response to this complaint, President McClure emailed Arnie Valdez. Though she is listed as the first presenter in the symposium on the university’s website, McClure stated that ASU “only took care of the facility” and “did not put together for the program for the Hemp Symposium.”
Dr. Maria Mondragon-Valdez reacted by stating, “President McClure is basically passing the buck. I am going to write another letter because the President needs to be reminded that, in fact, she summoned three individuals who were speakers during the planning phase of the symposium.”
She explained, “One individual who was involved in the presentation was invited by the ASU President to a private meeting prior to the symposium. This individual stopped to visit us on the way to met with the president by invitation and this is how we knew that hemp discussions were taking place. We can only assume others were in attendance at this meeting. Arnie was not invited so we were in the dark as to what occurred. During the symposium, several people stopped to visit ASU’s orphaned hemp project.”
Upon sending her letter, Mondragon-Valdez received a phone call from Mary Hoffman. Mondragon-Valdez said Hoffman’s explanation for being excluded was unsatisfactory and stated, “Arnie told her that it was very hurtful and he was ‘done’ with Community Partnerships. We could have made money doing something else rather than try and play by the rules and be volunteers.”
Mondragon-Valdez said, “We are trying to break into the hemp research field. We have worked hard at this, changing agricultural methods to no-till and carbon neutral methods. Harvesting by hand. Growing a crop in our hoop house. I’m the seed cleaner and it’s a tedious job.”
She concluded, “ASU is Hispanic Serving Institution, but only when it serves the needs of the powers that be.”