Tri River director helps to carry on Extension mission

Doug Dean serves as director of the Tri River Area Colorado State University Extension, overseeing a range of services offered in Mesa as well as Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Doug Dean serves as director of the Tri River Area Colorado State University Extension, overseeing a range of services offered in Mesa as well as Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Doug Dean has worked in a variety of positions in the agricultural industry and holds two college degrees.

But his latest responsibilities as director of the Tri River Area Colorado State University Extension require Dean to continue to learn and study so he can share that knowledge with people across a large swath of Western Colorado.

Dean said he gets a lot of help, though, from area Extension agents; researchers who operate two experiment stations in the Grand Valley; and, of course, CSU itself.

While farmers and ranchers in the region already bring considerable experience and expertise to their operations, Dean said he often offers advice to transplants who are new to the area as well as managing the smaller acreages they’ve purchased.

The process, Dean said, is an enjoyable one. “It’s really rewarding.”

Dean took over on Oct. 1 as director of the Tri River Area CSU Extension, which serves Mesa as well as Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties. Dean had served as interim director since March and joined the Extension a year earlier as a livestock and range extension agent.

Dean previously worked as a director of big game, general manager and assistant general manager of the High Lonesome Ranch, a high-end guest ranch located near DeBeque. Before that, he worked as an assistant farm business manager for Tyson Foods and an operations manager for Pogue Seed.

Dean holds a bachelor of science degree in range and wildlife science as well as a master’s of business administration degree from Texas Tech University.

Growing up in Texas, Dean said he was an avid hunter and has been interested in wildlife management since he was child. He ended up also studying range science, though, and how to manage forage for wildlife and livestock.

As director of the Tri River Area Extension, Dean said he helps to carry on a century old mission of providing a link between CSU and the citizens of Colorado,  between the research and knowledge developed at the university and the people who use that information.

Unlike most Extension offices that serve a single county, the Tri River Area Extension serves four counties in a collaborative arrangement among CSU and the counties, Dean said.

While the Extension shares research and information to help farmers and ranchers, services also cover consumer and family sciences, food safety, gardening and a wide variety of youth development programs offered through 4-H, Dean said. “There’s something for everyone.”

A total of about 1,200 youth and 400 volunteers participate in 4-H in the four counties, Dean said, not only raising livestock to show at fairs, but also engaging in programs involving engineering, photography and even shooting sports.

Dean oversees an office with a total of eight Extension agents in the four counties and said he strives to make sure those agents are free to fulfill their duties. “A lot of what my role is as a director is to remove barriers so they’re more efficient in their jobs.”

In addition to his administrative duties, though, Dean said he continues to meet with people throughout the four counties to talk to them about livestock and range issues.

Commercial agriculture constitutes an important component of the economy in the four counties, Dean said, and cattle and hay  rank among the top agricultural products in the region.

A combination of some of the lowest numbers for cattle herds nationwide in more than 50 years and continued high demand for beef has pushed cattle prices high, Dean said.

Local farmers and ranchers, among them fourth and fifth generation members of agricultural families, know what they’re doing, Dean said. Others who’ve recently moved to the area and purchased smaller acreages might be unfamiliar with range and livestock management techniques, but are usually eager to learn, he added.

That’s when the Extension can help them in disseminating information and addressing problems, Dean said. Good range and livestock management techniques apply to 10 acres the same way they do to 10,000 acres, only on a smaller scale, he said.

Along with keeping up on the relevant research himself, Dean said consults with other Extension agents and researchers. The CSU Extension Web site offers resources as well, he said

Dean said people are often surprised when he comes to their properties and consults with them at no charge. He said he tells them: “Your taxes pay for me to come out.”

For more information about services and resources from the Tri River Area Colorado State University Extension, visit www.extension.colostate.edu/TRA or call 244-1834. Information also is available online at the Web site at www.ext.colostate.edu.