Q&A with Stephen Lauer: Rural Initiative Thriving Communities Specialist, Southern Region
Stephen Lauer is one of 14 new Rural Initiative specialists who recently joined CSU Extension. Lauer will be focusing on how to foster thriving communities and support food and agriculture production in Colorado’s southern region, which includes 15 counties stretching from Mineral County in the west to the eastern border of the state.
Lauer earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Kansas State University, where his research focused on on the values driving groundwater management decision-making in western Kansas. He also completed a dual master’s degree at Iowa State University, earning an M.S. in sustainable agriculture in addition to a master’s in community and regional planning.
Just a few weeks into his new position, Lauer shared what excites him about the job, how his background positions him to make an impact in the community, and what community needs he hopes to address through his work.
“I’m looking forward to meeting, learning from, and working with farmers, ranchers, farmworkers, and other rural Coloradans.”
“I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, where I began my career as a volunteer community organizer working at the intersection of food and agriculture. Subsequently, as a program coordinator at the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines, Iowa, I built a statewide network of over 500 organizations tackling hunger. By cultivating relationships across Iowa’s 99 counties, I was able to connect individuals and organizations to each other in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.
I left the World Food Prize to pursue my doctorate in sociology at Kansas State University, where my research focused on the values driving groundwater management decision-making in western Kansas. I built relationships with producers and collaborated with several organizations working to preserve their aquifer and sustain their communities.”
“My approach to community engagement is focused on building relationships, meeting community needs, and keeping promises. Our Rural Initiative team will have conversations with people across the state to learn about their successes and the challenges facing their operations and communities. Our priorities for action and collaboration will grow out of these conversations. To meet these priorities, I will draw on my experience helping communities manage groundwater, alleviate food insecurity, and expand and sustain civic engagement.”
“Through collaboration, we can learn from each other and draw on our diverse set of strengths to address the challenges facing our farms, ranches, and rural communities. ”
“Quality food is essential to the health of individuals and communities. From family dinners to church potlucks to festivals and fairs, food has a unique and powerful ability to bring people together. I am excited to help rural Coloradans build and sustain thriving farms, ranches, and towns where everyone has access to nutritious food now and for years to come.”