Narrating Archuleta County’s food system: Archuleta Food Summit set for Saturday


The Archuleta Food Summit is coming up on Saturday, May 11, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Pagosa Springs High School. 

Registration is open. You can register at 

All of us here at Healthy Archuleta would love for you to attend. More than that, we think that, maybe, you need to attend. 

Frankly, our local food system is weak. Demands are being placed upon that system that do not show signs of abating. We need to start developing plans about what comes next that take into consideration the whole picture: from our own front doors to our local community and in light of global realities. As best as one can figure it, this means we have to think about where we are going, which is predicated upon where we are, which is derived from some shared understanding of where we have been. 

The story of a county, by the name of Archuleta, in a federated state of the United States of America follows the establishment of the Southern Ute Indian Reservation as we know it today by the Brunot Act of 1873 and Grover Cleveland’s executive order in 1897 establishing the Jicarilla Apache Reservation. We should also keep in mind those residents who were not part of these Indigenous groups and whose families’ presence here predated Colorado’s admission to the Union in 1861, the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845, the independence of Texas from Mexico in 1836 and even Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821. The boundaries of any narrative of the residents of Archuleta County are based in some part upon the political and cultural boundaries of these two neighboring peoples and those whose families instantly became U.S. citizens through the wave of a pen in 1845.

Our collective local historical imagination of those settlers who occupied Archuleta conjures into life a legacy of cattle ranching and, for those with a deep commitment to historical accuracy, shepherding and logging that reluctantly gave way in the last quarter of the 20th century to a more modern service-based economy. 

The historical facts, however, reveal that Archuleta County was, arguably, in the middle of nowhere till the 1950s. Whatever stories we pass along by word of mouth from the county’s history that predate World War II have characters drawn from fewer than 4,000 residents. Before the fall of the USSR, the county population peaked at 3,806 in 1940 and did not come close to that number again until 1980, according to census data. 

We should bear in mind that this was because it was not easy to get to Pagosa Springs. The road over Wolf Creek Pass was first built in 1911, expanded in 1930 and paved in the 1950s. The infrastructure we use to access Wolf Creek Ski Area and get to Denver only began to look like what we see today in the 1990s. The population of Archuleta County has more than doubled since 1990, and more than tripled since 1980. Nearly all of that population growth has been in the unincorporated area of the county, while the town population has remained largely stable. 

Who lived here and where they lived changed dramatically in the lifespan of the county. 

The railroad line that used to serve the county came from the main artery in Chama and through Pagosa Junction (a veritable ghost town today). The depot from this spur line serving the center of downtown Pagosa was located near 7th Street between the elementary and high schools. Some of our oldest residents remember riding this line to Ignacio in their youth. 

Up to 200 families that lived in the southwestern quadrant of Archuleta County were displaced in 1962 by the construction of the Navajo Dam and the subsequent flooding that created Colorado’s Navajo State Park and New Mexico’s Navajo Lake State Park. How many of those 200 families resided in Archuleta County and how many individuals of the 2,629 residents reported in the 1962 U.S. Census data, we do not know. It could have accounted for as much as 20 percent of the county’s population at the time (assuming a four-person household). 

Why mention this? How is this relevant to a local food system or the food summit? Although it is a circuitous route to the point, our hopes, dreams, fears and the horizons of what we accept as possible are rooted in the stories we tell about ourselves and the world that surrounds us. If we are going to talk about a future for the local food system, perhaps, we might want to nail down a few points about Archuleta’s story so we could move forward together. 

The portrait painted above reveals that, to some degree, the Archuleta County and Town of Pagosa Springs we relate to today only came into existence in the 1980s — a town that is a pleasant stop for motorists along U.S. 160 who have a taste for hunting, fishing and/or winter sports. 

The earlier iteration of Archuleta County begins to fade into memory after 1962. It was a place with close ties to northern New Mexico (Chama, Dulce), Ignacio and Durango. Our county has only recently become accessible. 

How we utilize its resources is a question largely undecided because the idea of residential development, economic expansion and commercial agriculture were moot questions for a county that was hard to get to and largely unknown to those not from the region. 

These are far-reaching questions that have implications for the career and technical education (CTE) programs we encourage at our local high school, the kind of workforce development we choose to fund and the kind of lifestyle we advertise to outsiders who want to live the good life we do. 

The Archuleta Food Summit is a step in calling these questions and beginning to answer them. 

So, whether you farm or ranch or ski or fish or hunt or none of the above, our community faces some choices that will determine the course of its future in a big way. So, you should come to learn and eat and be counted in the conversation.

To learn more about Healthy Archuleta’s efforts, please email us at or visit our website,