Benchmarking Best Practices for Supporting County Agricultural Initiatives

MPPA graduate student interns with the Larimer County Agricultural Initiative and CSU Extension

Part of a special series highlighting College of Liberal Arts students and their summer internships with CSU Extension

Larimer County Agricultural Advisory Board
Caesar Garduno (center) presenting his research to Larimer County's Agricultural Advisory Board.

What does an internship with CSU Extension look like? For Caesar Garduno, a Master of Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) student, it involves getting hands-on experience in local government work through a partnership with the Larimer County Agricultural Initiative, an organization that combines his passion for environmental policy and public service.

Completing his internship in summer 2022, Garduno primarily worked with the county’s agricultural outreach programming to learn about the policymaking processes for rural agriculture support. This was his first professional experience working alongside a governmental team and getting a glimpse into local government processes. “This one kind of popped out because it was through Larimer County and…I’ve never really worked in or around county government. I was looking to explore,” Garduno says.

Having completed a B.A. in Economics in Illinois, Garduno discovered his fondness for topics like civic engagement but was yearning for tangible experience in the field. The MPPA program – and his Extension internship – helped him swiftly achieve that goal.

Garduno’s day-to-day internship work involved conducting industry research to support the Larimer County agricultural team, and then presenting his intermediary findings to the county’s Agricultural Advisory Board at the end of his experience. In his three-phase research process, he gained insight on similar counties’ agricultural initiatives, policy construction, and policy execution within Larimer County. This research, focused mainly on the geographic distribution of income levels and existing policies in comparable areas, will be used moving forward to build strategic plans for the county.

During the internship, Garduno was also able to get out of the virtual office and shadow his mentors, performing site visits and participating in other formative community engagement work. The impact and importance of these site visits was palpable; they were a critical step in the process of strengthening key relationships that would allow the county to move forward with its work in a symbiotic manner. He also had the opportunity to interview professionals from other counties performing similar work to add to the collective community engagement knowledge that would help carry Larimer County’s efforts forward. “She’ll go to their farms and whatnot… and the farmers definitely stressed how it can make a big difference when they see a staff member come out and take their time and actually see what’s going on in person,” Garduno said, reflecting on his interview with leadership at another Colorado county about community engagement best practices.

“This internship definitely opened up my eyes – just meeting all the different people and the staff and a lot of good people working in government.” — Caesar Garduno

Garduno’s experience with the Center for Public Deliberation here at CSU, an educational hub dedicated to enhancing community problem-solving via carefully curated forums and conversation spaces, helped him prepare for the internship. “Through my time at Center for Public Deliberation, I’ve definitely grown my interest in facilitating conversations, reaching out to different communities and trying to talk through these tougher issues,” he says.

His internship provided him with key industry knowledge, shedding light on what full-time government work entails. “It’s still very much up in the air on what I want to do after graduation,” says Garduno, “but this internship definitely opened up my eyes – just meeting all the different people and the staff and a lot of good people working in government.”

Internships: The Practical and Applied Side of the Liberal Arts

The CSU Summer Extension Internship program gives students the opportunity to take their research and expertise into the field to help communities across Colorado in the areas of Natural Resources and Sustainability, Food and Agriculture, Youth Development, Economic and Community Development, Health and Well-Being, and Emergency Planning and Resources.

In summer 2022, the College of Liberal Arts had 18 students participate in an Extension internship.