There are six words that you’ll never hear a farmer say, “Oh, darn. It looks like rain.”
But I said those exact words when we drove out to Fruita’s COOP on an early, almost-spring, Saturday morning on March 16, for their Sixth Annual Farm and Ranch Day. I wasn’t considering the farmers; I was considering all those volunteers or paid helpers who plan, set up, and staff the outdoor exhibits and booths, while explaining to visitors what their product, non-profit mission, or agency is about. So, under early, cloudy skies which cleared up later in the day, the Farm and Ranch show went on as scheduled, as the parking lot continued filling up with cars and trucks.
This is a family event which local city and country people look forward to and participate in every year. Although Fruita’s population continues to grow, it has successfully retained its historic farm and country roots. Showcases like this one, the COOP’s Farm and Ranch Day signals the coming of spring and the start of a new growing season.
Some groups are present every year, but they bring new items to display or new products to introduce. One such group was Fruita Monument High School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) students with their Kids Construction Workshop. Last year they assisted younger children making individual bird houses with their own hands, using the wood graciously donated to FFA by Sutherland’s of Grand Junction. This year, their class project was to direct and help each child make their own wooden tool box, again using the material donated by Sutherlands. Watching the children construct their boxes, while listening to the friendly dialog between the teen instructors and the younger kids was a joy.
You may not know that Fruita Monument High School is the only school in School District 51 with an official Future Farmers of America club, something to brag about. Closer to the store, more students sold baked goods at their booth, with all the proceeds going directly to the club’s treasury. As usual, the Fruita COOP provided the food with their employees manning the hot grills. FFA students served the free (donations only) barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs and bags of chips to the long line of waiting diners. Such amazing, polite kids. We salute you.
The Grand Valley Drainage District employees had free, fabric, fold-up, frisbees at their booth. Printed with “Scout, the Waterway eagle” telling us “to help keep our waterways clean,” they offered an important reminder. Colorado Fish and Wildlife had a booth with exhibits and cards.
There were so many other booths, including one with volunteers for the Museum of Western Colorado and another with the American National Cattle Women extolling the benefits of beef (www.ANCW.org). Free recipe folders and brochures reminded us that “more than 97 percent of U.S. beef cattle farms and ranches are family owned.”
There were booths with representatives from Hawk n’ Yak Ranch in Ridgway, Colo., (www.Hawk-N-Yak-Ranch.com) and from Tarter Farm and Ranch Equipment of Dunnsville, Ky., who offer 800 products. (www.TarterFarmAndRanch.com).
We chatted with Jan Potterveld of the Grand Junction Chapter of Grand Mesa Back County Horsemen, who was recruiting more members to help with monthly trail maintenance and trail rides. They hold meetings on the first Monday at 7 p.m., Mesa Mall’s Community Room. For more information visit www.GMBCH.com.
A new booth this year was the Grand Valley Zoological Quest. Their brochure statement is “Dream to Reality” explaining they “are a for impact venture to economically benefit our community while providing quality education and conservation for exotic wildlife.” It will be built in phases, “with the city of Fruita, joining their mission working to provide 10 prime acres of land adjacent to I-70 for the future wildlife conservancy.” They need financial help creating this facility “where animals roam free and guests remain captive.” Go to their website www.GVZooQuest.org for more details. After talking with their volunteers, we are positive they’ll be successful in this venture.
Inside, the COOP booked various presentations: Raising Backyard Chickens, All About 4-H with Tina Goins, Gardening — Vegetables and Stuff, and Horses on Small Acreages. It was a normal shopping day as crowds roamed the aisles, some for the first time, scanning the aisles for possible future purchases. Outside, in fenced in areas bordering the parking lot, were various animals: horses, miniature goats, llamas, alpacas and some “waiting to be adopted dogs.”
But, my spring favorite thing is to wander to the back of the store where baby chicks, warmed by overhead lights, and captured in two high-sided, rectangular aluminum bins, scrambled and scrapped over the plentiful chicken feed. These weren’t the purple and green-dyed chicks our kids purchased years ago that lasted about as long as the single goldfish in a bag, bought at Halloween carnivals. These were the real thing. Next time you are in there, be sure to take the kids to see them.
The “icing on the cake” for me was to meet and talk with a young couple, who cuddled their bundled-up baby, Paycen, at their booth for Ranch-Way Feeds of Fort Collins. Kelly Sutherlin is the Territory Representative. See www.Ranch-Way.com. Kevin and Kelly both grew up “on small acreages with lots of animals.”
Kevin is from Durango and Kelly from Louviers, Colo. When asked if the name “Paycen” was a family name, she answered, “No, I came up with the name Paycen because my husband always paces ... so I said we ‘auda name your son pacin’ because that’s all you do around here is pace.” Kelly, Kevin and baby Paycen Sutherlin represent to me what America’s farm families are all about. ❖