Each year, agriculture producers, chefs, legislators and consumers come together to celebrate Colorado Agriculture Day, as part of the National Ag Day festivities.
This year’s Farm to Fork Culinary Competition at the state capitol in Denver featured chefs who cooked and prepared Colorado products for legislators and the general public, and competed for top honors for the best dish.
For the second year in a row, Colorado Bison earned the title of Best in Show. The chef was Klaus Krebs. First place was awarded to Colorado Pork and chef Rhett Montague. Second place was awarded to Colorado Dairy and chefs Peter Dolan and David Davis. Third place was awarded to Colorado Lamb and chef Michael Long.
During the event, several dignitaries spoke to attendees. The first was John Salazar, Colorado’s commissioner of agriculture.
“Agriculture is the cornerstone of our great state. The Colorado Proud products that are being shared here today include beef, pork, lamb, potatoes, egg, dairy, onion and many other products. That means that you are getting locally grown, fresh, quality food. Colorado farmers and ranchers help feed you, your friends, your family, and the entire world. Colorado agriculture is actually one of the largest economic sectors of the state,” he stated.
He then began to talk about exports, and the importance Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has had in increasing those exports.
“Agricultural exports are becoming an increasingly important part of our state’s economy. Gov. John Hickenlooper has been instrumental in furthering the development of Colorado agriculture. He understands being a part of agriculture makes you a part of something that is extraordinary,” Salazar stated.
Next, Gov. Hickenlooper spoke, highlighting the impact agriculture has on the Colorado economy.
“This is always one of the best events we have at the capitol. I want to thank all the ag producers, all the chefs that are out here, and hope you had a chance to taste what Colorado is all about,” he said.
He continued, “We know that events like this are important because it helps us celebrate just how important agriculture is. It is one of the top engines of our economy. Let’s make no mistake about it: $41 billion in direct economic impact last year; 37,000 farms; 173,000 people employed. Those are remarkable numbers.”
When talking about exports, he reminded people about the impact it has on the state as a whole.
“Sometimes folks don’t recognize that money doesn’t just stay in rural areas. That money bounces all over the state and really did help lead us out of the incredibly difficult recession. Since 2009, agricultural exports have gone up 70 percent, and almost doubled in the last three years. I think in the very near future we are going to break over that two billion dollar mark in exports, which is very exciting news,” Hickenlooper stated.
He added, “Last year alone we had purchasers in 110 different counties that purchased our Colorado food and agricultural products. When you look at each dollar of exported food, it really creates a $1.40 of economic impact. You are looking at every billion dollars roughly creates an additional 5,000 jobs. I think we are only beginning to scratch the surface of agricultural exports, and we are going to focus on that and get past some of the obstacles to different markets.”
Hickenlooper noted that no Ag Day would be official without a proclamation, and read an excerpt of the official proclamation.
“Whereas Colorado agriculture provides abundant, nutritional products for consumers within the state and around the globe. Whereas farmers and ranchers play a valuable role in producing wholesome, economical and safe food for thankful consumers. Whereas agriculture is the second largest contributor to the state’s economy. Whereas farmers and ranchers are critical to Colorado agritourism, welcoming tourists from around the world and sharing the taste of the Colorado experience. Whereas the state of Colorado offers sincere and honest appreciation for the farmers, ranchers and agribusiness leaders in today and of future generations of Colorado. I do hereby proclaim March 26, 2014, as Colorado Agriculture Day,” he read.
Senate Ag Committee Chair Gail Schwartz then thanked the chefs for their work.
“We are also appreciative of our extraordinary chefs, American Culinary Federation and Colorado Chef’s Association for committing to using fresh, local products to create their beautiful dishes. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are committed to dealing with issues supporting our agricultural industry,” she said.
Next, House Ag Committee Chair Randy Fischer reminded attendees to celebrate agriculture every day.
“Colorado Ag Day is actually celebrated every day of the year. I think we all would agree with that, especially if you are in ag production. As parents, who shop for healthy meals for their family, as we visit farmers markets for locally grown products, as we enjoy the food, fuel and fiber and natural resources that our farmers help produce, we are in fact celebrating Ag Day. I encourage all of you to think about the vital role that Colorado agriculture plays in every aspect of our lives. We thank you all for your hard work and dedication. Colorado agriculture is an incredible foundation on which we all depend on, it’s the foundation that can and will build strong futures for all Coloradoans,” he stated.
Lastly, Kevin Seggelke, president and CEO, Food Bank of the Rockies, thanked the agricultural community for their support.
“There is no better friend to those in need in this state than the agricultural community. On behalf of the five of us, we can’t extend a greater thank you to the ag community to get the food bank to those in need in our communities. There is no better friend from fruit to vegetables to protein, which for many folks in our state are difficult to buy, because for many of them there is too much month left at the end of the money. So on behalf of all five of us, thank you so much,” he stated.
This year, the Colorado Ag Council donated $973,000 to feeding Colorado. ❖