Agriculture advocate, teacher will be part of the 2017 Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame class.
November 29, 2016
There were two high school teachers who inspired Dale McCall to pursue his lifetime career in ag education.
Paul Rife and Glen Sowder worked with McCall when he was at Yuma High School in the 1960s. McCall grew up on a farm, and the two teachers inspired him to pursue a career in agriculture education.
But McCall knew the farm life wasn't one he wanted to leave, so he did both.
He and his wife, Judy, grew up on farms in Yuma, Colo., but the family farm they raised their kids on was one they started on their own.
Even with his love and involvement in schools and advocacy for farming, there wasn't much of a question about him also working on the farm. He and his wife didn't inherit the farmland in Yuma. They instead bought land, and continued to buy land as recently as eight years ago.
The problems facing farmers at the moment, he saw in the 1980s, too. He knew many families who had to sell their land. Thankfully, his wasn't one of them.
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"The '80s were really tough, and I hope we don't get there again," he said.
Even seeing and surviving through the lowest of the lows, he kept with farming. With the time he spent advocating for rural schools and working as a teacher or superintendent, he kept farming.
"I still just love it," he said. "I just wish there weren't the tough times."
McCall, who now lives in Longmont, Colo., and is the president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, worked on the farm before and after he went to teach, and summer vacation allowed him more time to dedicate to his crops. But his time split between the two didn't leave him weary. In fact, throughout his career, McCall worked in a number of positions that allowed him to advocate for agriculture with school kids, including the State FFA adviser/executive secretary, district superintendent and the executive director of the Centennial BOCES association, which is a group of different school districts that share resources.
That's because, for McCall, his work is about the next generation of farmers. He's worked in a number of capacities as an advocate to get kids involved in agriculture. It's not just about kids who are growing up on the farm, either.
"(FFA) has involved and changed. They just started in Jefferson County schools. There's more now, they're changed from all production, and now have landscaping, horticulture and ag literacy," McCall said.
With the average age of the famer getting older, and the high prices of land, it's harder to get into agriculture, but that's also why agriculture education is so important to him. He knows there are people who are willing to play a big role in agriculture in the future — and not all of them are coming from farm families.
McCall said there are more non-farm kids in some of the agriculture programs at Colorado State. McCall knows the interest is there, and thinks the more ways people can get involved, the better, regardless of farming background. It comes down to the pursuit of ag education.
"We're excited about the interest in agriculture, and what a great way to get people involved," McCall said.
With the years McCall has put into teaching and his involvement, it's no surprise he's being inducted into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame with two people he formally worked with. Bill Markham and the late Charlie Bartlett both worked with and were taught by McCall at different times in his career.
For most of McCall's influence on the world of agriculture, it will be through the people he worked with. But one of the many things McCall was also able to accomplish came from his time with the FFA Foundation.
A goal of the foundation was to get a place to show the faces and honor those who have been inducted into the state's hall of fame. The CoBank Center for Agricultural Education officially opened in September 2015.
McCall was an active person in getting the center there, and now the main room has photos of every member of the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame.
Come February, McCall's face will join them. ❖