Bill Jackson: Ag Talk 3-14-11
In the San Luis Valley, he’s affectionately known as Doc Ben.
But Ben Konishi’s roots are on a Weld County vegetable and dairy farm, southwest of Platteville, Colo., where he and his 14 siblings learned the value of hard work growing up in the Great Depression and Dust Bowl days.
Konishi, 84, was one of five inductees this year into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame, joining Bill Wailes of Colorado State University, Bill Coors of Golden, John Schwiezer Jr. of Rocky Ford and George Tempel of Wiley.
According to the Colorado FFA Foundation, which compiles the history of inductees prior to the induction banquet – conducted last month in Denver, Colo. – Kinoshi was born in Fort Lupton and graduated from Platteville High School 1944. He is the second Platteville High School graduate to be inducted into the hall, following John Matsushima, a 1939 PHS graduate, who was inducted in 2010.
Konishi had a highly successful 4-H and FFA career while growing up, particularly with dairy cows. One of his Guernsey cows set the state record for butterfat in 1941. In 1943, he was elected Colorado FFA secretary.
Following his graduation from Platteville as co-valedictorian, he was drafted into military service, but severe asthma prevented a military career. His father had told him there was no way he could attend college without scholarships, but because of his involvement in FFA and 4-H, he received a Union Pacific Scholarship. So off he went to Fort Collins, where he once more excelled as a student at Colorado A&M in the pre-veterinarian program.
He graduated with high distinction and a degree in veterinary science in 1950, having been selected to Phi Kappa Phi, the national honor fraternity, and Phi Zeta, the national honor veterinary fraternity.
He joined a veterinary practice in Monte Vista then moved to Alamosa to open his own practice in 1952, a practice that continues to operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day. In that practice, Doc Ben works on all sorts of animals, ranging from alligators to cows and horses and about everything in between, including rodeo animals. He provides animal services to 4-H and FFA members at no charge.
Bonnie Gylling has been the secretary at the Kinoshi Veterinary Clinic for more than 20 years and said the induction was more than well deserved.
“He’s just an awesome guy,” she said in a telephone conversation. She said the two “Docs,” Kinoshi and Matsushima, got a chance to visit at the induction ceremony. Matsushima is a legend in the beef cattle nutrition field and taught as CSU and other universities for 50 years.
“Ben said John was his idol when growing up,” Gylling said.
Konishi, contacted early before making his rounds around the valley, confirmed Matsushima was indeed his idol.
“He was five years older than me, but the only thing that separated our farm from the Matsushima farm was a plant fence,” he recalled with a laugh. That was about four miles southwest of Platteville.
Matsushima, he said, used to take he and some of the other Konishi kids – Ben was the second oldest – to 4-H meetings.
“I bought a pair of corduroy pants exactly like the ones John wore. He was valedictorian of his class, so I had to be valedictorian of mine. He won two scholarships to go to A&M, so I got two,” Konishi said. He and Matsushima had a nice visit at the banquet in Denver, he added.
“He came over to talk. I appreciated that,” he said.
Ben said his parents came to Colorado from Japan, and while his father didn’t speak English when he got here, he learned the language. Of his brothers and sisters, 13 are still alive and most have been successful. One brother is a professor at Southern Illinois, another is a veterinarian in California. One sister is a registered nurse, another a teacher with a degree from the University of Northern Colorado. One brother became a microbiologist after a career in the Air Force, another earned a graduate degree from Columbia University.
He and his wife had three children, all successful, and they now have six grandchildren and one stepgrandson, a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point. Others are either in college or high school.
On the farm growing up, Konishi said they milked 75 Guernsey cows.
“You can’t find Guernseys anymore; they are almost extinct,” he said. But he recalled his champion cow, the one that set the state record for butterfat.
“Her picture was on the front page of the Greeley Tribune. It said the state champion Guernsey cow was coming to Greeley for the Weld County Fair,” Konishi said.