Bill Jackson: Ag Talk 5-30-11
In the words of the famous – or perhaps infamous in the minds of some – “Dandy” Don Meredith: “Turn out the lights, the party’s over,” with all due respect to Willie Nelson whose song inspired the saying.
After more than 33 years covering agriculture in Weld County and northern Colorado, it’s time to put the notebook(s) in the archives and move on to something else. And that something else is going to be absolutely nothing for a time.
For the past few weeks, since making the decision to retire, I’ve recalled the people and the events that have been a part of those 33-plus years.
The big events come to mind easily – the farmer protests and tractorcades of the 1980s when interest rates were sky high and commodity prices bottomed out; the attempt by sugar beet farmers to buy the bankrupt Great Western Sugar Co.; the day Kenny Monfort called and said he’d just sold Monfort of Colorado, and would I like to come up to his office and discuss the sale (ya think?); the rumors leading up to the final announcement by the city of Thornton that bought some 100 farms in northern Weld and Larimer counties for the water on those farms; the purchase of the Western Sugar Co. by a farmer-owned cooperative from Tate & Lyle that had outbid farmers.
Then there were the drought years of the early 2000s and the shutdown of irrigation wells along the South Platte River that remains a point of contention for many yet today.
And there’s the ongoing process of trying to build more water storage, which will be critical to the future of agriculture in northern Colorado – and which, it feels like at times, has been going on for centuries.
While those events are important, the most important part of my job over the years has been the people – the farmers and ranchers of Weld and northern Colorado, who have been the stewards of the land since the start of agriculture in the area. Those are way too numerous to name because as sure as the crops come up in the spring and are harvested in the summer and fall, way too many would be skipped.
But it’s been all of those people who have made this job a whole lot easier over the years. Those people also include those who represent the farm and ranch groups who are as diverse as agriculture itself.
Because there’s one thing about farmers and ranchers and anyone involved in agriculture: You ask them a question and there’s going to be an answer with no sugar coating or bouncing around the edges. Take it or leave it, there it is. All I had to do was quote them as accurately as possible.
There have also been the mentors over the years. People who would take the time to sit and discuss agriculture, its importance to the area, why it happened, how it happened and why it should continue, in addition to what it will take to continue. All I had to do was listen, understand and learn.
Some of those were remarkable men of vision and action such as Monfort, W.D. Farr, Paul Hoshiko, Sonny Mapelli, Bob Sakata, Walt Younglund, Hank Brown and Larry Simpson, just to name just a few.
And there’s been the kids in 4-H and FFA who have grown and become successful in their own right through the programs those outstanding organizations offer.
But most important were the farmers and ranchers who go about their daily work putting food on the table for the rest of us to consume, and, on occasion, would take a break from sometime hectic times to stop for an interview in the middle of a field somewhere in Weld County and share their thoughts, concerns and/or opinions. And, quite frankly, that’s been fun. I can’t thank all of them enough.
A thank-you just doesn’t seem like it’s enough – but a thank-you to all is the best I can do.
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