Celebrating Ag Day at the Capitol

Story & Photos by Robyn Scherer, M.Agr.
Kiowa, Colo.
Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazer speaks about agriculture’s contribution to the state.

The first day of spring has arrived, and across the state farmers are beginning to prep their fields, and ranchers have new calves on the ground. March is also a time when producers, consumers, universities, government agencies, business and others gather to celebrate National Ag Day.

This year, the event was held on March 19, and states across the country held celebrations. In Colorado, the celebration was held at the Capitol building in Denver, Colo.

Colorado Ag Council hosted the event, and held their second annual Farm to Fork Culinary Competition, which featured top chefs from the state as well as state legislators and producers.

The day began with a few words from David Collie, the Event Chair. “We want to thank the farmers and ranchers of Colorado and the U.S. for all that you do and all the food that you produce. We really try to pride ourselves and take care of the land and make sure there is enough good food for people to eat,” he said.

Next, John Salazar, Colorado Commissioner of Ag, spoke about agriculture’s contribution to the state. “Welcome to the greatest industry in the state of Colorado. Colorado agriculture contributes over 40 billion dollars to the state’s economy,” he said.

Salazar then introduced Lt. Governor Joe Garcia. “I can honestly say this is one of those events that as soon as it’s over, we begin to look forward to next year’s event. This really excites the Capitol. The smells, the aromas, just waft throughout the entire building and everybody wants to be here and be a part of this,” he stated.

He continued, “Today’s event is a celebration of agriculture’s long and important Colorado heritage. You often hear the Governor talk about wanting Colorado to be the healthiest state. When we are talking about the healthiest state, we don’t just mean the healthiest people, the thinnest people, the fit people; that’s part of it. We also want to have a healthy economy, and Colorado’s agricultural producers really contribute to both of those things. They strengthen our economy, keep it healthy, and raise outstanding products that are grown and raised on our farms and ranches. They produce a strong and healthy people.”

Garcia then talked about a proclamation the Governor made. “On behalf of Governor Hickenlooper, it’s my pleasure to proclaim today, March 19, 2013, as Colorado Agriculture Day. We know that Colorado agriculture is one of the strongest, largest, contributors to our economy. It supports more than 173,000 jobs in Colorado and generates more than 40 billion dollars in economic activity annually with exports of nearly 1.8 million in food and agricultural products in 2012. That is pretty impressive,” he said.

The conversation then turned to the competition that is held at the Capitol during Ag Day. “Agriculture really is the foundation that connects us all, and I think that is well illustrated by the Farm to Fork teams that have come together today using Colorado farm products and Colorado talent to create unbelievable culinary creations. All Colorado proud, all Colorado fresh, all Colorado healthy. This is all due to the hard work, the men and women and families that work on our farms and ranches throughout our great state. We know agriculture produces nearly everything we eat, use and wear,” Garcia stated.

The last part of his speech focused on water, and the issues that farmers and ranchers face with drought. “As we celebrate the wonderful bounty from Colorado agriculture, let that remind us that it is incumbent on all of us to work together to insure that adequate water supplies are available for farms and ranches throughout the state, so they continue to supply us with safe, nutritious food supply. We know possibly the biggest challenges that our farmers and ranchers face here in Colorado is the ongoing drought. Yet, through innovation, through technology, through creativity and frankly through sheer determination, our farmers and ranchers have continued to produce at a record rate. We know that Colorado agriculture will always be one of the strongest components of our Colorado economy and we want to thank all of you for what you do for our state,” he finished.

Next, Senator Gail Schwartz, Chair of the Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee spoke to the attendees. “This is one of the most exciting days of the year. We know that we produce some of the finest food in the world right within that state of Colorado. We know how important it is to our economy, but also we find that our agricultural community is such a strong, team player in terms of protecting our resources, protecting our wildlife habitats, protecting our water. Colorado can’t do without agriculture and the strength of agriculture and its ability to produce fine food that feeds our country,” she said.

After she finished, Representative Randy Fischer, Chair of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee touched on the contributions that Colorado State University, which is in his district, has on agriculture. “Colorado truly through its extension and land grant mission has outreached almost every county in the state of Colorado and we are very proud supporters of the whole entire food system that is so important to the economy of the state of Colorado,” he stated.

Lastly, Representative Jerry Sonnenberg, a farmer and rancher from Sterling, gave his remarks. “It should also be known that we are not only the second largest industry in the state, but that we contribute to other industries as well: tourism and energy just to name a couple. We are proud in rural Colorado and even with our urban cousins to stand together and honor agriculture, praise agriculture, and thank agriculture for what they do for the state of Colorado,” he said.

The dishes that were created were judged by Joan Brewster, Executive Director at the Colorado Chefs Association, and 9 News Anchors Adele Arakawa and Mark Koebrich. The best all-around winner of the Farm to Fork Cookoff was Chef Klaus Krebs, with a vegetable salad that featured Colorado Dairy. In first place was Bob Holloway, Colorado Lamb, in second place was Chef Jason Morse, Colorado Beef, and in third place was Chef Chris Puter, Colorado Potatoes.

The Colorado Ag Council raised $78,500 for the Food Bank of the Rockies, and presented a check for that amount to Kevin Seggelke, Executive Director.

National Ag Day is hosted by the Agriculture Council of America, and these have five ideals that they believe every American know: to understand how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced; to value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy; to appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products; to acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food, fiber and renewable resource industries.

“Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis, and is increasingly contributing to fuel and other bioproducts. Each year, members of the agricultural industry gather together to promote American agriculture. This effort helps educate millions of consumers,” the ACA stated. ❖