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CFVGA Annual Conference goes online

As part of promoting Colorado grown fruits and vegetables Robert Sakata appeared with 9 News weather person Danielle Grant and Dr. Ashley Stokes from Colorado State University on air during their newscast to promote Colorado produce. Courtesy photo

For thrifty homemakers, many fruits and vegetables would soon come at too dear a cost — the widespread desperation of the Great Depression was just beginning when the Good Housekeeping Institute published its 1930 cookbook, “Meals Tested, Tasted and Approved.”

Jaunty recipes on the now-yellowed, food-stained pages — which still lay between the red and white striped cover — must have become mid-20th century treats. Others prepared with down-to-earth basic ingredients likely graced tables more frequently. Cauliflower Timbales, for example.

But before discovering that 90-year-old recipe’s charms, and how to prepare it, learn how it’s star performer and other veggies are promoted in 2020 Colorado.



CFVGA ORIGINS

In 2013, to benefit fruit and vegetable growers, about 10 Colorado farmers organized a group they dubbed Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. One of those co-founders, Robert Sakata, currently farms 2,500-acres in Brighton, producing red, white, yellow onions; pinto beans; wheat; grain corn and silage.



Pictured is the CFVGA founding board of directors at its first conference along with its partners at Western Growers. Starting bottom left going clockwise: Shane Milberger (Pueblo), Jason Condon (Lafayette), Amy Kunugi (Center), Adrian Card (CSU), Hank Giclas (Western Growers), unknown, Dennis Nuxoll (Western Growers), John Recca (Brandwerks), Dr. Mike Bartollo (CSU), Bruce Talbott (Palisade), Robert Sakata (Brighton), Dan Long (Mad Greens), Dominic Disanti (Pueblo), Reid Fishering (Montrose). Courtesy photo

Sakata was born into a farming family. His father, Bob Sakata, diligently tilled the California soil near San Francisco with his father until World War II came crashing down on them.

The Sakatas lost their land and nearly everything they owned when the U.S. federal government “relocated” them to a Utah internment camp, one of many set up across the country designed to restrain Japanese-Americans throughout the duration of the war.

Bob, two sisters and their father luckily secured early release, moving to Colorado. This well-deserved mercy was largely due to the efforts of then-Gov. Ralph Lawrence Carr, said Robert Sakata, who grew up working Colorado’s land while learning a strong work ethic from his dad. At age 94, Bob Sakata continues his daily tasks at the big farm operation’s office.

SPREADING THE WORD

The CFVGA published crop calendars to be located in Colorado grocery stores' produce departments showing people what produce was available during different times of the year. Courtesy photo

CFVGA has grown to approximately 250 members in the seven years since its inception, said Executive Director Marilyn Bay-Drake. The association advocates for Colorado produce through all types of media, both in-state and nationally, and is comprised of growers, allied industries and partner members (such as Extension and researchers).

Sakata expanded on those efforts, pointing out that CFVGA works with the Colorado Department of Agriculture through social media to advance awareness of the nutritional/health benefits of Colorado-grown fruits and vegetables.

“Consumers are losing track of where their food comes from,” Sakata said, adding. “Local produce is fresh and seasonal.”

One educational method began in 2019 with a campaign on CFVGA’s website, http://www.coloradoproduce.org, and at King Soopers stores that displayed 3-foot high posters. These visual aids showed fruits/vegetable varieties’ seasonal dates. Similar information appeared on 3”x6” cards at Farmers Markets.

More promotional ideas, credited to Sakata, continue to be realized thanks to work done by Colorado college student-interns who film informational videos at farms and post them on social media.

The CFVGA hosted a meeting with U.S. Department of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to voice producers' concerns to government officials. Courtesy photo

THE FIVE PILLARS

CFVGA members volunteer on Five Pillar Committees, as follows:

• Business Development, which is spearheaded by professionals including Dr. Becca Jablonski, PhD. Growers can obtain practical and technical marketing advice from this committee.

• Food Safety — New Food and Drug Administration rules that growers must follow enhance food safety for consumers. Producers participate fully by having a voice to respond should a food-borne illness occur. Martha Sullins from Colorado State University is among the members of the Food Safety Committee.

• Nutrition & Health partners with the Colorado Department of Health to connect schools with farmers in using locally grown produce for students’ lunch programs.

• Water — This critical issue runs the gamut of production. Grocery stores’ produce size and quality requirements which farmers must meet require adequate irrigation of crops from planting to harvest.

• Labor — Lots of demanding physical work is required seasonally to get harvests from field to market. Individuals who pick crops require training per crop variety (i.e. watermelon harvesting differs from apples, from peaches, from cherries, from tomatoes).

Sakata noted that help is getting harder and harder to find, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problem. The Labor Committee continually researches mechanization methods for crops currently hand-picked.

Regarding COVID-19, Sakata’s farm is considered an essential business. While remaining open, safety measures, such as PPE (personal protective equipment), disinfectants, etc., were initially hard to find. He worked with the Colorado Department of Agriculture to locate PPE sources and define guidelines for ag employees’ welfare.

CFVGA President Robert Sakata, far left, of Sakata Farms in Brighton, Colo., was invited to join U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and other ag leaders to ring the ending bell Sept. 26, 2018, at the New York Stock Exchange. Courtesy photo

Fortunately, timing was on the growers’ side, since March planting is an outdoor activity and, therefore, essentially socially distant. Farmers Markets worked with their local health departments about new regulations, including no free samples.

Many seasonal workers use grower-provided housing. More space for each individual became necessary with the pandemic; a separate quarantine location needed to be provided for those exposed to the virus; transportation from housing to fields required additional buses or shift changes to stagger start times.

ANNUAL CONFERENCE

The upcoming Online CFVGA Annual Conference will be held Feb. 17-18, 2021. Pre-COVID, these amiably boisterous social gatherings included personal interaction and educational events presented by the five pillar committees.

But there will still be a keynote speaker at the February conference. Russ Schumacher, Colorado’s State Climatologist, will address the topic of 2021’s Water Forecast and Climate Outlook.

This photo was taken outside of the ballroom at the first CFVGA Annual Conference in 2014. Courtesy photo

Also switching to an online format is the always-popular “speed dating” session, as Sakata called it. Each producer hosts a table where potential buyers line up to ask questions, and be likewise quizzed by that grower, one pairing per every 5 minutes. When the bell rings, buyers must proceed to the next table, and so on. “Zoom!” (pun intended).

For additional information about CFVGA or its 2021 Annual Conference visit http://www.coloradoproduce.org. Address questions via email to admin@coloradoproduce.org. Or call Executive Director Marilyn Bay-Drake at (303) 594-3827.

 

SIDEBAR

CAULIFLOWER TIMBALES

(as printed in the 1930 Good Housekeeping Institute cookbook)

1 medium head cauliflower

2 beaten eggs

3 tablespoonfuls grated cheese

1 cupful milk

½ teaspoonful salt

1/8 teaspoonful pepper

Break the cauliflower into separate tiny flowerets and cook until tender. Nearly fill greased timbale molds or custard cups with the same. Meanwhile combine the beaten eggs, milk, salt, pepper and grated cheese. Pour this custard mixture slowly into the molds or cups so that it fills all the interstices. Set the molds in a pan of hot water and bake in a slow oven of 325 degrees F for about 40 minutes, or until a silver knife inserted in the center of the timbale comes out clean. Unmold and serve with tomato sauce. Serves 6.


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