Colorado Ag Hall of Fame Banquet recognizes State’s Best | TheFencePost.com

Colorado Ag Hall of Fame Banquet recognizes State’s Best

Robyn Scherer
Staff Reporter

Mike Thoren, CEO of JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding Company, accepts Colorado's Rising Star in Agriculture Award.

Hundreds of agriculturists from around the state gathered in Denver, Colo., on Feb. 23, to honor three men who were inducted into the Colorado Ag Hall of Fame, and Colorado’s Rising Star in Agriculture.

Reggie Wyckoff of Genoa, Dr. Alan Foutz of Akron, and Dawson Jordan of Walsenburg were inducted into the Colorado Ag Hall of Fame. Mike Thoren, CEO of JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding Company, was awarded Colorado’s Rising Star in Agriculture award. This is the first year for this award.

“The Hall of Fame is important to Colorado Agriculture as it reminds us of how diverse agriculture is and how people are the core of successful agriculture. We have people in Colorado that have been pioneers in new agriculture processes and techniques that have shaped agriculture in Colorado and globally. Recognizing those gives credit where credit is due, but also inspires others to achieve,” said Don Thorn, Executive Director for the Colorado FFA Foundation.

A total of 385 people attended the event, which included farmers, ranchers, politicians, FFA members and other agricultural producers.

The Colorado FFA State Officer team helped to run the event, and John Salazar, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, served as the Master of Ceremonies.

“When we look around this room, and you look at all of our producers, it is a truly representative sample of what is going on in agriculture. Today’s farmer, their average age is 58 years old,” Salazar said.

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He continued, “We have a great opportunity to recognize some of our young and rising stars, a first ever for this organization. We are so ever excited to present the first ever Rising Star in Agriculture award this year. The Rising Star is someone between the ages of 35 to 50, who is making great accomplishments in production agriculture or agri-business. Our inaugural recipient embodies the spirit of the award, and has set the bar for other rising stars in Colorado.”

Thoren grew up in the Okanogan Valley in Washington. He graduated from Washington State University Summa Cum Laude in 1990, and obtained his Master’s the following year from WSU.

In 1991, he began working for Continental Grain in Texas, and was quickly promoted up to General Manager of their feedyard in Lamar, Colo. He then became the CEO for Conti-Group, which then evolved into Five Rivers Cattle Feeding. It then became a division of JBS.

Thoren is now the CEO of the largest cattle feeding operation in the world. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a great honor to be here tonight and be the inaugural rising star. This is something that I am truly grateful to receive,” said Thoren.

He continued, “Jobs in agriculture, be that in a family farm or in a corporation, are more than just paychecks. They are great learning environments. As my biography indicates, my professional journey started on my grandparent’s wheat and cattle ranches. These early experiences sparked the passion for production agriculture that has propelled me forward.”

Thoren believes his jobs have helped teach him life lessons. “Real jobs in agriculture or industry give kids and young people real responsibility that is important, I mean really important, and they pay huge long term dividends to society. I am especially passionate about this issue, because I strongly believe my early work experiences were significant in shaping who I am today.”

He then talked about the future of U.S. agriculture as he sees it. “As I look forward, I can’t help but be excited about the prospects of U.S. agriculture. A world population that it is expected to grow to over 9 billion by 2050 and a rapid rising in personal incomes in the developing world, set the stage for a long and prosperous run for American agriculture,” he said.

He continued, “It seems to me the only real challenges to achieve this prosperity is if we in agriculture can work together to achieve three important goals. First, we need to work together to stop the burdensome and unproductive regulations. Second, we need to work together to increase the access of our U.S. products to world markets. After all, only 4 percent of the world population resides in the U.S. Third, and maybe most important, is we need to continue attracting a steady flow of bright people into agriculture.”

After the rising star award, the Hall of Fame inductees were recognized. “The recipients are chosen after someone nominates them. A person completes a nomination packet and then a committee made up of members of the Colorado FFA Foundation Board evaluates the nominees and makes final selections,” said Thorn.

The first inductee was Dr. Alan Foutz. “This is a real honor. When I received the call that I was going to be inducted, I was speechless. I was thinking about how humbling it will be, and is, to be a part of such a magnificent group of people and giants in agriculture in the state of Colorado and I simply cannot thank FFA, and all those organizations that have allowed me to be here tonight enough,” said Foutz.

The second man to be inducted was Dawson Jordan. “I didn’t get here by myself. I had the support of an entire industry, and I had plenty of help with the accomplishments I had from 1960 to 1990,” he said.

He continued, “I humbly, very humbly accept the honor to be in the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame for everyone and every organization who worked with me and the dairy industry from 1960 to 1990.”

The last man of the evening to be inducted was Reggie Wyckoff. “You know I’m deeply humbled by this. I never ever thought that I was a leader. I just thought I was a farmer out there trying to get something done. My idea was, follow me, lead me, or get out of the way. That is the way I worked. Everybody pretty much always knew where I stood,” said Wyckoff.

“This is just a wonderful event and I just thank all the people who have supported me through the times. With the FFA and the blue coats, I think ag is in good hands,” he said.

After the inductees were awarded, Rep. Cory Gardner, the keynote speaker for the evening, spoke to the attendees of the banquet.

“Congratulations to all of the inductees. It is truly an honor to stand before you and share this incredibly evening and you and your families. It’s amazing,” Gardner said.

He then spoke about the importance of agriculture. “Agriculture is this country. It made this country, and it will continue to serve this country. Life in agriculture is a life worth living,” he said.

The Hall of Fame Banquet serves to honor those in agriculture, as well as raise money for the FFA. “The event is a major fundraiser for the FFA Foundation. By having funds for the foundation it can operate and seek other funds to invest in FFA members. Last year the FFA Foundation invested over $90,000 in FFA members and FFA programs all across Colorado,” said Thorn.

“Agriculture is a wonderful industry to be in,” said Foutz.