Colorado agriculture producers, legislators gather to celebrate Ag Day at the Capitol
DENVER — Whether they’re raising pigs, chickens, peaches or wheat, the agriculture community always is hard at work behind the scenes getting food ready for the grocery stores.
But the curtain was pulled back Wednesday and agriculture was brought to the forefront in Denver with Ag Day at the Capitol, a legislative event to recognize the industry. The celebration was Colorado’s nod to National Agriculture Week, which is March 14-19.
Hundreds gathered in the Colorado Capitol to recognize Colorado’s producers and taste food from the Farm to Fork Culinary Competition. The competition featured Colorado-raised protein and produce prepared by the Colorado Ag Council.
Jane Dvorak, who was at Ag Day with the Rocky Mountain Agribusiness Association, said she thought it was great the state legislators recognized the importance of agriculture.
“Agribusiness is essential,” she said. “Colorado’s ag community is critical not only to our state, but our nation. It’s important to realize how it contributes to our economy as a whole.”
And it’s great to have that recognition in a city center, she said.
“When you live in urban areas, it’s there (when) you go to the grocery store and put it on the table, but people don’t always realize the whole process behind it,” Dvorak said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper agreed some urban dwellers may not understand what goes in to putting that food on the shelves at the store, and that’s the point of Ag Day at the Capitol.
“We do take for granted our food,” Hickenlooper said. “We don’t recognize the work that goes into it.”
Sen. John Cooke, R-Greeley, said it’s sad how few of Colorado’s residents are connected to the farm.
“People think that their meat comes from a grocery store, that their milk comes from a grocery store,” he said. “So we need to get the word out because it’s important to our community and to our state. It’s such an important industry in Colorado. It’s who we are.”
Robert Sakata, a Brighton producer who farms fields in Weld County, said a lot of producers look forward to Ag Day because it’s a chance to introduce people to the industry and explain what they do behind the scenes.
“Less than 3 percent of the population is now involved in agriculture,” he said. “This is one of the premier days for ag.”
And it helps to get a little reminder that what they do is important.
“I think it helps us farmers remember how important our jobs are,” he said. “Food is life — that’s where it all starts from.”
Hickenlooper noted how vital agriculture is to the Colorado economy.
“We talk about how ag lifted the state out of the recession when almost every other industry was on its back,” he said.
He said there are more than 35,000 farms and 170,000 people working in agriculture in Colorado.
“It’s more than just quality and abundance. This is a way of life in Colorado that has defined Colorado for well over 150 years,” Hickenlooper said. “This is a self-sufficient, hard-working lifestyle that rewards those people who take informed risks and will put the work behind it.”
The agriculture industry is vital not only to the economy and to Colorado’s heritage, but the industry also is responsible for providing food to the nation.
Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown said farmers do such a good job that the discussion is of abundance rather than shortcomings in food across the country.
“We’ve done such a good job that we no longer have to think about food with our stomach,” he said, “but we get to think about it with our hearts.” ❖