Colorado Farm Show honors one of its pillars
Lavonne Rogakis will be volunteering at the 2011 Colorado Farm Show just like she’s done since … well, she can’t really remember, but it might be since 1981.
Rogakis, 77, of Greeley, has been named volunteer of the year for the 2011 show, which starts today and continues through Thursday at facilities in Greeley’s Island Grove Regional Park.
The show’s programming is free; there is a $5 parking fee, paid once, which is good for all three days. Money generated by that fee is used to finance six, $2,000 scholarships given to high school seniors in the region. Those will be announced Wednesday evening.
Upward of 30,000 visitors come to Greeley for the annual show, which is now in its 47th year and traditionally features some 350 vendors. Programs are scheduled each day, focusing on different areas of agriculture. This year’s theme is Stewards of the Land.
The show is planned and operated by volunteers, such as Rogakis, who has had a number of duties over the years, starting with what was then called the women’s day, to being in charge of a souvenir booth, the show’s historian, to working in the office, which she will do again this year.
Rogakis, and her late husband, Alex, who died of cancer in 1988, operated a dairy and farm west of Greeley for a number of years. Both became involved in what was to become the Colorado Farm Show when it was first conducted in a Quonset hut in downtown Greeley, on ground now occupied by the Union Colony Civic Center.
Born in Johnstown and raised in Greeley, Rogakis and her husband married in 1954. They moved from the Ault-Pierce area to Windsor, then in 1956 started the dairy operation at what is now 71st Avenue and 20th Street.
“We farmed all four corners and were 10 miles from greater downtown Greeley,” she said with a laugh. They built the herd, in partnership with an Eaton veterinarian, to 150 cows, and eventually took over total control of the dairy. They bought a farm in 1975 on what is now 95th Avenue between U.S. 34 and U.S. 34 Bypass and raised two sons, Mike, who now lives in Longmont, and Doug, who lives in Fort Collins. She has four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
She was one of the co-founders of the Northern Colorado Dairyettes, a group of women who promote dairy products through a number of programs and events, such as the farm show.
Her husband died just before corn harvest, but, in a fortunate move, they had decided to go into a government buyout of dairy cattle about two years prior. All of their dairy cows were gone by the time Alex passed away.
Because Alex had handled all of the financial duties of the farm, Rogakis found herself without any credit along with other numerous problems. That led her to become involved in facilitating financial programs for women through the Weld office of Colorado State University Extension, working with Elmer Rothman, who was then the agronomist at that office and has since retired.
And her husband’s passing is another reason she has remained involved with the farm show.
“When your husband dies, you don’t just lose a mate. You lose your whole life, your association with people,” she said.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.