Colorado FFA Foundation announces Hall of Fame Inductees
October 17, 2017
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The Colorado FFA Foundation announced four inductees into the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame. Mary Lou Chapman, Arvada, Thomas Kourlis, Englewood, Lee Sommers, Fort Collins and Harry Charles Talbott, Palisade, will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame in February 2018. Friends, peers and business associates will recognize the four inductees during the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame Banquet on Feb. 21, 2018, at the Renaissance Hotel, Denver. Hosted by the Colorado FFA Foundation, the banquet is held annually to induct members into the Agriculture Hall of Fame who have significantly contributed to Colorado's second largest industry. A unique, multi-media presentation will highlight the life of each new inductee during the ceremony.
"We are proud to add four more outstanding individuals to the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame. The selection pool was very competitive", said Ed Cordes, chairman of the Colorado FFA Foundation.
The Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame Banquet will be held in conjunction with the Governor's Forum on Colorado Agriculture and is a prime opportunity to gauge the direction of the agriculture industry. Industry and political leaders, as well as family farmers and ranchers who lead and support the agriculture industry and its future, attend both the forum and the banquet. Tickets are available to the public.
The honorees will join 93 other outstanding Colorado agriculturists who have been similarly honored since 1989. All Agriculture Hall of Fame members' portraits are displayed in the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame in the CoBank Center for Agricultural Education at Colorado State University.
Mary Lou Chapman, Arvada, has a passion for agriculture that has intertwined her life with nearly every aspect of the food production, processing, wholesaling and the retailing industries for over 45 years. With a strong commitment to leadership, Mary Lou has served as president/CEO for the Rocky Mountain Food Industry for over 20 years. Additionally, she took on the role of executive director of the Colorado Young Farmers Educational Association. Chapman was the first Coloradoan to be appointed to the National Agricultural Research and Extension Users Advisory Board. She has also represented the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee, the Colorado Pork Producers Council and the Colorado Apple Administrative Council. Additionally, she co-founded Colorado Farmers' Market, Colorado Farm-City Week, Colorado Consumer Food Forum, the Colorado FFA Foundation and the Colorado Food Clearing House. Mary Lou was raised on a farm-ranch operation in eastern El Paso County. She is always willing to lend her time or expertise for the betterment of rural America.
Thomas Kourlis, Englewood, is a respected stockman, ranch land manager and leader of the sheep industry. He challenged the sheep industry to improve, evolve and respond to changing markets. His leadership as the first president of the American Lamb Board was largely responsible for the national checkoff program for lamb producers. Kourlis honorably served as Colorado's Commissioner of Agriculture for four years. He was instrumental in resolving many issues associated with preserving and protecting federal land use and wildlife concerns. As commissioner, Kourlis earned awards from Wheat Administrative Committee and Corn Growers Association, Weed Management Association and the potato growers. Kourlis has also served as executive director of the American Sheep Industry Association. He continues to serve on many board councils serving not only the sheep industry but Colorado agriculture as a whole.
Lee Sommers, Fort Collins, is a distinguished teacher, scientist and administrator who served Colorado agriculture for more than three decades. During his tenure at Colorado State University, he served as professor/head of the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, as Agriculture Experiment Station and interim dean, College of Agriculture. Sommers stands out as one of the leading academic and science administrators to come through CSU. Sommers worked closely with crop-based commodity groups to address issues of production, disease, pests and water among others. His supervisory and oversight of wheat breeding and genetics have made CSU one of the nation's leading universities in developing new strains of wheat that are drought and disease tolerant. Sommers' research publications have been cited online over 20,000 times. He continues to contribute to the future of agriculture by serving on the board of directors of the Colorado Agriculture Leadership Program and serves as special assistant to the CSU dean of Agricultural Sciences.
Harry Charles Talbott, Palisade, is a fourth-generation Colorado farmer whose vision and tireless work has created long-term stability for the Palisade fruit industry and a pathway to success for new farmers. In addition to working much of his life as a high school science teacher, he, his wife Bonnie and 11 family members run Talbott Mountain Gold, a successful tree fruit operation which sells Palisade peaches in addition to apples, pears and grapes. His innovation and willingness to experiment with varieties, growing methods and new marketing program has allowed Talbott Mountain Gold to expand into added value products like Talbott's Apple Cider. Talbott's contribution to his community and the fruit industry are exemplary. He founded the Mesa Land Trust to preserve agricultural land from being developed, enabling young growers to get started in the fruit industry. He also served on the United Fruit Growers board, the Colorado Lands Project, and the Mesa County Planning Commission, in addition to being a long-time Boy Scott leader. With Talbott still involved with the day-to-day operations, Talbott Farms Inc. has grown into the largest fruit producer and marketer in the Grand Valley.