George Hoff: Farm Show beginnings
by Bill Jackson
The Greeley Tribune
George Hoff wondered at times who he was actually working for.
Hoff, now 90-years-old, is the only one of the five organizers left who started what is now the Colorado Farm Show. That was in 1964 and it was conducted as the Colorado Ag Chemical Exposition in the Community Building on a space now occupied by the Union Colony Civic Center. That show featured 30 exhibitors who paid $40 each for booth space.
Hoff said he was approached by George James, then director of the Weld County office of Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, to help organize that show. At the time Hoff was a field man for Simplot Soil Builders, selling agriculture chemicals and fertilizers.
“Half the time I felt like I was working for the extension service because I was involved in a lot of (crop) research programs with those guys,” Hoff said. So James, Hoff, Stan Boyes (who was to become director of the extension office when James retired), Chuck Urano (who was the extension horticulturist) and Don Showquist (who worked for Niagra Chemical Co. of Greeley) organized that first farm show.
In 1965, the Greeley Chamber of Commerce offered its support of the show and in 1966, the name was changed to the Colorado Farm Show to reflect the total agricultural industry. In 1975, it moved to the Exhibition Building in Island Grove Park to accommodate 122 exhibitors. The first two shows were conducted in mid-February.
“We realized that wasn’t the best time of the year because some farmers were already getting into their fields by then,” Hoff said. So he and Urano went to Denver and met with National Western Stock Show officials. It was decided the stock show would start as early as possible in January, then the farm show would follow the week after the stock show closed. “We were able to get a lot of exhibitors from the stock show to come to Greeley that following week and that’s still the case,” Hoff said.
Hoff spent 28 years with the farm show and when it moved to Island Grove Park, he designed the pattern for and built all the electrical cables to run power to the booths in both the Exhibition and 4-H Buildings. That pattern continues in use today. That comes from a man who was not able to finish high school.
Born in Sugar City, at the age of 6 Hoff came to Weld County with his family. He grew up on farms in the Gilcrest and Peckham area of central Weld. He went to school through the eighth grade at the Big Bend School between Gilcrest and Milliken, then came into Greeley for high school.
“But that was during the depression. I didn’t finish high school because dad said there was plowing that needed to be done,” Hoff said.
While farming, Hoff also worked for Wyoming rancher Philip Lorenz, who also had farmland in Weld. Hoff, a brother and two neighbor boys broke horses for Lorenz.
“Just before the stock show, he’d take us to Cheyenne and we could get a new pair of boots, or jeans or a new shirt to wear to Denver. That was our pay for breaking the horses,” Hoff said. “I loved every minute of it.”
He went to work for the John Deere dealership in 1935 and spent 22 years at that before joining Simplot in 1957. He retired from that company in 1972 then spent seven years as a groundskeeper for Aims Community College.
On Aug. 14, 1934, he married a childhood friend. “She was a farm girl from up around Eaton. We met through our church and other things,” Hoff said. He and Edith have been together since then, with 38 of those years spent in a home they bought near Greeley Central High School. “We bought this home and paid for it in 18 months,” Hoff said proudly. They raised three children.
Daughter Joan Leinweber lives in California while sons Jerry and Richard continue to make their home in Greeley. They have four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Hoff looks forward to visiting the 2002 show with the addition of the new Community Building. “They had a waiting list for a long time of people wanting to get in that show. It should be pretty nice,” he said.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.