Jerry Sonnenberg: End of February brings tough losses for agricultural community in Colorado
The last week of February was a tough one for agriculture. I am not speaking of low commodity prices or weather conditions, but rather the loss of four icons and proven leaders in our industry.
Bill Wailes passed this last week, but his passion for improving agriculture will never be forgotten and was underscored by his induction into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame.
“My desire is to make sure our industry is sustainable—that means profitable and environmentally sound. The animal welfare part of it has to be the best it can be,” said Wailes, whose department, the largest in the College of Agricultural Sciences at CSU, has become a leader in food safety and animal behavior and welfare.
“Bill Wailes has been one of the most positive and enlightening people I have met,” said Katlin Hornig, a student leader in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “He never fails to make sure his animal science students understand their animals’ value in life and within our industry.”
Charlie Bartlett from Merino also went to a place where water is plentiful and your tractor never breaks down.
Bartlett was a leader in the water community and served as the Chairman of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance, whose goal was to empower agriculture stakeholders to make the most informed and viable decisions regarding Colorado’s agricultural water.
“We all need each other in this state. I provide food that I produce, but I also need medical care, attorneys, all kinds of other goods and services that the people in the cities provide,” Bartlett said. “At the same time, much of the water we use on the farm goes back to cities, just in a different form. Milk, for example, is 80 to 90 percent water. Are these things that we’re willing to give up?”
He was not only a leader in the water community, but also served on a number of boards working on agriculture issues. Bartlett’s most recent years of work with Colorado Corn have been key to expanding markets within that industry.
“Ben Houston was highly beloved and had a renowned reputation across the country for his quality of cattle and expertise,” said Bill Hammerich, Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Livestock Association.
Houston was a pioneer in the livestock breeding arena, utilizing artificial insemination since 1952, decades before the rest of the industry. When asked how he would like to be remembered, Mr. Houston replied without hesitation, “as a person who has helped improve the genetics of beef cattle and to further the meaningful Houston family traditions.”
Houston also helped lead the livestock industry as he has served on many boards in agriculture, including the Colorado Cattle Feeders and the National Western Stock Show, among many others. He also served as council to the governments of Turkey, Japan and Costa Rica on livestock issues and has worked with producers in the former U.S.S.R. and the Republic of Ukraine.
Diane Hoppe also passed on this last week and will forever be remembered in the water community as the go-to person who worked to solve water issues.
As a Colorado State Representative for eight years representing northeast Colorado, she served as Chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee and the interim Legislative Water Committee; she also helped create the Colorado Foundation for Water Education to help people not associated with water to understand the issues surrounding the use of water. As the current chair of the Water Conservation Board, her leadership will indeed be missed.
Each of these icons in the agriculture industry will be missed, but their accomplishments will live on forever. The world is a better place because of each of their lives and contributions. ❖