Ranch tour

Rep. Kimmi Lewis (R), Colorado House District 64 and Colorado Land, Water and Food Alliance, sponsored a second Eastern Colorado Agriculture Tour, Saturday, June 1.

The first eastern Colorado Agriculture tour sponsored by Rep. Lewis took place in the fall of 2017; two legislators, Representatives Edie Hooton, House District 10, Boulder, and Barbara Hall McLachlan, House District 59, Durango, along with former State Senator Greg Brophy participated.

This year-seven current and one former legislator participated along with other guests representing organizations involved in agriculture or invested in legislative activities. Initial participants met at the Country Pride Restaurant, TA Travel Center in Limon, where Julie Sumpter, contact representative for Rep. Lewis, gave a brief introduction about the tour.

Gathered there were Rep. Susan Beckman, House District (HD) 38, Littleton, Rep. Cathy Kipp, HD 52, Fort Collins, Rep. Kerry Tipper, HD 28, Lakewood, Rep. Brianna Titone, HD 27, Arvada, and Senator Joann Ginal, Senate Dist. 14, Fort Collins. Lori Greenstone and Roland Halpern representing Colorado Voters for Animals also attended.

Gerald Schreiber, President of R-CALF USA, gave a brief history of COOL (Country of Origin Labelling) and why it was so important to American beef producers as well as consumers to know exactly where packaged meat was raised, finished and processed. Nick Levendofsky, Director of External Affair for Rocky Mountain Farmers Union gave an overview of issues concerning the farming and ranching community.

Alan Gentz, Sterling, gave an overview of his farming and ranching activities, recalling feed distribution to various localities as far down as Ordway and Rocky Ford. Gentz lamented the passing of the Colorado he grew up knowing which is now flooded with arrivals from out of state.

From Limon the tour headed south on Highway 71 to Cheraw, Otero County and Froese Farms and Colorado Seeds, Inc. Joining the tour at Colorado Seeds were Rep. Lewis and Rep. Bri Buentello, HD 47. Dave and Jacob Froese presented an overview of their seed production for watermelons, pumpkins, and cantaloupes.

Colorado Seeds distributes worldwide producing varieties to specific localities, such as Spain and Australia where watermelons do well in those dry climates. Jacob Froese explained how hybrid seeds are produced to grow seedless watermelons. Participants toured the greenhouse house where specific varieties are produced in controlled conditions. Three to five years are required before a genetically different variety can be ready for distribution.

From Froese Farms the tour proceeded to Cheraw and the Frontier Diner where participants had a choice of roast beef or chicken dinners.

By mid-afternoon the tour arrived at Rep. Lewis’ Muddy Valley Ranch. Doc Jones, La Junta, brought his draft team and wagon for the benefit of participants to take a short ride around Muddy Valley Ranch. After Doc Jones concluded his wagon tour, Rep. Lewis welcomed the participants to Muddy Valley Ranch and introduced Mac Louden, President, Colorado Land, Water & Food Alliance and former Las Animas County Commissioner. Louden expressed hope that such tours would improve communication and understanding between urban and rural communities.

Julie Sumpter, Parker, and one of Rep. Lewis’ older sisters, gave a brief history of Muddy Valley Ranch and described how the blizzard of spring 1957 prompted her father, Kenneth Clark, to buy a ranch with better protection for his livestock from such devastating storms like the spring 1957 storm that caused the death of many of his cattle.

Harold Unwin, Pritchett, Vice President Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, gave an overview of beef production methods. He explained that grain fed beef do not acquire glutens through grain consumption and that grass fed beef take longer to finish than grain fed.

Former State Representative Wes McKinley began remarks when Rep. Lewis interrupted and had everyone pick up a chair and head for one of the Muddy Valley Ranch barns as a thunderstorm approached from the south.

Under cover from the rain and hail Korry Lewis, Johnstown, Colorado Land Water & Food Alliance Board, explained the legislative history behind HB19-1078, National Register Land Owner Consent bill.

All the participating legislators gave brief remarks as the rain and hail pounding the roof of the barn made speaking and hearing difficult. Remarks were suspended until the rain and hail passed.

Following Wes McKinley’s remarks participants had a choice of roast beef sandwich or hamburger dinner prepared by Kelley and Patti Eskew of Pritchett, meat provided by Sheila Smith and Dude Ratliff, also of Pritchett.

Following dinner Martin Canterbury, a regional Director for Colorado Independent CattleGrowers, Vice President, Southern Colorado Livestock Association, Canon City, read some of his father’s Cowboy poetry. Wes McKinley followed with a rendition of cowboy songs.

The tour concluded with some participants staying overnight in the Muddy Valley Ranch bunkhouse, while others stayed overnight in La Junta and returned to Muddy Valley in the morning for breakfast.

What was hoped for from the tour was that legislators and others involved in legislative activities gain a better understanding of agricultural production methods and the planning and lead time necessary to produce product for consumption. For beef that lead-time is at least 18 months if not longer from the time bulls are turned out to a cowherd. For seed producers that lead time maybe five years. Any interruption in the production process compromises the ability of producers to bring product to market and affects profitability against a fluctuating market price. Hopefully, participants came away with a better understanding of rural life in eastern Colorado and take that understanding with them to the next legislative session.

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