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Salute to Agriculture Staff

EDITORIAL STAFF Jeff Rice, Journal-Advocate Lisa Young, Journal-Advocate

SUPPORT STAFF Samantha Fagan, Journal-Advocate Maggie Kroeker, Fort Morgan Times

On the cover: A John Deere 9620 R Drive and John Deere 9520 RT. Photo provided by 21st Century Equipment.

ASSISTANT EDITORS Jenni Grubbs, Fort Morgan Times Callie Jones, Journal-Advocate

ADVERTISING EXECUTIVES Steve Buxton, Journal-Advocate Kim Francis, Journal-Advocate Andrew Ohlson, Fort Morgan Times


On this page: Wheat is harvested in a field west of Fleming in July 2019. Photo by Jeff Rice of the Sterling Journal-Advocate.

A publication of The Fort Morgan Times and the Sterling Journal-Advocate Brian Porter, Publisher Sara Waite, Editor

Copyright 2019, Prairie Mountain Media


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Harvested pumpkins are ready to be gathered from a field near Merino.

INSIDE MCC investing in agriculture.....................................................................6 NJC campus expansion adds room for precision ag....................................8

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Lorenzini Farms in Weldona a Centennial farm.........................................10 Ancient grain, modern tastes come together........................................... 12 NJC Aggies’ annual oyster fry.................................................................16



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Ag experience runs deep for Bruce Bass.................................................17 Oxen provide brawn for Crook family farm................................................20 Joanna Harris at Morgan County Extension..............................................23 Peetz rancher provides ranch-ready mounts.............................................27 Extension agent earns plaudits..............................................................32 Agribusiness incubator study underway...................................................34 Caliche FFA off and running....................................................................36 Merino FFA has busy few months............................................................38 Smirk’s is all about relationships............................................................40

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Salute to Agriculture

MCC investing in agriculture New facility to house current programs, offer room to grow By Geoff Baumgartner The Fort Morgan Times

More tools for college-level agriculture programs are on their way for students at Morgan Community College, as well as additional resources for local communities. The capital campaign for a new agriculture facility was launched at the MCC Foundation’s 20th annual Gala, held Feb. 27 at Wickham Tractor Company. The new facility, tentatively named Poplar Hall — Agriculture Center for Innovation, will provide a modern teaching and learning space for students in the Agriculture and Business Management and Precision Agriculture programs at the MCC Fort Morgan Campus, according to MCC President Dr. Curt Freed. “When I think from the perspective of our district size — 11,500 square miles — it’s huge, and every one of those miles is agriculture,” Freed said. “The college has served some of the needs in the ag business management program, but there’s lots of additional needs still to be addressed, and the new building will allow us to do that.” “It occurred to us as we were

Design rendering courtesy Morgan Community College

Morgan Community College is in the process of building Poplar Hall, a new agriculture facility.

putting together a campus master plan that one spot that we are absolutely out of room is agriculture. It became clear to us that this is an area where we can do a small building and be able to tackle it immediately,” he added. According to Freed, the building will boast a total of around 5,000 square feet and will include a classroom and computer laboratory; a shop laboratory space that will run the length of the building


from front to back; and several offices to house the agriculture faculty. The shop laboratory will be large enough to park large tractors inside, Freed said. The new facility will sit between Birch and Cedar Halls on the eastcentral part of campus. The college’s welding program is housed in Birch and adult basic skills, ELL and ESL programs in Cedar. “I think it’s going to be a nice

addition to the campus neighborhood,” Freed explained. “It has a fresh perspective and goes with the aesthetic that we’re looking to develop in the rest of the campus building projects we’re looking at in the future.” Freed also said that construction of the new hall, which broke ground in the spring, will be on a “fast-track” process. “We are expecting to have the building See MCC, pg. 7

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MCC from page 6 done in December and start teaching classes there in January (2020),” he said.

their precision ag program out of a spare office and what he said felt like a storage unit. The new facility will allow the college to expand Addressing needs that space. The new facility is intended to “The new precision agriculture allow MCC’s agriculture curricuprogram, which we started in the lum to expand, as well as offer fall of 2018, will also be in the new opportunities for other programs facility,” Freed continued. “That down the road, according to the program currently has one faculty college president. member, and as we hopefully see a “We have a long-standing agristrong enrollment this coming fall culture business management pro- we are open to adding additional gram, which offers certificates faculty to that program as well.” that are around using technology Freed explained the new precito make farms more productive sion agriculture program is intendwith entrepreneurial skills,” Freed ed to bring together traditional explained. agriculture practices and up-and“There is one faculty member coming technology. for the ABM program in Fort Mor“Precision agriculture is really gan who is new to the college, and the point where things like satelwill be the coordinator of the prolites and farm implements come gram and will be housed in the together,” the college president new facility,” Freed said. “We’re said. “It’s centered on the use of also looking at the potential of hir- resources like fertilization and ing a couple of additional faculty water, and pairing that with equipwho would do more with business ment that will ‘know the field’ and development in the agricultural drones that can tell you where dry community.” spots and disease are.” Freed also explained the new Freed also explained MCC grew

building will offer other opportunities not feasible with the current facilities. “The shop laboratory will be large enough so if we want to clear it out and host agriculture conferences we would have the space to do so,” he said. “If there are special topics or professional development we can do for the ag community, the building will allow us to do that. “Having one place where we will have the synergy of the faculty and students in one facility for these programs makes sense,” Freed explained. “Plus, we’ll have the extra space to be able to help grow future agricultural curriculum. “One thing is for sure, we plan to continue to expand our agriculture programs to meet the needs of the region,” Freed said.

Foundation contributions

The MCC Foundation raised $20,000 at their February gala to launch the fundraising campaign for the new agriculture center, according to a report released to The Times. Those funds came from a paddle auction held at the event, the release said.

In all, the event brought in more than $100,000 through admission and raffle ticket sales, sponsorships and proceeds from the silent, live and paddle auctions. Proceeds go to support MCC students by funding scholarships, programs, innovative technology and facilities. “I continue to be overwhelmed by the loyal support our generous community provides to help MCC fulfill its mission to empower students and enrich the community,” stated the Foundation’s director, Kari Linker. “We were proud to honor our agriculture industry in this year’s Gala theme, ‘Boots, Bling, and Blessings,’ and we will continue to do so as we support the future plans of MCC.” The gala event also included a special recognition of Dr. Jarrold (Jarry) and Sue Schaefer as the 2019 Distinguished Donor recipients. Information about contributing to the Morgan Community College Foundation may be found by contacting Linker at 970-542-3113; by email at Kari.Linker@; or by visiting


Salute to Agriculture

NJC campus expansion includes added room for precision ag Added space will allow students to learn skills such as retrofitting a tractor By Callie Jones Journal-Advocate News Editor

Northeastern Junior College has launched an aggressive campaign to raise $6.7 million to fund expansion of its Applied Technology Campus and part of that expansion project includes additional space for the precision agriculture program. Right now, the ATC programs, which include diesel technology, automotive technology, wind technology, welding technology and precision agriculture, are housed in a 54,000-square foot area that allows little room for growth. When completed, the expanded campus will be at a total of 89,153 square feet. “We’re turning away students; more students want to get into the diesel program than we can fit, because we don’t have any space. We’re not developing new programs, because we don’t have any space,” Lisa LeFevre, vice president of finance and administra-

Courtesy photo

A concept design showing Northeastern Junior College's expanded Applied Technology Campus, which will include added room for the precision agriculture program.

tion, told the NJC Advisory Council at a recent meeting. LeFevre is passionate about making sure NJC’s buildings reflect how serious the college is about education.


“The Applied Technology Campus, those guys don’t just teach people how to fix things, they teach people why it works, what it does and really give them depth of knowledge to be able to not


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See NJC, pg. 9



only go inspect charts out, but be able to troubleshoot and be able to make things better and to be an active participant in their profession,” she said. “But, you get to

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NJC from page 8 our buildings and there’s no space for the students to collaborate. All of those programs are siloed; there’s no place for students to have some downtime. Many of them eat their lunch in a truck in the parking lot instead of having a space where they can be to go.” Given that competitive CTE (Career Technical Education) programs in this region, such as Ecotech and WyoTech, have either disappeared or lost capacity for enrollment, NJC has an excellent near-term opportunity to establish itself as the school of choice for high-demand workforce-ready careers in Colorado. To do that, NJC is turning towards its campus expansion project, which will feature centralized administrative offices, a single consolidated resource library, a program-agnostic “lounge” area where students can study, eat lunch, socialize and/or collaborate, and a virtual classroom to allow instructors to conduct classes in polysynchronous format, providing options for students to learn in person, remotely, and/or to view or return to a recorded lecture when needed. As part of the expansion, 6,552 square feet of space (2,000 additional square feet) has been allotted for the precision agriculture program. “Precision ag integrates information and production systems in order to increase and improve efficiencies, as well as profitability on farms,” explained Andy Bartlett, soils/agronomy instructor at NJC, in a video for the expansion project.

be able to do a lot of diverse types of things in precision ag. The proposed additional program space will enable students to learn skills such as retrofitting a farm tractor with GPS, automated steering and other technologies that optimize fertilizer and pesticide usage. According to LeFevre, NJC has saved some money from the Colorado Community College System’s Rural Sustainability Initiative to invest in the precision ag program, with a plan of purchasing a “dumb” tractor and all of the technology to put on it to make it into a “smart” tractor. “We’re not going to just go get a ‘smart’ tractor and say ‘Okay, students, this is how you operate this piece of machinery.’ We’re going to teach them how to retrofit it, so they really understand the technology and how you can make this happen. Those skills, as far as an ag technician, wouldn’t it be nice to have somebody who knows how to do that, because Jeff Rice / Journal-Advocate file photo most of our smaller farmers don’t NJC Prof. Andy Bartlett coaches his students on launching one of the colhave the money to go buy a coulege’’s Phantom quadcopter drones during a practice session. With the expansion of the Applied Technology Campus precision agriculture students ple hundred thousand dollar tracwill be able to use other technology with the drones to further enhance their tor,” LeFevre said. “Within precision agriculture, it skills. is more than just reading a book. You have to be able to go out and Like other applied technology ing,” Bartlett said in the video. diagnose a problem if something programs, it’s a growing field. “Right now, our precision ag progoes wrong on your farm, which According to a brochure for the gram has a couple of drones that it’s bound to happen, it’s going to expansion project, precision ag is we fly and really that’s kind of happen,” said ag student Cade expected to see 19% employment what we’ve been limited to, just McKinley in the video for the growth in Colorado and 8% because of our space. Now with expansion project. “With the new growth in the United States this exp ansion project, we’ll be expansion we can actually go out between 2016 and 2026. purchasing things like tractors and it will help us be able to diag“This expansion project is really and corn planters and sprayers nose problems better and that’s going to improve student learnand side-by-sides, and we’ll really See NJC, pg. 11

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Lorenzini Farms in Weldona designated as Centennial Farm Recognition given out at Colorado State Fair Special to The Times

Lorenzini Farms in Weldona was recognized as a Colorado Centennial Farm on opening day of the 2019 Colorado State Fair, according to a news release. The Colorado Centennial Farms and Ranches program honors families that have worked their land for 100 years or more and recognizes the significant role they have played in shaping Colorado. Each Colorado Centennial Farm and Ranch stands as a symbol of the incredible strength, courage, and perseverance of these families. In 1986, Governor Richard D. Lamm, the Colorado Historical Society (now History Colorado), the Department of Agriculture and the Colorado State Fair collaborated to create the Colorado Centennial Farms and Ranches program to honor agriculture’s contribution to our state’s history, landscape, and economic development. Today, the program is administered by History Colorado. Colorado Centennial Farms and Ranches

Courtesy photo

Representing the Lorenzini family at the Centennial Farm designation event at the 2019 Colorado State Fair, from left, are: Mark Arndt, Rick Lorenzini, Vivianne Lorenzini and Ryen Trim.

is the first program of its kind in the nation to give Historic Structure Awards to farms that have maintained buildings and structures that are at least 50 years old. To qualify, a property must have been maintained as a working farm or ranch within the same family for at least 100 years. A

property is considered a “working” farm or ranch if it is at least 160 acres in size or generates a gross annual income of at least $1,000. Since 1986, 603 farms and ranches in Colorado have been recognized. This year, Lorenzini Farms in Weldona and 21 other farms and

ranches around the state were awarded the designation of a Centennial Farm. For Lorenzini Farms, this was in recognition of its ownership by the Lorenzini Family since 1919. Lorenzini Farms also received the Historic Structure Award. Frank and Angelina Lorenzini came to Weldona in 1908 from Silver Plume to work in the sugar beet fields, along with many other Italian families, including Peter Scioldo and John Gardetto. Frank died in 1911. His son, Americo, and his brother, Joe, worked for area farmers in the beet fields and putting up hay, and in 1915 they purchased 10 acres of farmland. In 1919, they sold that 10 acres, and Americo purchased 40 acres. The farm ground was seepy, so Americo and other area farmers dug drainage ditches by hand and buried tiles to drain the water, forming the Weldon Valley Drainage District. Peter Scioldo also purchased 40 acres of land in 1919, as did John Gardetto in 1920. They have been productive farms, growing sugar beets, corn and hay and raising cattle. Americo also ran a truck line. During the Great Depression, Americo would take livestock to the stockyards in Denver and return with food and fuel for the

See LORENZINI, pg. 11

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NJC from page 9

people of the community. In 1952, Americo and Katie Lorenzini purchased the farm from Rosie Gardetto, John Gardetto’s wife. In 1953, they purchased the farm from Peter and Angela Scioldo and their son, Louis, and his wife, Maxine, and their family moved to the farm and made it their home for over 60 years. In 1970, Louis and Maxine Lorenzini purchased the Scioldo and Gardetto places from his parents, Americo and Katie. In 1971, the original farm turned over to Americo and Katie’s son, Jack. His brother, Louis, rented the farm from him. In 1980, Rick and Vivianne Lorenzini moved to the farm and have lived there for 39 years. Louis and Maxine purchased the farm from Jack in 1988. With the passing of Louis and Maxine, the farms were passed to Rick and Larry Lorenzini. The fourth, fifth and sixth generations of Lorenzinis now live and work on these farms. Today, the farms are still a vital part of Lorenzini Farms’ farming operation, running a cow/calf operation, feedlot and farming operation growing sugar beets, corn and hay.

really what this expansion is for. It’s hands-on, and you will be able to work through your own problem with a scenario that they (the teachers) have given you.” According to Bartlett, the campus expansion will not only increase students’ experiences, but also their overall understanding of precision ag. “A lot of programs in precision ag focus in on drone technology, and while that’s good, and we still do that, that’s a very small piece of precision ag,” he said in the video. With the expansion students will be able to do so much more. “We can actually fly the drones, collect imagery data, take that to the new expansion project and integrate some different pieces of technology that can help variable rate, apply things like seed or fertilizer or chemical applications and we can actually have the students put that technology on these pieces of equipment and then we can go test that in the field and then compile drone imagery once again. So, it’s kind of the whole cycle of things rather than just focusing in on a very small piece of agriculture,” Bartlett said. Additionally, NJC will be moving forward with hemp and its alternative growing systems, including plans to build two new greenhouses.

from page 10

“Hemp is becoming so big around here; we need to be on the front end of that,” LeFevre said. Ground-breaking for the campus expansion is expected to take place in May 2020, with the opening of added shop spaces, classrooms and collaboration area anticipated for August 2021 and a remodel of LebsackSchmidt Hall and Area Vocational Building to begin in fall 2021. NJC already has $1 million pledged by a silent donor from Northeast Colorado and the NJC Foundation has pledged the same, plus college faculty and staff have donated or pledged over $33,000. The project has been designated an Enterprise Zone project, meaning donors will receive a tax credit equal to 25 percent of their donations. The college will also be pursuing funding through grants from businesses and organizations such as John Deere, the Gates Family Foundation, CHS and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. To donate to the project, visit atc-giving. For more information on the expansion contact the NJC Foundation at 970521-6603. Callie Jones: 970-526-9286,


Salute to Agriculture

Ancient grain, modern tastes come together Sorghum field day draws Front Range snack chip maker By Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate Staff Writer

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Agronomist Sally Jones-Diamond explains the attributes of a strain of sorghum in a test field near Akron.

Sally Jones-Diamond leads a small crowd of men through a sorghum field. The Colorado State University research agronomist stops occasionally to point out attributes of some of the plants: These have sturdier stalks but smaller heads of grain; some are late to mature; some have big, heavy heads of grain but are prone to falling over, a condition called “lodging.” Dustin Finkel pays close attention to what Jones-Diamond is saying. He’s among the two dozen people — scientists, extension agents, industry representatives and growers — following the Colorado State University research agronomist through the test fields of sorghum at the USDA’s Agriculture Research Station near Akron. But Finkel isn’t just interested in

SORGHUM from page 12 the various varieties of sorghum. Dustin Finkel is on a mission. A former investment banker with Goldman Sachs, Finkel is founder of Ancient Ingrained Snack Company, which produces Ka-Pop!, a sorghum-based popped snack he developed as a more healthful alternative to calorie-laden, nutrition-free snacks like potato chips and popcorn. Ancient Ingrained is headquartered in Erie where Finkel works to spread the word about ancient grains. The main ingredient in KaPop! is sorghum — in fact, in the unflavored version it’s almost the only ingredient — hence Finkel’s sojourn out of the rarified urban atmosphere of man-buns and fermented teas and into the dusty, wide-open spaces of Washington County. Finkel’s interest, and Ka-Pop!’s popularity along the northern Front Range, are part of a trend among consumers to learn more about what they eat. Farmers and ranchers have long complained

Jeff Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate

Colton O’Connor, a grain originator for Smithfield, explains why his company is interested in seeing increased sorSee SORGHUM, pg. 14 ghum production.

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Jeff Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate

Sally Jones-Diamond points to a neighboring plot of sorghum, explaining differences between the strains of grain in the test plots.

SORGHUM from page 13 that urbanites have no idea about where their food comes from. Finkel says that’s changing, and he wants to be part of the change. “It’s becoming more and more important to people to know where their food comes from, and we want to meet that need,” he said. “It’s not really possible to put on a package, ‘Straight from Joe Jones’ field in Akron,’ but we’d like to be able to tell people at least that their snacks came from eastern Colorado or western Nebraska.” To that end, Finkel has come to Akron to see how sorghum is grown, to research what varieties of sorghum might be best for his

product, and to start making contacts among the men and women who grow the crop. There still are misperceptions among consumers about largescale farming and ranching: genetically-modified organisms are somehow bad, production practices damage the environment, among others. That’s why crops like sorghum and millet, known as “ancient grains” because they’re essentially unchanged and unevolved since first being cultivated thousands of years ago, are gaining in popularity. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, sorghum and millet compare favorably with wheat and corn in

their raw forms. For instance, wheat’s protein content hovers between 12 and 13 percent while millet and sorghum contain about 11 percent protein. And in some parts of the world, sorghum and millet are food staples. Here in the U.S., sorghum is popular in a three-year crop cycle, alternating traditional crops like wheat, corn or beans with sorghum to keep the soil nourished. Sorghum seeds are among the lowest-cost of any crop; according to Farm Journal’s AgWeb, sorghum seed costs between $7 and $14 an acre, depending on seeding rate, while corn seed costs around $100 per acre. And sorghum

thrives in hot, dry climates and poor soil, which makes it perfect for dryland farming in eastern Colorado. Even irrigators can plant sorghum, which allows them to lease part of their water without taking land out of production. Sorghum production is not without its challenges, however. Because it has only recently begun to gain popularity as a food grain, USDA’s Farm Service Agency tends to see sorghum more as a low-yield crop. Jordan Shearer, executive director for National Sorghum Producers, said FSA requires a producer to document 10 harvests before he can use pro-

See SORGHUM, pg. 15

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SORGHUM from page 14 ducer yield history for crop loss coverage; otherwise, FSA uses county-wide yield data. That means producers who plant sorghum in a three-year rotation need 30 years to compile the data on their yields. And that, Shearer said, puts producers who have much higher yields at a disadvantage when it comes to crop insurance. “In Oklahoma, we have pretty low county yields, and it takes 10 years of history to establish an individual yield,” Shearer said. “There’s no doubt we can grow better sorghum now, but it takes 30 years to get the data for a current yield.” And while sorghum can grow in hotter, drier conditions than even dryland corn, it still requires the same inputs to get a profitable yield. Both sorghum and corn take about a pound of nitrogen per acre to produce a bushel of grain, and both require similar application of pesticides. That’s why, although sorghum qualifies as non-GMO and gluten-free, it’s anything but

organic. That’s another reason Dustin Finkel is in the USDA’s sorghum test field learning about how the grain in his snacks is grown. He learns, for instance, that herbicides to control weeds are applied before the plants reach 16 inches in height, well before the grain heads appear. He also learns which varieties are most likely to withstand lodging but still produce high yields. “It’s important for me to know how yields impact supply,” Finkel said. “I need to know how to make sure I can get the best grain possible, know where it’s coming from, and still have a reliable source year after year.” Finkel probably will end up dealing with a grain originator like Smithfield’s Colton O’Connor, who also attended the sorghum field day and paid for lunch for everyone. It’s possible, Finkel said, that a grain originator could assure a reliable supply and still be able to identify where the grain comes from.

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Jeff Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate

Dustin Finkel takes samples of several sorghum strains and an ear of corn to show his colleagues in Erie.

At the end of the day Finkel leaves the research center with armfuls of sorghum varieties. More importantly, he takes back to his fellow urbanites a better

knowledge of where his, and their, food comes from. Mission accomplished. Jeff Rice: 970-526-9283,

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NJC Aggies serve up dinner

Callie Jones / Sterling Journal-Advocate

Northeastern Junior College students and visitors enjoy their meal at the annual Aggies Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry Tuesday, Oct. 15. Well over 225 people were fed at this year’s event. The Aggies are the oldest club on campus, established during the 1968-69 academic year.

Callie Jones / Sterling Journal-Advocate

Along with dinner, guests at the NJC Aggies Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry also enjoyed Chicken Hit Bingo and a Kiss-A-Pig contest. 16 • OCTOBER 30, 2019 • SALUTE TO AGRICULTURE

Callie Jones / Sterling Journal-Advocate

Northeastern Junior College Aggies served up Rocky Mountain Oysters, as well as chicken strips, at their annual oyster fry.


Ag experience runs deep for Bruce Bass By John La Porte Special to The Times

“Just a little bit of everything” is how Bruce Bass describes the merchandise he and business partner Mike Dixon feature at the Olde Tyme Country Store on Clayton Street across from the Sands Theatre in downtown Brush. He could have used those words to describe himself and his life. The store features Hallmark cards, items from Yankee Candle, a line of chairs and numerous toys and jigsaw puzzles. And a coffee shop and lunch counter in the store features coffee, tea, soft drinks, sandwiches, paninis and wraps.

Lifelong rancher has also been a county commissioner, appraiser, deputy county assessor, real estate agent, landlord and homebuilder

Bruce not only owns the shop, he and his family own and operate a ranch south of town. He has also served as a county commissioner, appraiser, deputy county assessor, real estate agent, landlord and homebuilder.

Growing up

Bruce was born and raised on the family ranch near Highway 71 and County Road N; he and his family still work the ranch today. “I was born at the old Eben Ezer Hospital in Brush,” he says. “I’ve lived on the same ranch all my life.” He and his wife Margaret went all the way through Brush schools together.

John La Porte / The Fort Morgan Times

Bruce Bass shows part of the popular Yankee Candle collection at the Olde See BASS, pg. 18 Tyme Country Store he and partner Mike Dixon run in downtown Brush.

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BASS from page 17 In high school, his main focus was FFA; he spent most of his time outside of class on that and raising livestock. Bruce was also active in the Morgan County fair as a youngster, an involvement that continues to this day. “It was the highlight of the summer,” he says. “Still is.” After high school. Bruce attended Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, graduating with an associate degree in agribusiness.


While in college, Bruce started a herd of Holstein milk cows; that venture lasted 13 years. The trouble with dairy cattle, he notes, is “you have to live with them.” These days, the ranch is a cowcalf operation with about 120 mother cows. The calves are born in the spring and the following fall sold to warming feedlots to be raised as beef cattle. Bruce worked as an appraiser for county assessor J. Charles Parker, then as assistant county assessor for seven years. That led to a stint as a Morgan County commissioner starting in 1986. He and Richard Neb were elected to the board together for the first time. It was an entirely new board as Bob Kula was appointed to replace Bob Bauer, who passed away. Their tenure on the board was far from uneventful. They were involved in a long, drawn-out series of lawsuits involving developer Rainsford Winslow and the residents of Morgan Heights.

John La Porte / The Fort Morgan Times

Bruce Bass

It all started as a suit filed by residents over improvements in the subdivision and evolved into a long series of suits and countersuits that included Winslow being arrested by U.S. Marshals for


defying a court order. “He sued me 25 times before I was sworn in as county commissioner,” Bruce recalls. Then there was the case of the Morgan County jail.

The small jail facility was located next to the county administration building near Ensign Street and Kiowa Avenue. Inmates filed suit alleging that the facility was inadequate, and U.S. District Court Judge John Kane mandated that a new facility be built. “We had to bite the bullet and do the best we could,” Bruce said. The county not only built a new jail facility but added on a new sheriff’s office complex, probation offices and county and district courtrooms at Warner Street and E. Beaver Avenue. And the commissioners invited Kane to attend the opening of the building. He was a no-show. In a bit of creativity, county officials sold overnight stays in the jail and donated the proceeds to the United Way. The night featured a band and refreshments. “It was a great job, but the thing was, half the people were mad at you all the time,” Bruce recalls of his time as a county commissioner. “The next decision, the other half were mad at you.” Bass and Neb both lost elections after serving two terms. After his time as a commissioner, Bruce got a real estate license and had a RE/MAX agency for a number of years. He also has Homestead Realty, which offers a few rentals. Bruce and Dixon have owned the Olde Tyme Country Store for about 16 years. That venture started as a Western boots and clothing outlet but changed directions after about three years due to excessive minimum order See BASS, pg. 19

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BASS from page 18 demands from suppliers. Today it’s cards, candles, toys, puzzles and the like – plus the lunch counter and coffee shop. The store also offers a line of chairs. Bruce also used to build about half a dozen “spec” houses a year but has not done that for awhile. It may be time to start that venture up again, he muses.


Bruce’s wife Margaret relishes her roles as wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother and has a passion for gardening. She has hundreds of petunia plants. Bruce and Margaret have three children, Bruce Jr., public works director for the county; Wes, head of maintenance at Colorado Plains Medical Center, and Mary, who handles a lot of the ranch operations. Mary’s husband, Lance Endsley, heads up a crew that does mechanical work on semi-trucks and heavy equipment. Bruce jokes that Mary is the most adventurous of the three, living about 2 ½ miles away. The sons live closer, Wes right across the driveway and Bruce Jr. a mile away. The six grandchildren, ranging in age from 17 to 30, also live nearby. The farthest grandchild away is in Burlington. There are also seven greatgrandchildren and two more on the way.


Much of Bruce’s community

File photo / The Fort Morgan Times

Bruce Bass has been a leader in 4-H in Morgan County for 52 years.

involvement can be traced back to his roots with the Morgan County Fair. He served on the fair board for a number of years but has scaled back in recent years; his main involvement now is in helping younger family members with their projects. He recalls working with folks like Bob Eisenach (a former county commissioner and state representative) and John Boatright (a manufactured housing pioneer). Bruce also remembered working with Eisenach’s brother Marlin, a longtime Colorado State Universi-

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ty extension agent. The fair board coordinated a project to build an indoor riding arena building during Bruce’s tenure. Bruce also recalled that he and Dixon sponsored goat feeds for several years. Area resident Gus Garcia would cook goats, and the sponsors sold pulled goat sandwiches. The first year, they cooked two and ran out of meat. The next year, they cooked more. They also tried cooking goats on a spit but the

pulled goat proved more popular. Gus would prepare a goat carcass, put in peppers, onions, spices and such, wrap it all in burlap and bury it in hot coals in a cinder block pit. “About 24 hours later they go back and dig it up,” Bruce said. “We gave all the money back to the fair board,” he added. Bruce is in his 52nd year as a county 4-H leader; his daughter about her 26th. Their Cowpokes and Cactus 4-H Club has 26 members. “Love it,” he said. “Kids are the greatest.”

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Salute to Agriculture

Jeff Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate

The Brompton family with Butch and Jesse at Yuma’s Old Threshers Days in September.

Oxen provide brawn for Crook family farm Bromptons’ ‘hobby’ yields real work in the fields

in the 20th century. Some of them are still working on a ranch in Logan County. The Brompton cattle and sheep operation north of Crook uses the massive, patient beasts for a variety of chores, mostly pulling wagons By Jeff Rice loaded with gated irrigation pipe, Journal-Advocate Staff Writer huge hay bales, water, and the occasional tourist. Forget all those images you’ve “It’s mostly a hobby, but they do seen in movies and on television of a lot of real work,” said Hazel Browagon trains being pulled by teams mpton. “They work every day. We of horses. Most of the westward harrow the fields with them. Sometrek by settlers in the 19th century times, when there’s a soft place in a was accomplished not by horsecorn field that the combines can’t power, but by ox power. Docile and work in, we’ll take the oxen in and powerful, oxen helped open the hand-pick the corn and throw it in earth and hauled the necessities of the wagon.” life across the Great Plains before The hobby started in the 1990s Kathy Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate diesel engines would replace them See BROMPTONS, pg. 21 Hazel Brompton with young oxen, called “working steers,” Fine and Dandy. 20 • OCTOBER 30, 2019 • SALUTE TO AGRICULTURE

BROMPTONS from page 20 when the Bromptons — Jim and Twila and their four daughters, Hazel, Holly, Heather and Heidi — moved to Crook from the South Park community of Fairplay in search of a better water supply. Twila passed away in 2012, leaving Jim and his daughters to run the place. The Brompton girls all had raised calves for 4-H projects when they were younger, but were dissatisfied with the process of raising calves to sell them, Holly said. “We wanted something more long-lasting, something that let us work with the same animals over a period of time.” “Dad was always interested in history, and especially how farms were worked back in the day,” Hazel said. The family studied books and watched movies and videos about oxen, and found out a lot by trial and error. Contrary to popular belief, oxen are not a separate breed or species. They’re just cattle — mostly steers

Kathy Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate

See BROMPTONS, pg. 22 Holly Brompton with Jesse, left, and Butch. The oxen are six-year-old Jerseys.


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Close up of the bar ring and calabash. The end of a chain can be dropped into the calabash without a hook or other attachment being needed.

— allowed to grow to their full size. Most beef steers are slaughtered at between 18 months and two years of age and weighing between 800 and 1,000 pounds. Left to grow to full maturity, those same steers could grow to well over a ton. “The difference between an ox and a steer is the training,” Holly said. “We train them starting young, and by the time they’re four or five, they should be ready to work.” According to “History of the Domestication of Animals,” oxen have been working for people for as long as 6,000 years. The equipment needed to yoke a team of oxen is surprisingly simple. A beam, carved to fit the animal’s shape, lies across the neck. The bow then comes up from below, passing through holes in the beam, surrounding the ox’s neck and resting back against his shoulders. The design lets the animal use his muscular forelegs to do most of the work. Horse harnesses, by comparison, are complex affairs designed to transfer the load to the animal’s powerful rear legs. Oxen can be driven and are trained to respond to verbal commands, along with a goad or a long pole, but also are frequently led by a human walking alongside the lefthand, or “nigh” ox. The animal on the right is called the “off ox.” Because of their years of experi-

Drawing showing parts of the ox yoke. The “chain ring” also is called a calabash.

ence, the Bromptons are sometimes called on to hold clinics on their farm, and to help other ox owners with the training process. They also host agri-tourists in a spacious but spartan cabin on the farm, and can accommodate up to nine visitors. The family takes their oxen on the road occasionally, most recently having participated in the Old Thresher Days celebration in Yuma. The Brompton sisters dress in period costumes and have been known to treat onlookers to the family’s other pastime, making music. Holly plays the ukelin — a hybrid of the Hawaiian ukulele and violin that is played with a bow — while Jim plays guitar and banjo. Heidi plays the violin and Hazel accompanies on recorder and sings. “We’re not professional, but we have fun,” Hazel said with a laugh. Jeff Rice: 970-526-9283,

Salute to Agriculture

Joanna Harris settling in with Morgan County CSU Extension Wyoming native working on ‘indoor projects’ as Family & Consumer Science agent

was 8 years old. She participated in mainly “outdoor projects,” such as showing livestock and other animals. Family & Consumer Science Now, after studying human Extension Agent Joanna Harris is nutrition and food science in colexcited to get to know the Morlege, she is working with Morgan County community. gan County on “indoor projects,” Joining the Colorado State Uni- with her focus on family and conversity Extension office in Morsumer science. gan County in August, Harris “Growing up, I never really did started her position during the any indoor projects. I knew open 2019 Morgan County Fair this class was a thing, but I never past summer. looked into it,” she explained. Originally from Laramie, Wyo- “Now, it’s turned around and I’m Kara Morgan / The Fort Morgan Times ming, Harris says she was in charge of open class.” Family & Consumer Science Extension Agent Joanna Harris at the office on involved in 4-H herself since she See HARRIS, pg. 24 Railroad Avenue in Fort Morgan on Sept. 19, 2019. By Kara Morgan The Fort Morgan Times

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HARRIS from page 23 In her current position, Harris said she works a bit with 4-H and also on community programming. What does she hope to accomplish with her position? “Being involved in the community and being a resource,” Harris said.

Growing Up

Harris was born in Laramie, Wyoming, in October 1995. In her childhood, Harris said she was quite involved in 4-H and other programs. “I was involved in 4-H since I was 8 and FFA as soon as I could join,” Harris said. Though her immediate family does not have a farm, she said her uncle has a ranch close to Laramie. “I showed pigs, steers, horses, lambs, dogs, the whole nine yards,” Harris said, laughing. And she had one animal project she preferred over the others. “Showing steers was definitely Courtesy photo / The Fort Morgan Times my favorite,” she said. Joanna Harris shows her 4-H livestock project. She now is a Morgan County Extension Agent with Colorado State

Adult Life


After high school, Harris first went to Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne. She transferred to the University of Wyoming in Laramie her second year, where she graduated with a degree in human nutrition and food. “I’ve always been intrigued by the medical field,” Harris explained. “My original plan was to go into nursing school.” She said she ended up focusing on the human nutrition degree

and found her major connected to human development, social work and other areas she is interested in. “I just kind of fell into nutrition, and it worked out really well,” she said. Harris graduated from the University of Wyoming in December 2018. After college, she was still figuring out what she wanted to do next. “I actually went and traveled



for four months,” Harris said. “I went to New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. I backpacked around, met a lot of really cool people.” Harris said it was a good opportunity for her to get out of her comfort zone for a little while “It was really good for me, because I was able to grow as a person and figure out what I wanted to do,” she explained. After her travels, Harris came back to Wyoming and worked at


UW for a period. “I wasn’t really looking for a full time job right away,” Harris said. “Then I saw this job and I thought, ‘I should apply, it would be a really good experience and it sounds awesome.’” She did apply, and she got the FCS Extension agent job in Morgan County. “It kind of worked out, and here I am,” she said. See HARRIS, pg. 25


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HARRIS from page 24 Morgan County CSU Extension

As the Family and Consumer Science Extension agent in Morgan County, Harris’ work covers a range of areas. “I work a little bit with 4-H with Aimee [Kanode],” Harris explained. “I do all of the open class and a few of the 4-H projects, like cake decorating, home decor, stuff like that.” She also has other programs in mind for the future. “I’m working on building programs for what the community wants to see,” she explained. Harris said she is working to get to know the community to find out what kind of programming would be useful and interesting for folks in Morgan County. “Last week, I went to a serve safe training, which is for food safety, so now I’m certified to teach that class,” Harris said, giving an example of how she can be a resource for community

Jenni Grubbs / The Fort Morgan Times

Morgan County Family & Consumer Science Extension Agent Joanna Harris, left, passes out awards to Cloverbuds at the 2019 Morgan County Fair's 4-H Creative Cooks Contest.

members. “I’m hoping to get some exercise programs going in the com-

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munity,” she added. Within “family consumer science” Harris said her focus rang-

es from nutrition and canning to exercise and clothes-making. Harris said she really enjoys the baked goods section of her focus area and looks forward to learning more in areas she knows less about, such as canning. She’s also hoping to work with others beyond Morgan County to provide some more resources here. “I can collaborate with the rest of the state, and we’ll try to do some state programming and online resources,” she explained. She said she’s also working on a regular newsletter around these topics. “I just really want to get to know the community, since I moved here not really knowing anybody,” Harris explains. She’s working on getting out in the community and learning more about how she can provide programming that Morgan County wants or needs. See HARRIS, pg. 26



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HARRIS from page 25 Family

Courtesy photo

Joanna Harris has been involved with 4-H and livestock since she was a young girl. She is shown here as a teen during branding operations.

and showed, so it was good to kind of compare and see how Harris’ family has their own well the community here can connections to agriculture, as come together.” well. Joanna said county fair was a Her mom is business manager bit of a whirlwind as she started at the College of Agriculture at the University of Wyoming. her job, but she’s planning to While her older sister, McKen- learn even more in the next fair sie Harris, is an assistant lecturseason. er at the University of Wyoming. “Looking forward, I’m going to “She teaches meat processing, go to a few fairs next year and fabrication classes and animal look at their open class, and comsciences,” Joanna said. pare,” she explained. Joanna is excited to see where Community they can expand, see what the Joanna is starting to getting know the community was being a county is already doing well and part of the 2019 Morgan County see who they could get more involved. Fair, right when she started in “If you have any suggestions or early August. questions about anything, feel “The actual community comes free to call,” Joanna said. “If you out and looks at all of animals,” just want to chat or learn more Joanna said. “That was really about me, make connections, call cool.” Joanna said she really enjoyed and I’m open.” She would like people to reach seeing the community come out out to her at the Morgan County for the fair and participate. “People were awesome,” she CSU Extension office at 970-542said. “I’d only been to the Albany 3540 or at her email at County Fair, where I grew up

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Joanna Harris is shown here as a teen with her Catch-It Calf project animal. She grew up in Wyoming and now serves as Morgan County CSU Extension family and consumer science agent.

Salute to Agriculture

Peetz rancher provides ranch-ready mounts Roy Gillham’s horsetraining operation centered on faith By Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate Staff Writer

One by one, the calves are “heeled” — roped around their hind legs to better control them — and pulled to the branding stove. The cowboy and his horse work as one, maneuvering in the tight quarters of the branding pen. It is tedious, exhausting work that only a horse can do, and only a wellbred and well-trained horse at that. It is Roy Gillham’s mission in life to produce horses like that, horses of consistent quality that ranchers and pleasure riders alike can work and ride with confidence. It ain’t easy, and there are no shortcuts. “To start a colt, to raise it, it takes a lot of time,” Gillham said. “Lots of people can ride horses, but not a lot can produce a finished saddle horse.” In most cases, Gillham said, it

Brandee Gillham / Cross I Quarter Horses

See GILLHAM, pg. 28 Roy works with a colt, getting it used to the saddle and gaining the horse’s trust.

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Jeff Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate

The Gillham family’s faith is evident in their livestock brand.

GILLHAM from page 27 takes about five years, and it starts with getting the animal used to being around people. This may seem almost unnecessary, given the ancient relationship between horses and humans. But in the wild there are two kinds of animals: predators and prey. Horses, the experts say, are prey; they evolved from small, tasty mammals with little ability to fight back. Because of this, according to Pat Comerford, an equine extension specialist at Penn State University, horses have a highly-developed fight-or-flight instinct. At the same time, most riding breeds have been bred for speed, agility, alertness, and endurance, building on natural qualities that extended from their wild ancestors. Those attributes can make horses flighty and nervous around people, and Gillham spends a lot of

time just being among his horses, talking to them, touching them, getting them to accept a human presence as normal. Training a horse is simply a matter of reinforcing those things a horse wants to do anyway: running, turning, jumping and so on, and then doing them on cue. All of this with an animal that, when fully grown, outweighs the man on its back five times over. More than anything, Gillham said, training a good riding horse means spending a lot of time in the saddle. Although he holds two college degrees — a bachelor’s in agricultural education and a master’s degree in integrated resource management — Gillham has no formal training in equine manageBrandee Gillham / Cross I Quarter Horses ment. He has, however, attended a Roy puts a horse through a spin maneuver. While it has no practical applicanumber of clinics and has accumu- tion in ranch work, the maneuver demonstrates a horse’s agility and


See GILLHAM, pg. 29 responsiveness.

GILLHAM from page 28 lated a small library of books about the training and care of horses. He even hosted a one-day clinic given by Ken McNabb, recognized as one of the top horse trainers in the country. Gillham hopes to attend a three-week apprenticeship with McNabb in 2020. Roy Gillham first got excited about horses as a child, growing up on the Gillhams’ Rim Ranch near Peetz. He bought his first brood mare 20 years ago. Around the same time, while he was studying agricultural education at Colorado State University, he met Brandee Best from Black Forest, Colo., whom he eventually would marry. That relationship had some early bumps, however, when Roy decided to buy a second mare instead of a diamond ring. When his bride-tobe pointed out their difference in priorities, he named the mare Diamond for her. Brandee finally got the diamond, of course, but Roy can’t help mentioning that “the rock cost more than the horse.” The marriage has produced four sons and a solid foundation for the couple’s business. Although Roy does most of the work with the horses, Brandee is a big part of the venture, photographing the horses and producing videos for the horse sales. Roy Gillham has named his business Cross I Quarter Horses, after the family’s livestock brand, and the cross has deep significance to the family. “Everything we do, we want it to point toward Jesus,” Gillham said. “Having faith has opened some doors for us that might not have

Brandee Gillham / Cross I Quarter Horses

Gillham’s horses are trained in the real world of ranch work. Here he’s “heeling” a calf to be branded and inoculated during spring roundup.

otherwise opened.” The Christian walk is important for another reason. Gillham said that, while most breeders and trainers are honest, he has seen horses sold under less than ideal circumstances. “It’s important to us that we build a solid reputation, that buyers can trust the Cross I name,” he said. “By always keeping things pointed toward Jesus, we can do that.” Gillham now runs about 40 See GILLHAM, pg. 30

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Gillham, on horseback, works with renowned horse trainer Ken McNabb at the Gillham ranch in 2018.

GILLHAM from page 29 mares — at one time he had as many as 80, but said that’s too many — and he has his hands full helping to run the ranch’s 400head cow herd, raising horses and training them for roping and riding. There is a working symbiosis between the ranch and the horse business; there are always cattle to be moved or otherwise worked, giving the horses real-world experience, and there is no shortage of horses available to work the ranch. Gillham’s horses are of the Blue Valentine bloodline, named after a blue roan stallion foaled in 1956. FencePost writer Tony Bruguiere wrote about the legendary sire in 2012: “Blue Valentine had speed, good bone, gentle disposition, longevity and cow sense. He also had strong genes and passed his favorable traits on to 210 American Quarter Horse Association-registered foals.” Some of the horses are raised for private sales, but most of the ranch-ready stock is sold through production sales in Laramie, Wyo. When asked what his goal is in training a horse, Gillham said there isn’t really a definable goal. “Any true horseman will tell you you never get there,” he said. “You

Brandee Gillham / Cross I Quarter Horses

Gillham aboard Studly, the herd’s breeding stallion.

want the best response to the lightest touch, but there’s always room for improvement. I suppose, someday I’d like to be able to get on a horse and not have to use a bridle.” Jeff Rice: 970-526-9283,


Salute to Agriculture

Extension agent earns plaudits Recognized by national association for his work By Jeff Rice Journal-Advocate Staff Writer

Using livestock to teach life lessons has earned a Sterling-based extension agent a high honor from his peers. Logan County Extension Agent JD Sexton recently received the Achievement Award from the National Association of County Agriculture Agents during the 2019 Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference held in Fort Wayne, Ind. Sexton is the livestock and 4-H agent for the Colorado State University Extension Office in Sterling. He was one of several honor-

Courtesy photo / NACAA

NACAA President Richard Fechter, left, and Erin Bain, Special Risk Division of American Income Life, the sponsor for the NACAA Achievement Award, present the award to JD Sexton.

ees who represent the top one percent of the membership selected by their peers and the Director of Extension. “Being voted by your peers as one of the best, that makes it pret-

ty cool,” Sexton said afterward. But receiving the award wasn’t even the best part for Sexton. “You get to talk with all of these extension agents from all over the country, and you see what they’re

doing and you think, ‘Maybe that’d work for us,’” he said. “I went to sessions on livestock breeding, grazing, bio-security; it was just a lot of good ideas that people had.” The Fort Wayne conference is the first Sexton was able to attend because it was in September this year rather than August. Conflicts with the Logan County Fair and Colorado State Fair have made it impossible for him to attend in the past. There are two types of award given at the NACAA conference, Sexton said. One, which he received, is the Achievement Award for agents in the field ten years or less; the other is the Distinguished Service award for agents with more than 10 years of service. Sexton was cited for his work in the Logan County office. NACAA President Richard Fechter called

See SEXTON, pg. 33

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Jeff Rice / Sterling Journal-Advocate

JD Sexton in his Sterling office.

SEXTON from page 32 Sexton “an outstanding agent for CSU (Extension.)” “He has brought diverse programming to his county and always has a smile on his face when he delivers,” Fechter said. “JD is reliable and knowledgeable in all of his Agricultural and 4-H programming. He is always willing to help out and lend his strong back and knowledge to any cause. He regularly works on issues to educate on and promote stewardship of ranches, small acreages, home landscapes, and community.” JD Sexton graduated Poudre High School in Fort Collins in 2001 and came to Sterling to attend Northeastern Junior College. While earning his AAS he competed on the college’s livestock judging team, an avocation he continued when he went on to the University of Wyoming and earned his bachelor’s in animal science. It was there that he met Lacey, a Craig native. After graduating UW, the Sextons moved to Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington where he coached the livestock judging team and taught animal courses. Next came a move to Craig, where JD sold Purina feed for three years before joining the CSU extension team in the single-agent office. “When this (Sterling) position came open, it was perfect for us,” he said. “I wanted to be more of a team member and work with youth livestock members and livestock producers.”

The Logan County position has plenty of opportunity for that. Besides the large 4-H presence, the county is a significant producer of beef, being home to no fewer than 13 feedlots. Sexton said one of his top priorities is helping livestock owners make their herds and flocks more productive. “Whether it’s herd health, reproduction, risk management, the challenge is always, how to help them survive in a business that it’s really tough to survive in,” he said. “What it comes down to is marketing animal protein that’s a safe, wholesome protein for the family.” The livestock industry has made long strides toward better animal safety, Sexton said, and the increased pressure to produce high-quality food is a good thing. “We’ve come so far in taking care of the welfare of animals,” he said. “The result is that we get a better carcass by doing that, and that means increased profitability.” There’s also the challenge of quality vs quantity — ag producers improve profits by increasing yield while consumers want higher quality. “As producers, whether it’s crops or livestock, we have to talk about quantity,” Sexton said. “Prices for commodities aren’t going to grow over time, so the way we increase our income is producing more. But the consumers are told they want quality. I’m not opposed to that. We can produce high quali-

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Salute to Agriculture

Agribusiness incubator study ly because the socioeconomic landscape was more complicated than expected. Greenwood said their initial plan was to create a single survey, but The agribusiness incubator feathey quickly realized that they sibility study was well underway were trying to connect with a heading into spring 2019, but it had a bit further to go, Consultant diverse market in Morgan County, northeast Colorado and throughJim Greenwood reported in late out the state. So they created three March. Working with the Morgan Coun- different versions of the survey ty Economic Development Corpo- targeting those three areas. ration and Morgan Community “There are so many different College, Greenwood said the proangles to this. You say ‘ag’ and cess had included people think, ‘Oh, that’s farming, creating a survey to distribute and ranching.’ But there’s so many difconducting many interviews. ferent parts,” Greenwood said. Greenwood and MCEDC Execu“It’s everything from putting fertive Director Greg Thomason pre- tilizer in the soil in the first place,” viously explained previously their Greenwood explained. “Then goal was to consider the feasibility there’s the gentleman I was just of introducing an agribusiness talking to in distribution. He incubator in the county. brings it in bulk and breaks it Greenwood said the process had down into smaller packages. That been slower than planned, partialSee STUDY, pg. 35 By Kara Morgan The Fort Morgan Times

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ty, if they’re willing to pay for it.” Asked about the trend away from the “pretty cow” contests of tradition and toward more production-oriented projects like the Supreme Heifer program, Sexton said the trend is certainly useful, but there is still a place for traditional showmanship. “My mentality is I believe we’re using livestock to teach kids life skills,” he said. “They’re learning discipline, how to keep a schedule, learning a work ethic. They’re learning that there’s a creature out there that depends on them for its feed and its health.” He said the livestock projects help the whole 4-H program, whether the 4-H’ers are in livestock, rocketry, or cake decorating. “The discipline is the same throughout the program, and a lot of times the kids not in the live-

stock programs see the kids with the livestock projects and are inspired to get involved, it’s a great way to recruit new youth to the ag world,” he said. The biggest challenge facing the livestock industry, Sexton believes, is getting those young 4-H’ers in a position to have their own livestock operations. It’s almost prohibitively expensive to buy the equipment and livestock needed to start up an operation, he said. “We’re faced with finding ways to pass these family farms and ranches on to the next generation, and we have to meet that challenge,” he said. “Otherwise, it comes down to monopolized, vertically integrated corporate business.” Jeff Rice: 970-526-9283,

STUDY from page 34 then goes out to companies that then break it down further.” Greenwood said he would much rather they take a little bit more time and effort to understand the situation than to “complete” it with a lot of unanswered questions. “From crop choice consulting to growing techniques, there are just so many different parts to it that it’s proven to be a challenge,” Greenwood said. “We’re just trying to figure out all the different parts and talk to people in as many of those areas as possible.” Greenwood said reaching out to interviewees and survey-takers has been a mix of existing MCEDC networks, word of mouth and suggestions from other interviewees. “I’ve had no shortage of people to talk to,” Greenwood added. In order to connect with people in Morgan County who may not speak English or are newer to the county or region, Greenwood said they have partnered with local organizations to hold local and regional focus groups to gauge their interest in working with an agribusiness incubator. Greenwood said their next steps would be focusing more on distributing the surveys they developed. “It’s a really important part of the project. You can interview somebody, and they can say, ‘Boy, I think you really need this’, but it’s just one opinion that we need this,” he said. Greenwood explained the importance of getting perspectives through both of these strategies,

Kara Morgan / The Fort Morgan Times

Morgan County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Greg Thomason introduces incubator consultant Jim Greenwood to county agricultural and business community leaders at a November 2018 event at Elaine's Place.

via interviews and surveys. “More important to me is, if you will, a ‘show of hands’ from people that say, ‘Hey, if this existed, I would use it. If this existed, I would look for services there. If this existed, I would rent space. If this existed I would use the commercial kitchen there,’” Greenwood said. “So you need to get those people,” Greenwood explained. “You use the survey as a quick way to

gather that information and gather it firsthand from the people who would actually use the incubator, rather than just do the interviews.” They had hoped to get at least 100 responses. “What I really strive for is that when we get done, we say, ‘OK, so we basically got the word out to anybody and everybody who might have an interest in this. Those that were interested completed a survey, and therefore the surveys represent the communi-

ty’s interests,’” Greenwood explained. Though he said he does not like to make any conclusions until the study is complete, he said they have had generally favorable responses so far. To find out more about this, reach out to MCEDC Executive Director Greg Thomason at, 970467-7100 or at the MCEDC office at 300 Main St. in Fort Morgan.

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Farm | Garages | Equestrian | Commercial SALUTE TO AGRICULTURE • OCTOBER 30, 2019 • 35

Salute to Agriculture

Caliche FFA off and running as new school year gets underway Chapter busy with a variety of projects By Todd Thomas Caliche FFA Advisor

The school year has started and we are off and running. The officer team had their retreat during the summer and set some amazing goals for the chapter as well as themselves. The team is busy working on the Program of Activities and making sure our committees are set up for success. The officer/leadership team consists of: President – Asa Bogie, Vice President – Nevada Mitchell, Secretary – Haylee Marick, Treasurer – Brandyn Hill, Sentinel – Howard Dedrickson, Reporter – Brayden Wasson, and Executive Committee – Trista Hernandez. We started the year off with a student teacher. Her name is Lena Haun and she comes from Grover, Colo. She is finishing her ag-ed degree at Colorado State University. The Ag-Ed I class has been busy setting up their AET (Agricultural Experience Tracker) online record books and studying Parliamentary Procedure. The Ag-Ed I class also attended the BIG (Becoming

Courtesy photo

Caliche High School agriculture-education students watch a demonstration at Graham Electric (planters) in Sterling during the recent Manufacturing Day tours.

Involved as a Greenhand) Conference at Northeastern Junior College. This conference is held each year and run by the State FFA Officer team to show case the many opportunities that are available to members of the FFA. As tradition is an important part of the Caliche FFA the Ag-Ed I class also hosted the Annual Cali-


che Homecoming Mini-Float Parade which was held during the pep assembly on the Friday of Homecoming Week. The Food Products and Processing class has been working on different ways to preserve food and what goes into the different processes. We’ve made beef jerky through dehydration as well as

dehydrated various fruits, canned raspberry preserves, and made cheese and butter. The Ag Mechanics and Technical Systems class started the semester with balancing records and catching things up from the summer break. We have 11 students enrolled in the class. Our first class project was on how to connect trailers and back them up successfully. We really want to thank MW Equipment, who loaned us a new goose neck flatbed trailer to practice on. We’ve taken our safety tests and have completed a plumbing unit where students worked with various types of pipe; copper, galvanized and PVC and were able to show how we could connect them all together so as to possibly solve a real life problem. To make it more applicable and hands on the students built some sprinklers utilizing those different types of pipe and fittings. We are on to building an 8-foot by 12-foot shed as carpentry project. Our goal is to auction it off this spring at our annual Oyster Fry and Labor Auction. Progress photos to come in the future. The Ag-Ed II class has been working on a range and pasture management unit. They have gone out and identified decreaser, See CALICHE, pg. 37

CALICHE from page 36 increaser and invader plants and know how they grow and can be an indicator of range condition. The students also worked on a scenario to improve range condition using holistic range management. They decided to graze multiple species to utilize all types of grass and to stimulate new growth in higher quality plants, thus improving range condition. Better range condition means you can increase holding capacity and be more efficient. The Ag-Ed III and IV class has been working on problem solving a tractor issue on a John Deere B. Although we haven’t solved it yet, it has been a great learning experience to get students to talk things out and hear different perspectives. The students have also been working on their Independent Study Units which were assigned at the beginning of the quarter. Each student was to select one of the eight Agricultural Career Pathways and select an area of interest. Then during the course of the

Courtesy photo

The 2019-2020 Caliche High School Ag-Ed I Class is pictured after attending the B.I.G. (Being Involved as a Greenhand) Conference in September. From left: Clayton Julius, Aden Young, Austin Dallegge, Stormy Lyons, Karli Green, Hollie Walther and Makenna Armstrong.

quarter they were to develop through research a presentation on the topic to present to the rest of the class. The subjects were as

diverse as the students. The students will have an opportunity to do this again each quarter. Our students were also able to

take part in the Manufacturing Day in Sterling, where we had the opportunity tour various businesses.

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Salute to Agriculture

Merino FFA has busy few months Four awarded State FFA Degrees By Callie Jones Journal-Advocate News Editor

The Merino High School FFA chapter has been busy the last few months. In the spring, the chapter held its annual banquet, recognizing members for their accomplishments for the 2018-19 school year. New officers also took over the chapter; they include: Lauren Fritzler, President; Brooke Mertens, Vice President; Anna Schott, Secretary; Tate Everhart, Treasurer; Tanner Hutt, Reporter; Jake Hettinger, Sentinel; and Rebecca Mari, Student Advisor. Courtesy photo Keynote speaker at the banquet Pictured are the members of the Merino High School FFA chapter who competed in state Career Development See MERINO, pg. 39 Events (CDEs).

If you’re doing what you love, with the ones that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. 38 • OCTOBER 30, 2019 • SALUTE TO AGRICULTURE

Courtesy photo

Pictured are members of Merino High School FFA's regional range evaluation team.

MERINO from page 38 was Lori Schott, who spoke about opportunities in agriculture. Also in the spring, several of Merino’s members sharpened their skills and were introduced to career options by competing in CDEs (Career Development Events) in May. Cade Conger placed second overall in the land event.

In June, the FFA members headed to the Colorado FFA State Convention, in Pueblo. Four State FFA Degrees were awarded to Tye Barton, Max Quint, Lydia Stegner, and Brandon Buckler. Also, Merino’s Parliamentary Procedure Team, who won the district contest, competed at state. Team members included: Nathan Batt,

Lydia Stegner, Rebecca Mari, Anna Schott, Lauren Fritzler, and Tanner Hutt. Batt also competed in the extemporaneous speaking contest at state, having won the District XVI contest.

ing Involved as a Greenhand) FFA Conference, held at Northeastern Junior College, where they learned about the opportunities provided by ag-ed. Also, earlier this month 30-plus FFA members represented the A new school year brought more chapter in the Merino Fall Festival parade. activities this fall. In September, seven freshmen agriculture stuCallie Jones: 970-526-9286, dents attended the BIG (

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Salute to Agriculture

Smirk’s is all about relationships Business named a Top 50 Colorado Company to Watch By Kara Morgan The Fort Morgan Times

Just past Murdoch’s in Fort Morgan, the Smirk’s Ltd office could easily be missed. But inside is a team working on connecting ingredients and more from around the world to customers across the country. Smirk’s works with a range of ingredients: nuts, fruits, seeds, oats and coconut, along with other grains and beans. They have warehouses in Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey and California. “We’re a supplier of ingredients to manufacturers and retailers,” Smirk’s President Nick Erker said. “We’re a food and ingredient supply company,” Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Donny Edson added. “Fruits, nuts, dried fruits, nuts, grains, seeds, oils and sweeteners.” Erker noted that they do not sell these for purchase at their Fort Morgan office. Smirk’s was also recently named one of the top 50 “Colorado Companies to Watch” by the Colorado Workforce Development Council. Erker and Edson thanked Morgan County Economic Develop-

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Kara Morgan / The Fort Morgan Times

From left, Smirk's EVP Donny Edson, CFO Cindy Schmid and President Nick Erker on at their office at 17601 U.S. Highway 34 in Fort Morgan.

ment Corp. Executive Director Greg Thomason for nominating them. They said they felt grateful for the recognition of their team’s work. The Smirk’s name originated

from Erker’s father’s high school nickname, and the company has grown from an offshoot of Erker Grain to a global company with 19 team members. Edson explained they work with

a range of companies, including retailers, food distributors, restaurants, food manufacturing companies and more. “We sell to a lot of food manufacSee SMIRK’S, pg. 41

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Kara Morgan / The Fort Morgan Times

The Smirk's Ltd office in Fort Morgan connects its customers to organic and other ingredients from suppliers around the world.

SMIRK’S from page 40 turing companies as well who make the brans for different companies. They make granolas, they make cereals, beverages, snack foods. “We also sell to some of the companies around Colorado that package food products and make trail mixes for grocery stores or ball parks,” he added. “It’s some of the biggest cereal brands in America that you see every day that we work with. Some of the biggest retailers as well,” he explained. Erker and Edson said many people may have used a product with their ingredients in it and not known it. “We’re just an ingredient supplier, not a brand,” he explained. “Our spot in the supply chain is more about getting the ingredients to the right people.” Edson explained their role in getting ingredients that are imported from around the world to a grocery store or a restaurant. “So if you look at a jug of nut milk, for example. We go to Kenya and we buy the macadamia nuts. We bring them to the United States and then we maybe add further value to them, if they need it,” Edson explained. “Some people want them raw. Some people want them roasted, so we have them roasted. We then take it to the company who grinds it and makes it into the paste for the milk. “We specialize in getting the

products from Kenya to the people who are making the milk here,” he added. “We do that with about 50 countries now that we buy ingredients from.” Edson explained several of the steps they handle along the journey, including logistics, handling, food safety, sales and storage and refrigeration, among others. “It’s a really big and important thing, the food safety side of it all,” he added. Edson talked about a new ingredient, lupin, they were getting ready to add to their products. “That’s something we really enjoy doing too, creating new markets for new ingredients,” Edson said.

History of the company

Erker said what is now Smirk’s started back in 2000, as a part of his father’s company, Erker Grain, mainly doing retail snack items such as chocolate covered sunflower seeds or raisins. He said they were also roasting and packaging other ingredients at the time. Their next step was to increase their volume to bulk sales about 15 years ago. Erker said that was also about the time they changed the company name to Smirk’s. Erker said he came back to work with his father and the company in about 2005. “We reviewed our business plan

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SMIRK’S from page 41 pany in about 2005. “We reviewed our business plan and performance and found the retail thing wasn’t working for us that well,” he explained. “We didn’t understand the retail marketing and sales, so we decided to close down the retail side of the business and continue with the bulk.” Smirk’s officially split from Erker Grain in 2007 and became its own import business. “Our first container was pumpkin seeds from China,” Erker said. Erker said the company went from his “one-man show” to grow to the 19-person company it is today. Along the way, Erker invited Edson, a high school friend of his, to join the team about a decade ago. Over the past decade, the company and its products have grown considerably from those first pumpkin seeds. “Much of it has been built through relationships we’ve made

over the years,” Edson said. “Or at an international food show, or the International Nut Congress. “We also have trade shows in the United States where we display and sometimes people walk up to us,” he added. “Then also we have brokers around the world we work with.”

pany relationships are all about. “One thing we’re really good at is matching our customers’ needs with a source, and also our suppliers’ qualifications with a customer who desires that,” Edson said. “Transparency is a key factor to us.” Erker and Edson said they work with their customers to solve Building relationships problems, whether it’s finding a Erker, Edson and Chief Finannew supplier when weather cial Officer Cindy Schmid all described the company culture as changes affect a crop, or working with a customer when they need about relationships. to make some changes due to “We have really great relationfinancial shifts. ships around the world,” Edson “We’re focused a lot now on said. “Whether it’s in the U.S., or building more closer-to-thepeople in Peru that can go into source relationships around the these remote areas of the Amaworld,” Edson explained. “In the zon and they know the farmers there to help us find a special kind past, we bought cashews from a trading company in Vietnam. Now of cocoa bean that can make a we’re focused more on being next special kind of cocoa powder for to the farmer in Vietnam.” one of our customers.” Between them and their cusMoving forward, Edson said tomers, suppliers and even their they plan to become more “vertibankers, the group affirmed that cally integrated.” transparency, communication and “Being able to work with the a bit of laughter is what their com- farmer and make sure it’s safe

and made in a good way, then shipping it into the U.S. and getting it in to the grocery store, all in one spot,” he added. “Instead of farm-to-table, it’s farm-to-retail,” Erker said. What are their favorite ingredients to work with? Erker said he has a love-hate relationship with sunflower seeds, an ingredient that helped start it all. Edson enjoys working with coconut products, from coconut powder to oil. Schmid is fascinated by how chia seeds have gone from “Chia Pets” to consumption items over time. “I’m super proud we did this in Fort Morgan,” Edson said. “Nick and I graduated from here, we grew up here, we are raising our families here. It’s very cool we’ve been able to come back here and do this in Fort Morgan.” “It really proves you can do whatever you set your mind to,” Erker added. “We always said this would be a great opportunity and could be a big thing. We stuck to it, worked hard and have a team that’s working hard.”

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Salute to Agriculture - Fall 2019 Edition  

Salute to Agriculture - Fall 2019 Edition The Heartbeat of the Plains The Fort Morgan Times, Brush News-Tribune and Sterling Journal-Advoca...

Salute to Agriculture - Fall 2019 Edition  

Salute to Agriculture - Fall 2019 Edition The Heartbeat of the Plains The Fort Morgan Times, Brush News-Tribune and Sterling Journal-Advoca...