Colorado Proud launches Choose Colorado tour

A community-to-community road trip across the state’s agricultural landscape

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, a sixth-generation San Luis Valley potato farmer and rancher, was on hand Aug. 1 to help agricultural experts and members of Colorado Proud launch the Choose Colorado tour to celebrate food and agricultural products grown, raised or processed in Colorado.

They would later “drive home” the impact the agricultural industry has on Colorado’s economy — from jobs to income — by embarking on a three-week, statewide road trip in a specially designed “Colorado Proud” vehicle to educate consumers and stimulate pride for local goods.

The Choose Colorado tour is an interactive expedition to connect the state’s agricultural regions and salute the farmers, ranchers, retailers and businesses that significantly help the state thrive.

Colorado Proud Manager Wendy White and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar prepare to share a slice of sweet Colorado-grown Rocky Ford melon.

The kick-off event at the Denver Safeway store at Evans and Downing was held intentionally on Colorado Day, which celebrates the past, present and future of the Centennial State. Salazar and Colorado Proud officials inaugurated this year’s tour with an appearance at the store with local Colorado Proud farmers.

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, left, and 8-year-old Kailee Davis of 4-H Denver County Extension study the oversized $500 check from “Your Neighborhood Safeway” payable to Denver County Extension 4-H as CSU Extension’s Rusty Collins, right, watches them with pleasure.

The program was created by Colorado’s Department of Agriculture in 1999, and one of its goals to make it easier for consumers to identify and purchase Colorado products by labeling them with the Colorado Proud logo. When the program first began, there were 65 companies — now Colorado Proud has over 1,900 members that include growers, processors, restaurants, retailers and associations statewide.

Safeway VP of Marketing Joe Perry proudly presents this display of Colorado grown peaches and melons at the Downing and Evans Safeway in Denver, initiating the 2013 Choose Colorado promotional tour.

“Agriculture is a vital part of Colorado’s future — providing more than 170,000 jobs and contributing more than $40 billion to the state’s economy annually, while also feeding the world with more than $1 billion in exported products,” explained Salazar. The former congressman said that Colorado’s agricultural industry continues to overcome adversity from drought, fires and recession, and consistently earns its ranking as one of the state’s top industries. Colorado also ranks in the top ten nationally for production of a variety of agricultural products.

Safeway’s Director of Public Affairs Kris Staaf and Brighton farmer Bob Sakata pose in front of a display of Sakata Farm’s extra sweet gourmet sweet corn.

While buying local has proved its positive impact on the economy, it also is better for the environment — helping keep farms and ranches profitable, thereby maintaining open space and wildlife habitat, while lowering the carbon footprint and saving energy. Buying local also supports Colorado’s western heritage, preserving the farms, ranches and land that define the state.

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar displays Gov. Hickenlooper’s Proclamation designating August 2013 as Colorado Proud Month.

“Safeway is honored to host eight stops on the Choose Colorado tour to help promote Colorado growers like Sakata Farms and Petrocco Farms, which have partnered with Safeway for more than 60 years to provide customers with fresh, superior quality produce like corn, cabbage and green beans,” said Al Duran, Safeway’s Denver division president. His comments were echoed by Safeway store officials and workers at the Downing store who had set-up a special display of Colorado Proud farm products in an artistic and appetizing manner.

This Colorado Proud car will announce the 2013 Choose Colorado tour as it proceeds through several communities throughout the state this August.
Photos by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

Salazar read a proclamation from Governor John Hickenlooper declaring the month of August as “Colorado Proud Month,” and praised the value of the program for “promoting the freshest, locally-grown agricultural products in the state; encouraging the state’s chefs and schools to use Colorado-grown items in their daily menus; supporting local businesses and our state’s economy; and ensuring the future of our agricultural industry.”

The store provided samples of grilled Rancher’s Reserve Tender Beef, Rocky Ford cantaloupes, and other local products. Later, the Colorado Proud-branded car and accompanying mobile grill trailer left for Grand Junction, Durango, Alamosa, Salida, Greeley, Vail, Glenwood Springs, La Junta and Pueblo. Celebrations are set along the way for consumers that commemorate each community’s diversified commodities, including livestock, grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, horticultural products, and manufactured goods. The three-week tour ends on Aug. 23 at the Colorado State Fair.

See the Aug. 9 print edition for full photo coverage.