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Berthoud family grows Coors' special barley

BERTHOUD, Colo. (AP)--Bill Markham picked the top off a stalk of barley and held it in his tanned, weathered hand. The green heads will turn golden by the end of July and become one of the four main ingredients in Coors beer.

"Malted barley is the soul of the beer, lending color, body and flavor,'' according to the company website.

And Markham knows plenty about growing quality barley.

His family has been growing and harvesting a special variety for Coors for 52 years over three generations.

Bill's father, Willard, grew barley.

Bill grows barley and so does his son, Brett.

For the Markhams, farming is a way of life, a hardworking lifestyle that is difficult to beat.

"You've got to love what you do,'' said Bill at his farm east of Berthoud, where he also grows sugar beets and corn and raises cattle.

"Working with the soil and working with my dad, I was very lucky.

"I got to work with my dad and my grandfather and see the farm pass down from generation to generation.''

Because of his family's devotion to farming and 52 years growing barley for Coors, the company chose the Markhams to star in a television commercial that is airing nationwide.

The segment, called "52 years,'' captures the essence of life on the Markham farm, the family ties, the love of the land.

"It's a tribute to the American farmer,'' said Bill.

"It's a tribute to agriculture. It's not just a beer commercial. It's a tribute to all farm families.''

And a tribute to Willard Markham, who died in December and who Bill wishes could have seen the commercial.

A television crew spent an entire day on the Markham farm filming their daily life--over and over, take after take.

"My poor little dog, he had to jump out of my Jeep and run five times,'' Bill said.

Then in March, Bill and his wife, Elizabeth, flew to Las Vegas and unveiled the commercial before 4,000 people at a Miller-Coors convention.

"It brought tears to my eyes,'' Elizabeth said. "I cried. It was so awesome.''

In the middle of all the fanfare, the Markhams continue to do what they always do: farm.

They are growing 350 acres of barley, which should be golden and ready to harvest at the end of the month.

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