St. Vrain program named Outstanding Colorado Young Farmer Chapter for 2009
First established in 1983, the St. Vrain Progressive Farmer Chapter, a member of the Colorado Young Farmers Educational Association, was recently recognized as the top program in the state for 2009. This marks the third time the chapter has won this award in the last five years. They received the award in 2004 and again in 2007.
The 36 member organization takes great pride in the many community service projects and activities it sponsors each year. From a nationally recognized pinto bean drive to the support it gives area FFA chapters, the St. Vrain Young Farmer members are always at work making a difference in the community surrounding Longmont and beyond.
The chapter's list of 2008 community service projects is one any active service organization might aspire to duplicate. Most notable this last year is probably the group's annual holiday food drive where it combines efforts with several area 4-H clubs and the Rocky Mountain offices of the Farm Service Agency to deliver 650 pounds of non-perishable food and pinto beans to the Outreach United Resource Center in Longmont, 200 pounds to the Mead Community Food Bank and 2,600 pounds of beans to the Trinity Housing Project in Greeley. Since the inception of this pinto bean drive in 1991, nearly 25 tons of beans alone have been distributed to the needy. In this case, those who actually grow the beans are helping make sure this food source gets to those who really need the beans.
Other community service projects taken on by the St. Vrain Young Farmers include annual sponsorship of one of the participants in the annual National Western FFA Heifer Wrangle, a scholarship program where local youth interested in attending an in-state college to major in agriculture may apply for and receive one of four $250 scholarships awarded each year. Money for these scholarships is raised in a number of ways; however, the most popular fundraiser is an annual consignment auction. This event is held each year at the St. Vrain Sugarbeet Receiving Station near Mead. WW Auctions of Fort Collins donates auctioneering for the event and the Roosevelt FFA Chapter of Johnstown operated the food concession stand and the St. Vrain FFA Chapter provides additional labor on the day of the sale. With money from this auction the chapter has been able to award right at $10,000 in scholarship money to local youth.
In September of each year, the St. Vrain Chapter participates in the Mead Sugarbeet Festival by helping with displays of both old and new sugarbeet equipment and being on hand to lead the show and tell portion of the day when the public can actually see sugarbeets being delivered and piled at the station.
The St. Vrain Chapter is a strong supporter of the Colorado Foundation for Agriculture's "AgriCULTURE in the Classroom." As part of this program, teachers from throughout Colorado are invited to spend a couple of days each summer learning about farming. Chapter members serve as hosts for teachers and take them to their farm where they get to enjoy a day doing "hard labor" which in turn helps prepare them better to teach their students the importance of agriculture.
Like many chapters across the state, the St. Vrain group does several other fundraisers each year to fund its activities which include interaction with young people of ages. In addition to the scholarships it provides to high school and college students, the group raises money and sponsorships in order that it can sponsors several 4-H livestock awards at the Boulder County Fair each year and also purchases animals at the livestock sale.
Among its other community service projects, the chapter has a long tradition of supporting the Colorado Pedal Tractor Pull Association. In 2008, it teams up with the St. Vrain and Roosevelt FFA Chapter to assist them to sponsor the pull competitions at the Boulder County Fair and the Mead Sugarbeet Festival. At these events, children ages 5-12 attempt to ride a specifically built pedal tractor equipped with a wagon and iron weights up to 50 feet. It is hoped that this new partnership with these FFA chapters will eventually lead to new members in the CYFEA someday.
Some of the St. Vrain Chapter members are also volunteers each year at the state tractor pull competition held in Yuma.
Chapter members are competitive at all levels. Since 1992, St. Vrain has had five Colorado Spokesperson for Agriculture state winners and has had national winners as well, including Chapter President Kelly Huenink recently being awarded the 2008 Young Ag Professional Award at the National Young Farmers Educational Institute. Member Artie Elmquist who was the 2007 Colorado Spokesperson for Agriculture title holder, keeps the chapter tied to the Southwest Weld Alliance for Preservation Group (SWAP) as he is very involved in this community group which represents grass roots citizens exploring ways to create a "regional growth plan" that will help protect farmland in southwest Weld County from development and hopefully enhance the country's agriculture economy. Elmquist chaired an event called the West Weld Future Chair, sponsored by SWAP and the CYFEA. It was held at the Anderson Farms Corn Maze near Erie. The St. Vrain Chapter sponsored the beer garden featuring Coors products. Many of the chapter members grow malting barley for Coors. The event in part, was designed to bring about a new awareness, especially for elected officials, of the important role agriculture plays in the daily lives of residents of that area.
Community service isn't all that the chapter does. Each year it holds educational meetings, works with the Longmont Conservation District to do an annual sugarbeet strip till project, holds a golf tournament, an appreciation picnic for its business sponsors, does a membership drive, and holds special events. Educational meetings this year included a presentation by Tom Theobald, owner and operation of the Niwot Honey Farm, Brian Werner of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District discussing the Northern Integrated Supply Project,
This chapter is one of only a few in the state that have a website. The site provides regular updates of chapter activities and links to other agriculture websites of interest. It also allows students and teachers to log on and learn about agricultural issues of interest, especially those specific to northern Colorado. The site is www.stvrainyf.org
The president of the St. Vrain chapter is Bruce Schlagel and the chapter advisor is Steve Coleman.
Greg Winter (left) representing Garst Seeds, proudly presents Tammy (center) and Steve Coleman right) with the 2009 Colorado Young Farmer Outstanding Chapter Award. Coleman is the advisor for the chapter. (Courtesy photo.)