CSU Ag Day partners bring more than just food to the table

Ag Day
At the annual Nutrien Ag Day BBQ, CSU agricultural partners feed 3,000 football fans prior to kick off.

Feeding 3,000 hungry football fans on game day is no easy feat. But if anyone knows how to do it, it’s Colorado State University’s agricultural partners from around the state. Each year, they team up to donate everything from the main course to dessert as part of CSU’s annual Ag Day. 

The Nutrien Ag Day BBQ – held this year prior to kickoff of the Ram football team’s matchup against Sacramento State on Sept. 24 – has honored Colorado’s agricultural roots for more than 40 years, while supporting the industry’s future by raising funds for student scholarships. 

Bringing it all together requires teamwork from Colorado agricultural growers, producers and partners who donate more than $50,000 worth of food and services to the event. 

“We are grateful to Colorado’s hardworking growers and producers for their commitment to feeding our communities and sharing their bounty with us during Ag Day,” said James Pritchett, Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences. “This long-standing tradition amplifies the role of agriculture in our lives and ensures that we can fund scholarships that support the development of tomorrow’s agricultural leaders.” 

Many of the partners involved in the barbecue have done so since the event’s beginnings. SOURCE spoke with three longtime partners about their connections to Ag Day and what they plan to bring to the table in 2022.

Rob Moore, Poudre Valley Co-op Division Manager

What will Poudre Valley Co-op be dishing up at this year’s BBQ? 

For just over 20 years now, we’ve provided the bean service at Ag Day. This year, it’s pinto beans from Northern Feed & Bean. We’ve always viewed it as a good opportunity to showcase one of the commodities that Colorado agriculture has to offer, and beans are quite often an overlooked commodity. People don’t always think of beans when they think of Colorado. 

You’ve been one of CSU’s Ag Day partners for so long. What is it about this event that keeps you coming back? 

It’s always been a natural partnership because CSU and Poudre Valley Co-op both have strong ties to the community, and especially the agricultural community. CSU also has such a world-class Ag Sciences program, and the co-op has been a fixture in the ag community here for 75 years. 

You’ll be serving beans on Ag Day, but Poudre Valley Co-op has a lot of roles in the ag industry in Northern Colorado. 

As a member-owned agricultural co-op, we’re an ag-services provider, so we sell products focused on the ag community, everything from seeds and fertilizer to diesel and propane to tires for tractors. 

But over the years, we’ve seen the population grow and expand, and so on top of serving the agricultural community, we now serve a slightly different set of customers than traditionally we had in the past. That’s been a great opportunity for us to work with those outside of the agricultural community and give them a better understanding of how this industry works and the fact that these farmers and producers are their neighbors.  

I think we almost inadvertently have become a resource for helping people understand the agricultural community who may not otherwise have a foot in that door and give them an appreciation of what it brings to the greater Northern Colorado area.

Michael Bartolo, Retired Director of Arkansas Valley Research Center

You’re bringing up 2,000 pounds of watermelon for this year’s BBQ. Where are they coming from? 

Oftentimes I get them from local growers from the Rocky Ford Melon Growers Association, but sometimes we grow them ourselves here at the research center. This year the melons will be provided by Knapp Farms, a multi-generational family farm that’s been growing melons in the Rocky Ford area for more than 100 years. The goal is to showcase the southeastern part of the state as it can kind of be forgotten. We want to make sure people still understand how big a role agriculture plays here and that we produce a lot of great products. This area is very famous for its melons, especially its watermelons. It’s why the local high school’s mascot is a meloneer, a fighting melon. 

Why is it important to highlight the agricultural industry from Southeastern Colorado at an event like Ag Day? 

Ag Day is a great way to communicate that this is a vital agricultural area, and there are some great people here, producing some great products. It’s really part of living that land-grant mission that is so critical in this day and age and connecting our urban and rural communities. 

The research center is part of CSU, but we’re also part of this community, and I think that partnership is really integral to our land grant DNA, and to our mission at Colorado State University. Our goal is not only to disseminate the information that we get from campus to the community through the research that we do, but also to let those on campus and in communities along the front range know about what we do here. 

What is one of your favorite parts about participating in Ag Day? 

We’re moving pretty fast at the BBQ to serve folks, but – for those who don’t have that agricultural thread in their past – this event is a great way that we can educate them on the industry, what it’s about, and the growers that produce their food. 

The Nutrien Ag Day BBQ is just such a great opportunity to experience all the wonderful bounty that we have in the state. Sometimes, we become disconnected from our food sources and from the people that produce it, and really the bounty that we put out at this event is something that can bring us all together and realize that – whether urban or rural – we’re not so different.

Bill Keating, Dairy MAX Senior Director, Industry Image and Relations

What is Dairy MAX’s role in Colorado’s agricultural industry?

Founded more than 40 years ago, Dairy MAX is a nonprofit dairy council representing 900 dairy farm families across eight states, including approximately 110 in Colorado. Dairy MAX is part of a nationwide effort to promote the power of dairy in the diet, support dairy farming and drive impact for every dairy farmer. We’re also an affiliate of the National Dairy Council, and we work on behalf of the dairy farmers to promote dairy products and the dairy farmers and their communities.

This Ag Day, we’ll be handing out about 3,500 Blue Bell ice cream cups. The event is always exciting because everyone loves ice cream.

How do you engage with the Ag Day crowd?

It’s a great opportunity to support our dairy farmers here in Colorado. During Ag Day, I’m able to talk to attendees about dairy farming and the dairy industry. I think people are often surprised to learn just that milk goes from the farm to their fridge in about two days. Generally the milk that you’re buying in the grocery store in Colorado, the journey is 40 miles or less,  and 94% of our dairy farms in the United States are family-owned.

Why is it important for Dairy MAX to be part of Ag Day?

CSU is a great partner that we’ve been involved with for many years in different ways, whether it’s sustainability or animal well-being. We’re a big supporter of the College of Agricultural Sciences and the Animal Sciences department. A lot of our dairy farmers are past graduates, so we’re very passionate about helping to support the scholarships that are funded through the Nutrien BBQ and support so many students.

It’s also a great opportunity to highlight Colorado agricultural products and CSU. The volunteers that’ll be helping me hand out ice cream are from the CSU Dairy Judging Team.