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Consumers urged to 'Choose Colorado'

Posted: Tuesday, Aug 6th, 2013

In front of the Colorado Proud vehicle at Safeway Sunday morning in Alamosa are from left Connie Tran, Tera Keatts, Jen Miller, Wendy White and Kyli Kehler. Courier photo by Ruth Heide

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — “Choose Colorado” was the theme of a multi-city tour making a stop at the Safeway in Alamosa on Sunday morning.

Staff from the Colorado Department of Agriculture encouraged the purchase of locally grown products to support Colorado farmers and ranchers who contribute $40 billion to the state’s economy every year and employ more than 170,000 workers.

In addition to handing out stickers, fact sheets and cake to celebrate Colorado agriculture, they videotaped consumers talking about why they choose Colorado products and posted the comments to Facebook. (Also see Coloradoproud.org)

Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar, who also farms in the San Luis Valley, was unable to attend the Sunday event but returns to the family farm in the Valley on most weekends.

He said the Choose Colorado promotion kicked off last week in Denver and is touring throughout the state to make people more aware of the great Colorado produce available in local stores.

The tour had already stopped in Grand Junction, Montrose and Durango and was headed to Salida from Alamosa, with future stops planned in Greeley, Vail, Pueblo and La Junta. The three-week tour will conclude on Aug. 23, at the Colorado State Fair.

The group has stopped at farmers markets and stores like Safeway that are great supporters of Colorado produce.

“Safeway is honored to host eight stops on the Choose Colorado tour to help promote Colorado growers in Colorado who have partnered with Safeway to provide customers with fresh, superior quality produce,” said Heather Halpape, Safeway’s public affairs manager. “We take great pride in supporting our Colorado economy and offering customers hundreds of Colorado Proud products and produce.”

Wendy White, Colorado Department of Agriculture spokesperson, added that Governor John Hickenlooper’s proclamation of August as Colorado Proud Month provides an opportunity to celebrate Colorado agriculture and educate consumers about the state’s agriculture industry and its contributions to the economy.

Salazar said, “The governor is behind this. He understands agriculture is key.”

Salazar said agriculture is the second largest contributor to the state’s economy although the state department of agriculture receives less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the general fund.

“We get very little of taxpayer money to run the department,” Salazar explained. “We have a $40 million budget. Of that only $6 million comes from the General Fund, the rest from user fees. We pay our own way.”

Salazar added that Colorado agriculture is “doing super well,” with ag exports doubling since 2009.

“We are in the driver’s seat.”

He said Colorado Proud was initiated in 1999 with 60 companies displaying the Colorado Proud logo and now has more than 1,900 participants.

Colorado ranks in the top 10 nationally for production of a variety of agricultural products.

“We are excited about the growth of Colorado Proud, also consumer awareness,” Salazar said on Sunday. Due to educational efforts, now 90 percent of Colorado consumers are aware of what it takes to produce the food they eat and where it originates. People also have confidence in Colorado grown foods, Salazar added.

“We’ve got to keep promoting agriculture.”

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