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CFVGA members elect Sakata, Soukup and Hirakata to board

Some 300 growers, allied industry companies and other produce enthusiasts heard from top-notch speakers, attended educational workshops, visited with 48 exhibitors and networked with fellow growers and potential buyers Feb. 25-26 at the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association's fifth annual conference.

Elected or re-elected to the CFVGA board of directors were Robert Sakata of Sakata Farms in Brighton, Catharine Soukup of American AgCredit in Greeley and Glenn Hirakata of Hirakata Farms in Rocky Ford. Each was elected to a three-year term.sakaRobert Sakata of Sakata Farms, Catharine Soukup of American AgCredit and Glenn Hirakata of Hirakata Farms.

"It is my honor to be able to serve Colorado produce growers," said Sakata, who begins his third, three-year term on the CFVGA board. He also was elected by the board for a third term as president. "We have a dynamic group of board members, who will be leading and serving this organization as we enter our seventh year as an incorporated association."

Speakers included Stephanie Mercier, former team leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Trade Policy & Programs within the Economic Research Service, who explained elements of the farm bill and agricultural trade issues impacting Colorado growers. She said federal feeding programs that are part of the farm bill make its passage easier, despite the United States becoming less rural.

SWIIM, an on-farm water accounting system, was the judge's top pick at the second annual Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association's Tech Pitch, held the second day of the conference. Coming in first by audience vote was GeoVisual, a production forecasting technology aimed at helping farmers know how much produce they have in each field.

During the awards lunch, Michael Bartolo, director of the Colorado State University Arkansas Valley Research Center in Rocky Ford, was honored as the 2018 Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association's Robert Sakata Member of the Year. Bartolo was instrumental in the founding of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association.

The CFVGA is comprised of more than 250 members, including growers of all sizes and types of production throughout the state, as well as representatives of allied industries. The Colorado fruit and vegetable growing sector contributes nearly $485 million to Colorado at the farm gate and is multiplied as it goes through the distribution chain. Over 90,000 Colorado acres are in fruit and vegetable production.