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University partnerships take Colorado agriculture to the next level

January 22, 2014
By Tiana Nelson

More than 170 business professionals and thought leaders joined Colorado State University officials on Saturday, Jan. 18, for the National Western Partners Breakfast at the Grand Hyatt in Denver.

The first National Western Partners Breakfast in Denver kicked off CSU Day at the National Western Stock Show this year.The event made its debut this year spotlighting the importance of agriculture in the state’s economy and showcasing the long history and evolving partnership between CSU and the National Western Stock Show.

“CSU and the National Western have had a partnership for more than 100 years … it’s truly a great partnership,” said Amy Parsons, vice president for operations at CSU. “Now we can focus on what we imagine CSU’s presence at the Stock Show could be in the next hundred years.”

As part of the growing partnership with the National Western, CSU is joining forces in the long-term visioning of the National Western Complex, working with the City and County of Denver, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and History Colorado.

Larger vision

During the Partners Breakfast, Kelly Leid, program manager for Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s North Denver Cornerstone Collaborative, spoke of CSU as a vital partner in the process of elevating Denver’s north corridor. The National Western Complex project is part of a larger vision linking Denver Union Station to Denver International Airport, and includes initiatives such as the redevelopment of Brighton Boulevard and Interstate 70 East, neighborhood connectivity, and enhancement and extension of Regional Transportation District service.

“We could not be more excited about the journey we’re about to take together,” Leid said. “Some of Denver’s richest history is in this area … this is a unique and historic opportunity to connect six strategic initiatives in this part of the city.”

Chancellor Mike Martin, back, and Sonny Lubick opened the rodeo at CSU Day at the National Western Stock Show aboard the traditional stagecoach.CSU’s participation in the partnership to revitalize with National Western Complex and Coliseum will provide opportunities for the University to reach urban audiences and educate the public about innovation in agriculture that is allowing the sector to meet modern needs.

“We imagine that this is a place where people can come and get a flavor for that history and the importance of agriculture and our Western heritage,” Parsons said. “But not just that; we want people to be able to come here and get real, hands-on skills.”

The master plan for the urban site is anticipated to be complete by the end of the year and will be followed by a phasing plan to determine how best to accomplish the build-out, according to Leid and Parsons.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also attended the event and voiced his support for the partnership, noting that CSU is a keystone to the project and the vision.

“We’re beginning to see what the future can look like,” Hickenlooper said. “These institutions highlight that the leadership role in innovation can grow.”

Importance of agriculture

HIckenlooper cited the importance of agriculture to the Colorado economy, with exports reaching the $2 billion mark in 2014, and more than 37,000 farms and ranches operating in the state. Colorado also continues to attract new agricultural industry, he noted, as it will soon become the new headquarters for Ardent Mills, the flour super-company created when ConAgra and Cargill CHS, Inc. combined.

CSU’s key contribution to the agriculture industry goes beyond the partnerships into the classroom, where CSU is developing the next generation of industry professionals, noted Craig Beyrouty, dean of the CSU College of Agricultural Sciences. More than 1,300 students are studying Agricultural Sciences at CSU, with the college expecting continued growth.

As CSU continues to be at the forefront of the next generation of agriculture, Sara Harper, with event sponsor Kennedy & Coe, LLC and Vela Environmental, noted that the industry is well-positioned to meet the needs of the next generation, a task all the partners must focus on completing.

“Sustainability can mean really anything, which is one of its dangers, but what it really means is how are we collectively still going to be able to thrive and do what we do in the face of all of these challenges?” Harper said. “The good news is that we have the technology and resources to meet these challenges.”

Following the breakfast, attendees joined CSU Day at the National Western Stock Show, a long-standing tradition where alumni and CSU supporters gather for the morning rodeo and a day of celebrating the University’s commitment to agriculture and its Western heritage as a land-grant university.