Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg helps Antone Sellers, left, and Kayla Rossi, right, induct Jerry Sonnenberg into the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame. Sellers is president of Colorado FFA and Rossi is treasurer. (Jeff Rice / Journal-Advocate)
Agriculture is a family endeavor.
That message was made clear Thursday evening during the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame induction banquet at the Westminster Westin Conference Center.
Logan County Commissioner and former state senator Jerry Sonnenberg was among the inductees, and during his brief comments he emphasized that he couldn’t have served 16 years in the legislature without his family’s support.
“While I was in Denver, it was my wife and my sons, my family, who kept things going back home,” Sonnenberg said. “This has always been a family venture. And it was because of them that I was able to do the things I thought needed to be done.”
During a video presentation on Sonnenberg’s achievements, the Sterling farmer and rancher said it was never his intention to run for office.
“All I ever wanted to do was provide some leadership, and I realized that getting elected was the way to do that,” he said.
Sonnenberg continues in a community leadership role as a Logan County Commissioner.
Perhaps Sonnenberg’s greatest contribution to Colorado agriculture has been his work in rebuilding and maintaining the Colorado Agriculture Leadership Program. An alumnus of the program himself, Sonnenberg re-designed and found sustaining funding for the program in 2010, and now serves as president of its board of directors. CALP produces the annual Colorado Agriculture Forum, and has recently selected its 16th class of two-year fellows.
Graduates of CALP now occupy a number of leadership positions in agriculture and related fields, and not just in Colorado.
Eric Wilkinson of Greeley and Ben Rainbolt Jr. of Platteville were inducted along with Sonnenberg.
Wilkinson is the retired general manager of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. He oversaw key aspects of Colorado’s largest water projects and developed measures to prevent “buy-and-dry” to take pressure off agricultural water supplies as Colorado’s population increased.
Rainbolt is the Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Following his 25-year career in education as a highly recognized and awarded agricultural education instructor who retired as a principal. He has shaped policy and developed new leaders in Colorado’s agriculture industry.
The Premier Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame induction ceremony is conducted each year by the Colorado FFA. The banquet also is used to raise funds for the Colorado FFA Foundation.
Sonnenberg brings to 12 the number of Logan County people who have been inducted into the Ag Hall of Fame. Dave Hamil of Sterling was one of the first three to be inducted in 1989. Others from Logan County are Hilbert Kahl, 1993; Jack Annan, 1998; Keith Propst, 2002; Helen Budin, 2003; Bill Jackson, 2004; E.S. “Bud” VanBerg, 2006; Don Ament, 2008; Jim Read, 2010; Charlie Bartlett, 2017; and Chris Dinsdale in 2020. Although Jackson was inducted primarily for his work with the Greeley Tribune, he began his ag journalism career with the Journal-Advocate.