The Colorado Agriculture Leadership Foundation strives to keep people connected to agriculture. Especially, CEO Brooke Fox said, in Douglas County, which was historically grounded in the industry but has become increasingly urbanized.
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That’s why the organization offers a Legend of Agriculture Award in honor of its founders, Bea and John Lowell, which recognizes individuals who are committed to serving youths, their community and the agriculture industry.
“We kind of crafted the award after them,” Fox said of the Lowells, “because they spent their whole adult life serving in the community of Douglas County as well as youths in Douglas County.”
The Colorado Agriculture Leadership Foundation, or CALF, was founded in 2002 at Lowell Ranch south of Castle Rock. The 133-acre working education ranch is home to programming and special events aimed at connecting people to agriculture.
The Legend award is meant to honor people who, like the Lowells, were involved with agriculture and 4-H beyond parenting children in the programs, and are involved in the community.
This year’s recipients of the Legend award are Sandy and Bruff Shea of Franktown. The couple will be honored at the Ninth Annual Legends of Agriculture Dinner on July 28 at the start to the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo.
“We were shocked,” Bruff said of receiving the award.
“I was quite surprised and very honored,” Sandy said.
The couple learned they were this year’s recipients when they met with CALF members for what they thought was a social lunch until Fox arrived and surprised them with the news. The couple was a natural fit, Fox said.
The Sheas are Douglas County natives who grew up in agriculture, Fox said, and exemplify what the Legend award is meant to promote.
“It’s just part of them — it’s in their system to be community-service oriented,” Fox said.
Sandy was raised on a Franktown ranch homesteaded in 1881 by her great-grandfather, Christopher Kelly. The family owns 80 acres of original homestead and farms the property today. The ranch received the designation of a “Colorado Centennial Farm” in 1988 — one of nine in the county to do so.
“That has always been a part of her life,” Bruff said of agriculture.
Although he considers himself a “city boy” for having grown up in Sedalia, he began working the family ranch as well once he and Sandy married.
Sandy and Bruff were both active in 4-H growing up. As 10-year members, Sandy was involved with raising and showing livestock while Bruff participated in forestry and electrical projects, as well as the Sedalia 4-H square dance team.
Once the couple had married and started a family, their own children and other relatives raised 4-H livestock on the ranch. The couple eventually moved to Castle Rock but traveled back and forth to the ranch twice a day, Sandy said, so their children could care for their 4-H livestock.
“You learn responsbility big time,” Sandy said of caring for animals. “It was a good experience for them. I wouldn’t raise them any other way.”
The family still travels to Gunnison each year to watch their grandchildren compete in livestock judging on the Douglas County 4-H Livestock Judging Team.
Bruff also served on the Douglas County Fair board from 1992 to 2009 in multiple capacities, including president.
Being involved in agriculture for so many years was influential in shaping not only him and Sandy, Bruff said, but also their children and grandchildren. A connection to agriculture instills characteristics such as a strong work ethic, independence and accountability, he said.
“It really became a great kind of family experience,” he said. “It’s all the values, candidly for me, that you get being involved in agriculture.”
Fox said the work of Legend award winners is important in a world where many in the public are detached from the agriculture industry. She says people don’t always realize how many aspects of their lives are touched by both livestock and plant-based agriculture.
Whether it’s the food on their plate, the clothes they wear or the cosmetics they rely on, agriculture has a hand in delivering those products, she said.
“Everything they do throughout their day has some connection to the land,” Fox said.
And the impact left on a community by people such as the Sheas, who remain involved in agriculture and support programming that keeps youth connected, is crucial, Fox said.
“The youth of our community have so many opportunities,” Fox said, “because of Bruff and Sandy and people just like them.”
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