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Beth LaShell earns place in Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame

Lunch dessert. There are numerous reasons why it is always enjoyable to go to a conference somewhere – professional development, networking, inspiration – but none really compare to the lunch dessert.

Three hundred and sixty days out of the year, I don’t eat cheesecake, pie or a chocolate tart after a full lunch. But when it’s sitting there at the table, right next to the iced tea and water glass, it is tough to ignore. The dessert forces you to eat all your salad, your mixed veggies and even a starch. I for one don’t want to be “that guy” who barely touches the healthy stuff and then just plops the cheesecake right in front of my name tent. But if you earn it, it is such a welcome treat!

I am fortunate enough to be spending the week in Denver, attending the annual Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association meetings and the Colorado Ag Forum. In a world where pandemic-induced restrictions seem to be easing, it is nice to catch up with colleagues from across the state and hopefully bring back some ideas to the agricultural community in Southwest Colorado. The conferences culminate with the Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame banquet on Wednesday night. A first for me, the banquet “recognizes those individuals that have made significant contributions to agriculture.”

One of those individuals is Beth LaShell. I met Beth in 2007, probably in the first week I started my job with CSU Extension. While my memory frequently escapes me, I know that at the time she had at least one daughter in 4-H, helped run the San Juan Basin Research Center (commonly referred to as the “bull testing site,” now known as the Old Fort at Hesperus), sat on the Extension Advisory Committee and was integral in the La Plata County Fair. She was my go-to for all things livestock and forage.

Beth LaShell

Over the past 15 years, she is still my go-to for many of my questions about livestock, forage and hay. She (thankfully) returned to my Advisory Committee, and she is the coach for the 4-H Livestock Judging Team. This team, which consistently has its sights on national championships and will be traveling to Scotland this summer to compete, has paved the path for many high schoolers to go to colleges with amazing scholarships.

Beth also was the catalyst for the Old Fort’s Beginning Farmer Incubator and Farmer in Training programs. These programs provided a safe starting point for many farmers, some of whom still farm vegetables here in the southwest.

I saw Beth speak on Tuesday, giving an overview of what’s next at the Old Fort. It makes me feel incredibly proud that Extension has been able to partner with and ride the coattails of her work. It is truly inspiring. She is one of the hardest working people I have ever met. But she does it all with an understanding of agriculture in all its forms and iterations. She recognizes the importance of the large- and small-scale producers who make agriculture so unique in Southwest Colorado. And she always seems to do it with a smile on her face; with an extra 10 minutes to talk and catch up; and with everyone else’s best interest at hand.

I am so proud that Beth will be one of a handful of women inducted into the Colorado Hall of Fame since its inception in 1989, and that her tireless work will be recognized at the state level. But I’m even more proud to call her my friend. I tip my hat to her – we all should.

Darrin Parmenter is the director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office. Reach him at darrin.parmenter@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6464.