The 2018 Ag Award, sponsored by the Ag Journal, was presented posthumously to Matt Buhr, La Junta brand inspector, Jan. 28 at the La Junta Chamber of Commerce's 118th annual banquet. Buhr's family members were on hand to accept the honor.
Buhr was born with ranching in his blood, and he embodied the values of a true American cattleman. He was a third-generation rancher who dedicated his life to the cattle industry and worked alongside his family to build a reputable operation in Crowley County.
The Buhr family settled in Crowley County in the early 1980s, and nobody remembers that day more than childhood friend and fellow rancher, Shad Sullivan.
"Matt’s dad got a job on the old Peck and Slaven ranch north of Ordway working for a Texan named Joe McGhee in 1981," said Sullivan. "I remember when they moved in because my dad told me they had two boys about my age. And I was so excited as during that period of my life I badly wanted a brother.
"We met them (the Buhrs) that summer, and in the fall Matt and I entered into the same second-grade class, and we became fast friends. He was closer than a brother, and I miss him everyday."
Buhr graduated from Crowley County and grew into a phenomenal ranch hand who continued to make friends everywhere he went. He wasn't only an asset to his own operation; he was a fun and valuable neighbor to other ranchers in the area.
"His smile and laugh were contagious," said longtime friend Curt McCuistion. "He would always laugh at your jokes, even if it was a bad one, and was always telling good ones himself. I consider it an honor to have known him for as long as I did and to have rode alongside such a fine, upstanding, considerate and downright handy man."
Many ranchers and livestock professionals across the district and the state worked with Buhr during his years of service as a Colorado Brand Inspector for the La Junta district.
"He was a good guy, always had a smile on his face. He was a good father and a good husband," said La Junta Livestock Commission's Jace Honey. "As a brand inspector, everything he did was very good."
Aside from his allegiance to the agriculture industry, Buhr was a pillar in Crowley County and the Arkansas Valley communities, where he devoted many years to youth activities and education.
Buhr served two years on the Crowley County School Board, the Crowley County Recreational Board, and as a volunteer for Crowley County Days and the Arkansas Valley Fair.
According to Buhr's father, Bert Buhr, he was proud to be a state baseball champion and enjoyed teaching the next generation of athletes as a volunteer baseball and basketball coach.
Buhr was actively serving on the Crowley County FFA advisory board until his untimely death last August and, according to associate board member Jim McCuistion, he was a reliable asset to the committee.
"Matt wasn't afraid to speak his mind, but he was always open to listen to new ideas," said Jim McCuistion. "He was a strong factor on the board. We could always count on him to be there if we needed some help or ideas."
Buhr's wife of 25 years, Melissa Buhr, along with their two children, Dally and Bryce, received the award in his honor. Also in attendance were Buhr's son-in-law, Kyle Maier; daughter-in-law, Corley Buhr; his parents, Bert and Vicki Buhr; and his brothers and sisters-in-law, Dan and Kellie Buhr and Shawn and Desta Buhr.
Melissa Buhr continues to run their cattle operation with the help of Bryce Buhr, who is proud to be a fourth generation cattleman; he is eager to carry on his father's legacy.
An emotional Shawn Buhr choked up as he talked about the accomplishments and integrity of his oldest brother.
"It makes me feel good, and it makes me proud of him," said Shawn Buhr. "I looked up to Matt my whole life. He was my big brother. He was a good cowboy, a good rancher and a good person most of all."