Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association honors Wendy White at annual conference

Austin White
Ag Journal Online
Wendy White served on countless committees and conducted an endless stream of consumer outreach activities during two decades heading up the Colorado Proud promotional program for the Colorado Department of Agriculture. CFVGA recently recognized her contributions by awarding her with its highest honor, Member of the Year.

One of the main items of business during the recent Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers annual business meeting was recognizing Wendy White with its most prestigious honor, Member of the Year.

White worked for the Colorado Department of Agriculture for more than 20 years promoting local food and agricultural products through the award-winning Colorado Proud program.

She left that position at the end of last year to take a new job as director of Federation Communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, which is headquartered in Denver.

CFVGA lauded the many awards Colorado Proud received under her management, while noting the impressive brand awareness she achieved. During her tenure, the Colorado Proud brand reached 80 percent familiarity among Colorado consumers, and membership grew from 65 members in 1999 to 3,000 in 2020.

White “worked tirelessly” to promote Colorado products, CFVGA officials said, including traveling across the state to promote local agricultural products, especially Colorado grown fruits and vegetables, through themed events such as pop-up picnics, the “Faces of Colorado Agriculture” campaign and another called “Follow Your Fruits and Vegetables Journey.”

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In conjunction with public relations partner, Philosophy Communication, Colorado Proud’s summer tours were a fixture of the program’s outreach, with communities across the state looking forward to the arrival of the Colorado Proud logo-and-image wrapped car.

The unique public relations campaigns received numerous awards from the Public Relations Society of America-Colorado Chapter, including at least one best-in-show designation.

CFVGA also highlighted White’s involvement with helping to get the new organization off the ground in 2014. She helped spread the word about the group, assisted with news media communication and also served as an active member of the CFVGA conference planning committee for seven years.

“The 2020 Member of the Year selection committee’s decision was unanimous,” said CFVGA President Robert Sakata. “Wendy has been a faithful partner in promoting Colorado produce growers throughout this state. She also was a hard-working conference committee member, who contributed her time and talent to enable CFVGA to host quality annual conferences.”

An animal science graduate of Colorado State University, White also has a master’s in business administration from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

She’s the fourth honoree of CGVGA’s highest award. The first recipient was Sakata himself, who operates Sakata Farms at Brighton and serves as the group’s founding president. The award was officially named the Robert Sakata Member of the Year Award in his honor. The award’s 2018 recipient was Michael Bartolo, vegetable crops specialist and director of the Colorado State University’s Arkansas Valley Research Center. The 2019 recipient was Adrian Card, another CFVGA founding member and CSU extension agent for Boulder County.

In an appearance at the CFVGA annual conference, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg said one of her immediate priorities would be to hire a new Colorado Proud director with a 20-year vision for expanding on the legacy of what White had accomplished.

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“Wendy took a program and built it into a brand that was recognized by a vast number of people,” she said.

During the CFVGA business meeting, the group also welcomed a new board member, Colleen Lucas, of Bayfield, Colorado. She introduced herself as a small produce grower who markets her products mostly in the Durango area. She said she was eager to engage and offer input in the months to come.