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Dr. Michael Bartolo, Rocky Ford, Colo., Named 2018 Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association Robert Sakata Member of the Year

For Immediate Release:  Feb. 15, 2019

Marilyn Bay Drake   303-594-3827  admin@coloradoproduce.org

Dr. Michael Bartolo, director of the Colorado State University Arkansas Valley Research Center, Rocky Ford, Colo., has been selected the 2018 Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association’s (CFVGA) Robert Sakata Member of the Year. He will be honored Feb. 26 at an awards luncheon that is part of the association’s fifth annual conference at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton. 

Bartolo was instrumental in the founding of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association. According to CFVGA President Robert Sakata, “Mike is especially deserving of the selection, because he was the principle person with the idea of organizing CFVGA. He had the vision and took the time to write and get approved a Specialty Crop Block Grant focused on starting the association.”

Bartolo has dedicated his career to help farmers across Colorado by conducting research to improve plant varieties and develop new ones. He spent 25 years of his career developing chile peppers and working with growers to develop a variety with superior production and taste properties. The Mosco chile is one of the most popular chiles grown in the Arkansas Valley and consumed throughout Colorado and beyond. He encouraged growers to brand this family of chiles as Pueblo Chile, which has contributed greatly to the growing popularity of this distinctively Colorado chile. In addition, he has conducted research on irrigation techniques as well as disease and pest control technologies. He has participated in multi-state research projects and also has delved into studying environmental conditions that may provide Colorado produce with superior taste.

Pueblo grower Dominic DiSanti, DiSanti Farms, said of the recipient: “He has always selflessly put Colorado producers first. He is a humble leader in this organization and has contributed countless hours of service in all aspects of the association’s organization.”

“He is a true visionary whose research is driven by his ambitions, his intellect, his past accomplishments and deep-rooted understanding and compassion for all farmers,” said Shane Milberger, Milberger Farms, Pueblo, Colo.

Larry Duell of Gowan Seeds, who served on the CFVGA Board with Bartolo but who has known him much longer, said he is always available to take a call or spend time with people who need his help. “He responds with professional information and expects nothing in return.”

Another Arkansas Valley farmer, Glenn Hirakata, Hirakata Farms, Rocky Ford, Colo., said: “I know that Arkansas Valley farmers rely heavily on his expertise with crops. Statewide, growers see Mike as someone who is always willing to help. He is a man of incredible humility, despite his many accomplishments.”

Outside of work, Bartolo dedicates his time to serve in the community as a lector and eucharistic minister and is on the parish council at St. Peters Catholic Church in Rocky Ford. He also serves on a variety of ditch boards and on the Palmer Land Trust Board. His awards are many and include the 2018 F.A. Anderson award from Colorado State University and the 2016 LaJunta Chamber of Commerce Ag Award. He was raised on a small farm east of Pueblo and received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CSU and his Ph.D. in plant physiology from the University of Minnesota.

The CFVGA Robert Sakata Member of the Year Award was initiated last year with CFVGA President Robert Sakata, who also was a co-founder of CFVGA, as its first recipient.

Conference registration is still open. Learn more at https://cfvga.org

Approximately 300 growers, allied industries and other produce enthusiasts are expected to attend the conference, which runs Feb. 25-26. The Colorado fruit and vegetable growing sector contributes nearly $300 million to Colorado at the farm gate and is multiplied as it goes through the distribution chain. Over 60,000 Colorado acres are in fruit and vegetable production.


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