Robert Sakata, Sakata Farms, Brighton, Colo., was named the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association's (CFVGA) 2017 Member of the Year Feb. 20 during the association's fourth annual conference. Not only was he the first recipient of this award, the award will henceforth be known as CFVGA's Robert Sakata Member of the Year Award.
"It is entirely fitting that the CFVGA member of the year award be named after an individual who has put his whole heart into making our organization a success," said Roger Mix, CFVGA vice president. "As a CFVGA founding board member, he has invested huge amounts of time, talent and even his own money."
Every year since CFVGA's formation in 2014, Sakata has been elected to serve as president of the association.
In presenting the award Feb. 20 in Denver, CFVGA Treasurer Reid Fishering noted: "Last year, the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association voted to implement a Member of the Year Award to recognize members who achieved distinction within their areas of work-whether it be farming, business or academics-as well as serving CFVGA in an exemplary manner. The Member of the Year selection committee considered the applications and their decision was unanimous."
"He (Sakata) even put the deposit for the first conference in 2015 on his personal credit card," said CFVGA Secretary Glenn Hirakata. "Over the last four plus years, he has traveled the state and nationally, attending agriculture conferences and other events to establish a presence and encourage folks to join and sponsor CFVGA."
Sakata is CFVGA's volunteer representative to the Colorado Ag Council, which meets every other week when the Colorado Legislature is in session, to monitor and advocate for Colorado produce growers. He has represented CFVGA at Ag Day, emceed the Colorado Farm Show's Produce Day and hosted legislative roundtables.
Sakata was one of 25 individuals nationally recognized by The Packer in 2016 for his work and accomplishments in the produce industry and received the United Fresh Grower Achievement award in 2014. He is on two ditch boards, the Colorado Water Congress and is a trustee for National Onion Association. He was on the Water Quality Control Commission for 15 years, just retired from the Colorado Groundwater Protection Advisory Committee and was on the Metro Basin roundtable.
Sakata has addressed members of the U.S. House and Senate along with administrative rule makers in Washington, D.C. on behalf of Colorado produce growers. He has been a speaker at the Center for Produce Safety Symposium, International Food Safety Conference and the Rocky Mountain Food Safety Conference. In 2017 he was selected to be a member of the National Produce Safety Training Advisory Council.
The conference was attended by attended by some 300 growers, allied industries and other produce enthusiasts. 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.