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Preserving the right to be entrepreneurs

Debbie and I were honored to be named Agriculturists of the Year by the Durango Chamber of Commerce at the awards ceremony, Jan. 19.

The ceremony made me think of how grateful I am to live in this great country of the free where we have the right to not only succeed, but also to fail. Many of us have attempted enterprises that just did not work out. The important thing is that nobody can stop us from trying, and there are thousands of examples of folks that have kept on trying until they found the right combination for success. In this country, we can do just about anything that we set our minds to do.

There were numerous examples of successful nominees on Thursday night. Take for instance Linda’s Local Foods Café. She is serious about providing natural food from products grown and raised by local farmers and ranchers. She believes in her product and sells it to this great community. Not everyone could make her business work, but she can because she believes in herself and her product and her customers, and she is willing to put in those extra hours to guarantee that success. Government doesn’t tell her how to make a living.

Another of the Chamber’s nominees was a family whom I have known for 45 years, the James Ranch. When I first met David and Kay James, they were promoting and raising Charolais cattle. They were very successful, but again they worked long hard hours to make it work. Over the years, as the family has grown, the James Ranch has adapted to a growing demand for locally and naturally grown products. Each child and his or her ?family has come back to the ranch with ideas to expand the productivity of the ranch. Not only do they produce beef, but they milk cows, keep pigs, produce cheese, grow vegetables, and no telling what else, and they market all of these products locally. They even have a restaurant chain. Now that is entrepreneurship!

Debbie and I and our boys have a little different ranching operation. We have developed a breed of sheep that will produce two 80-pound lambs and 10 pounds of fine wool per ewe. These ewes are grazed on natural pasture mostly in La Plata County. We would flood the market if we sold everything locally, so, in addition to some local sales, we sell the bulk of our lambs to a feeder lamb buyer in Yuma, Ariz. Our wool is sold at auction in Roswell, N.M. Through hard work and by the grace of God, we have been able to keep meat and beans on the table and pay our debts.

My point is that these are very different food producing businesses, but they are all successful because in this country we are allowed to do so.

One of my jobs in the Legislature is to see that we continue to have the right to be entrepreneurs.

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