Yuma's 6th Annual Harvest Dinner, held Thursday, February 25, once again brought industry leaders, local harvesters and friends of the agriculture community together to celebrate Yuma's contribution to our nation's dinner tables and raise funds for the Yuma County Ag Producers Scholarship Fund.
The alfresco evening featured cuisine by four local chefs, entertainment by local Yuma band Common Ground, a live auction and four surprise tributes that further recognized future farmers, harvesters, regional and national agriculture partners.
"The Harvest Dinner offers an opportunity for farmers and growers to reignite the passions we all have for our industry," said Steve Alameda, president of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association.
Held at the Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, the Harvest Dinner organizers choose a different theme each year. The 2016 theme was "The Magic of Ag" and honored the industry through four unique surprises throughout the evening. Organizers kept each revelation top secret. Throughout the dinner, the surprises, including several new program announcements, awards and more, were revealed.
Allison Osowski (Gila Ridge High School), Morgan Taylor (Gila Ridge High School), Bethany Penfold (Yuma High School), Keiran Faulkner (Cibola High School) were presented with scholarships worth $2500 each to the University of Arizona.
A grower in the audience was chosen at random – and later picked one lucky harvester was be presented with a brand new car courtesy of Bill Alexander Ford as part of the Labor of Love program. (http://laborofloveyuma.com)
FFA/4H servers presented every guest with a copy of American Way Magazine's March issue. The inflight publication for American Airlines featured Yuma, Arizona's agritourism experiences and newly minted vegetable tasting program, Farm Fresh Forks, in its Maps and Legends section (http://farmfreshforks.com/)
Tanimura & Antle's billboard, later installed on Interstate 8 on March 1, 2016, was revealed. This is the start of a campaign to promote the agricultural industry to millions of travelers throughout the year who pass through the Yuma area.
"We are thrilled to be a part of a program that highlights the incredibly hard working teams in the field who are the backbone of the agriculture industry," said Ryan Hancock, owner of Bill Alexander Ford.
Auctioneer Larry Smart emceed the 2016 live auction that included everything from an aerobatic flight with stunt pilot Sean Tucker in Salinas, CA, to a July 4th Garth Brooks Vegas concert (4 tickets at floor level), and one night stay at the Bellagio hotel. All proceeds from the dinner and live auction benefited the Yuma County Ag Producers Scholarship Fund.
Organizers expected 1,300 people would attend the fete that capped off the 10th Annual Southwest Ag Summit, a two-day industry event that included educational sessions, in-field demonstrations, new technology, crop management practices, a trade show and more.
"The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is committed to four main areas in Yuma: the Yuma Agricultural Center, the Yuma Center of Excellence for Desert Agriculture, Yuma County Cooperative Extension, and our teaching enterprise located on the Arizona Western College campus," said Shane Burgess, UA vice president for Cooperative Extension and dean of the college.
"Yuma is fundamental for our basic, translational and applied research missions. We should be leaders in the state's higher education enterprise by enabling talented Yumans to transform their lives and break the poverty cycle. We must be engaged partners in regional economic development," Burgess said. "Not only are the Southwest Ag Summit, the Harvest Dinner and Lettuce Days exciting opportunities to spotlight the importance of Yuma to the U.S. leafy greens industry, they also give us a chance to recognize the powerful role that research can play in driving this particular high-tech economic engine."
The first Harvest Dinner was held in 2011 and has since raised over $150,000 for the Yuma County Ag Producers Scholarship Fund, a financial scholarship for students enrolling at Arizona Western College and/or the University of Arizona in Yuma with an Agriculture or an Ag-related major.
Fast facts about Yuma's contribution to the nation's agricultural landscape:
- 45,000 workers harvest Yuma's 230,000 acres of land
- Yuma is Arizona's top producer of lemons, tangelos, watermelon and cantaloupe
- More than 175 crops and seeds are produced in Yuma
- #1 in the state and #3 in the nation for vegetable production
"Yuma is an exceptional place in the world that provides fresh produce for millions and millions of people," said Bruce Gwynn, Southwest Ag Summit coordinator. "This is a chance to celebrate the $3 billion dollar industry and the generations of families and future farmers who believe that feeding our nation through smart practices and new technology is paramount."