Agriculture and hunting important components of Colorado economy, too

Think of Colorado and business. What comes to mind?

Maybe it’s tourism or skiing. It could be the aerospace industry or high-tech manufacturing. With the recent legalization of marijuana in the Centennial State, perhaps even pot has entered our collective consciousness.

But what about agriculture?

And what about hunting and recreational shooting?

While agricultural and hunting might not be on the top of our minds in ranking important industries, they well should be. Two events in Grand Junction recently attracted attention to two more pieces of the diverse jigsaw puzzle that is the Colorado economy.

The Choose Colorado Tour, a statewide trip to raise awareness about the agricultural industry and its products, came to Grand Junction. The timing couldn’t have been better given the harvest of peaches and other crops underway in the Grand Valley.

There’s a growing awareness of where food comes from — and it’s not the nearby grocery store or even farmers’ market, at least not initially. That’s a good thing.

But consider that the agricultural industry feeds not only people, but also the economy. In fact, the agricultural industry ranks among the top three contributors to the Colorado economy in generating more than $40 billion annually and providing more than 172,000 jobs.

Fortunately, the outlook for the Colorado agricultural industry appears bright as exports of ag products to far-flung markets increase along with consumer demand for locally grown and raised foods.

Meanwhile, a group prompting the relationships between hunting, shooting and the economy kicked off its organization in Colorado with a media event in Grand Junction.

More than 70 businesses, business groups and various associations already have joined Hunting Works for Colorado. The diversity of the membership reflects the diversity of the businesses that benefit from hunting and shooting, says

Pat Martinez, a retired wildlife biologist in Grand Junction who serves as one of six leaders of the group. Those benefits extend far beyond sporting goods retailers to convenience stores, hotels and restaurants, Martinez says.

Hunting Works for Colorado estimates that $465 million is spent annually on hunting in the state, supporting 8,400 jobs.

The full impact of hunting isn’t experienced in large cities like Grand Junction in quite the same way it is in small towns in rural areas of Colorado. There, the opening of big game rifle seasons seems to coincide with an incoming tide of blaze orange — an influx hunters who buy groceries, gasoline and other supplies and fill up hotel rooms and restaurant tables. Some businesses depend on hunting season the way some retailers depend on the holiday shopping season.

The agriculture and hunting industries might not immediately come to mind in thinking about business in Colorado. But they’re essential components of the state economy nonetheless. And we’re fortunate to reap the many benefits they bring.