Senator Rhonda Fields

Rhonda Fields, a state senator, serves on the Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee, working to help ease burdens for the state’s farmers. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto/Farm Flavor Media

The daughter of a soldier, Sen. Rhonda Fields values hard work, commitment to equity, justice and service to others. She became involved in public service after her son, Javad Marshall-Fields, and his fiancé, Vivian Wolfe, were murdered in 2005.

The young couple had recently graduated from Colorado State University and were about to begin their careers. But first, Javad was going to fulfill his civic duty and testify about a crime he had witnessed. He and Wolfe were murdered to prevent that testimony.

Devastated from the loss, but not defeated, Fields devoted herself to pursuing policies that would protect witnesses from harm. She advocated for the successful passage of a bill strengthening the witness protection programs which was enacted in 2006 and titled the Javad Marshall-Fields & Vivian Wolfe Witness Protection Act. She also worked with Wolfe’s mother to create a Scholarship Fund in honor of their children. Scholarships are awarded each fall to incoming freshman and renewed annually to encourage retention and graduation. That advocacy led to an interest in public service and a successful run for office. She served as state representative for six years and won a senate seat in 2016. She serves on the Judiciary Committee and the Agriculture, Natural Resources & Energy Committee. Her senate district is one-third rural, one-third suburban and one-third urban.

Q: What is something that you’ve learned about agriculture that might surprise urban readers?

A: The needs are the same throughout my district. People in rural areas want what’s best for their family and business. They want quality schools, access to health care and a strong economy. At the end of the day, farmers and ranchers want to protect their quality of life and farmland. They care deeply about their land, animals and family. These values are transportable all across Colorado. Farming is a passion and a calling. I can relate to that. I am passionate about those very same issues and I respect and appreciate all they do for the betterment of our society.

Senator Rhonda Fields with Mark Linnebur

Colorado Sen. Rhonda Fields listens to the concerns of wheat farmer Mark Linnebur during a visit to his farm. Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto/Farm Flavor Media

Q: Since joining the Ag Committee, have you had a chance to tour a farm?

A: I toured the farm of Mark Linnebur who grows wheat in Byers. Mark is a man of integrity and honor, and he allowed me to see firsthand what it is like to live and work on a farm. The crop was beautiful in the fields, and that takes organization, precision, financial commitment and a lot of very hard work. Farming equipment is expensive and so are irrigation systems. He has to hire people to help harvest and you never know if the weather is going to be too dry or too wet. It takes faith to farm. I don’t know if people who live in urban settings realize the amount of labor and love that goes into farming the wheat.

Q: What do you consider the biggest challenge facing the Colorado ag industry?

A: I think the cost of farming and the regulations imposed on farmers and ranchers are two big challenges. I also think there is a disconnect between people buying food in the grocery store and understanding all that it took to get it there. Buying food can be done online and the groceries are delivered to our door. That’s wonderful, but I worry it takes us further away from understanding the labor it takes to grow food. It’s important that we educate ourselves about how food is produced and support our farmers. I am also interested in making sure farmers and ranchers have access to export markets and fair trade agreements.

Q: Do you have a favorite Colorado product to snack on?

A: I think the Palisade Peaches are delicious. I also love cantaloupe. I enjoy visiting farmers’ markets.

Q: Your Twitter page talks about you being an aspiring chef. Do you have a favorite recipe using a Colorado-grown ingredient?

A: I make this nice summer salad that includes ripe peaches and tomatoes.

Q: Is there something the state Legislature can do to help Colorado agriculture?

A: Absolutely, I think there are many opportunities to improve agriculture through the legislative process. I am committed to sponsoring bills that reflect what our farmers and communities need to grow. I believe we can protect our environment and support farming at the same time. When you think about how little something costs in the grocery store and all it took to get it there, I’m amazed that farmers can sustain their livelihood. They get up early, work until the sun is down, and then do it again every day. Anything I can do to help ease the burden of regulations and still protect the environment, I will be a champion for that. More folks need to understand the real costs of producing food.