Lifelong Moffat County rancher named to Colorado Ag Hall of Fame
March 18, 2018
CRAIG — Moffat County rancher Tom Kourlis got his first leg-up in agriculture as a sophomore at Moffat County High School in the 1960s.
He credits his vocational agriculture teacher, Bill Spicer, for exposing him to the Future Farmers of America program and getting him more involved in agriculture.
"There are people along the way that give you a leg up, and he's one of them," Kourlis said.
He started to name a few others who have helped him get where he is today, but he quickly stopped.
"I should just back off and leave it at Bill Spicer, and just say there's lots of them. I'll probably forget somebody," he said. “Being involved and making a difference – you do that with a group of people. It’s when a whole bunch of individuals move together in a direction to make things better. I’ve been lucky to be part of that.”
The Colorado FFA Foundation recently named Kourlis, a Craig native, to the Farm Credit Colorado Agriculture Hall of Fame.
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In the years since he was in FFA, Kourlis has tried to build opportunities for others, just as Spicer once did for him.
"I tried to pay it forward," Kourlis said. "I try to do that with everybody I do business with. I have the opportunity to."
Kourlis served as the state commissioner of agriculture from 1993 to 1998. He also co-founded and served as the first chair of the American Lamb Board.
Through the years, he's received accolades from the agriculture industry and beyond. In 2010, the National Western Stock Show named him and his wife, Rebecca Love Kourlis, Citizens of the West. He was once named Woolgrower of the Year and has received awards from the Colorado Society of Range Management and Colorado State University.
In his leadership, Kourlis said he's followed a cowboy code of ethics: "Do it right. Do it fair. Do it well. Do it with integrity."
As agriculture commissioner and in leading industry organizations, he worked with government, industry and communities to "preserve and enhance the way people do business."
After his tenure as commissioner of agriculture, he returned to his ranch in southern Moffat County, where he grows hay and cares for cattle and sheep. He remains a leader in the industry, serving on the legislative council to American Sheep Industry Association and as a member of the state Wool Growers and Cattleman's Associations.
"It's a very rewarding feeling to be in agriculture and caring for the land and livestock, making that land better and developing the livestock so it's more productive and healthier," Kourlis said. "That's always rewarding."