Monfort legacy forged by luck, timing and lots of hard work
Ken Monfort never spent much time setting goals; he’s been too busy reaching them.
“I never had great plans,” he said. “I got where I did by luck, timing and hard work.
“I’ve always gotten up early in the morning.”
Monfort didn’t make a decision to be an anchor of the agricultural business of Northern Colorado, but getting up early started him down that path. At the age of 10 he was up with the chickens to feed cattle.
The Monforts’ cattle-feeding business was started by Ken’s father, Warren. Monfort grew up in the business, and when his older brother died in World War II, he became the logical successor to the family business. He left Colorado State University, where he was studying journalism, to help run the business.
“My dad was my biggest role model,” Monfort said in a phone interview from his retirement home in Florida. “Just by being with him and watching him work, I learned so much.”
In the ’60s the Monforts were the first to process meat where the animals were raised, rather than shipping live animals to processing plants. The innovative move reaped financial rewards by reducing the ship weight of meat. The family also was among the first to feed cattle year round, by saving sugar beet tops from the summer’s crop.
“I’ve always tried to make good decisions,” Monfort said.
Interestingly, the decision he’s probably the most known for, to bring baseball to Colorado, he wasn’t so sure about.
“When Charlie (his son) approached me about starting the Rockies, I thought it was the stupidest idea I had ever heard,” he said. “But I trusted him and it’s worked out just fine.”
The understated “fine” isn’t a surprise coming from humble Monfort.
“The day I most remember in terms of success was the day in 1963 when the packing plant made enough profit to pay off the debt on it,” he said.
Monfort, who retired in 1989, is known for his down-to-earth quality.
“Kenny’s strongest characteristic is that he’s always the same person,´ said his wife Myra. “Whether he’s on the kill floor or at the White House he has a special grace about him.”
Monfort’s son, Charlie, admires that quality in his father.
“Whether he’s addressing a university class or a kindergarten class, he’s himself,” Charlie Monfort said. “He’s a very sincere person and that always comes through.
“He taught us that was important.”
Charlie also admires his Dad’s commitment to whatever projects he takes on.
“He makes his influence heard and felt,´ said Charlie Monfort. “He knows how to get things done.”
This desire to get things done caused Monfort some frustration during his 1964-68 term in the Colorado House of Representatives.
“He was used to running his own company and getting things done,” Charlie Monfort said of his father. “In politics it can be hard to make an impact.”
Ken Monfort has another son, Dick and daughters Kaye and Kyle. He founded the Monfort Family Foundation to support education programs and a variety of charities and groups. He has also served on the State Board of Agriculture, which oversees the university system Colorado State belongs to, and he was instrumental in hiring CSU President Al Yates 10 years ago.
Ken and Myra donated funds to found the Monfort chair in meat sciences and to revamp the university’s Morgan Library. To acknowledge the family’s contribution, CSU dedicated a quadrangle on campus to the Monfort family in 1995.
“Integrity. Hard work. Commitment to service. That’s the reason we’re all here this morning,” Yates said at the dedication. “We’re celebrating the contributions of the Monfort family, but we’re also celebrating a way of life.”
A way of life that has marked a lifetime of achievement and accomplishment for Monfort and underlines the reasons he has been named Bravo! 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award winner.