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Pueblo leader in agricultural water rights Carl Genova dies

Alexis Smith
The Pueblo Chieftain
Carl Genova receiving an award for 20 years service on the board for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in 2008. Genova, known for his work with agricultural water rights, died at the age of 88 on Dec. 25.

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A successful farmer who knew the value of protecting water rights in the Arkansas River Valley, Carl Genova, died on Dec. 25.

He was 88.

Genova, known for his humility and passion for working in agricultural water rights, made an impact on the Pueblo farming community that can still be felt.

The Genova family found themselves in Pueblo when Genova’s grandfather emigrated from Italy.

“My great-grandfather came over here from Sicily,” Cathy Snell, Genova’s daughter, said. “He was killed in an accident at the steel mill in the process of his family coming over. So, my great-grandmother finished her journey to Pueblo, and she actually bought the farm.”

A second-generation farmer, Genova grew up working on the family farm with brothers Charlie and Joe all his life.

The business, Genova Brothers Farm and Feedlot, primarily grew vegetables, corn, hay and ran a feedlot operation. 

Working the farm taught Genova from an early age the importance of agricultural water rights, which led to his longtime advocacy of Pueblo farmers.

Genova was a board member of the Bessemer Ditch Co. for 38 years and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 20 years.

Honored for his work, Genova was awarded the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas Award in recognition of those who have worked to improve the Arkansas River.

MORE: Farm rights advocate honored at forum

When Genova received the award, former Bessemer board member Joe Pisciotta, was quoted saying, “There’s not a person in the Arkansas Valley who knows the river better than Carl.”

Genova was also appointed to the Arkansas Valley Compact Administration from 1993-97 by Gov. Roy Romer, was president of the Pueblo County Farm Bureau from 1969-70, a member of the Colorado Cattle Feeders Association, a member of Colorado Water Congress, and was recognized for his work on the winter water program which allowed farmers to store water in the winter months for use during the growing season when irrigation flows were scarce.

More than a farmer and advocate, Genova was a family man.

Genova caught the eye of wife, Ruth Genova, a city girl — Snell said, who joined Genova on the family farm in a 62-year marriage that resulted in three children, 11 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

MORE: An eternal love: Longtime Pueblo couple dies within days of each other

Carl and Ruth raised their children on the farm that his grandmother started. Their children look back on that upbringing fondly.

“We remember fun things we did on the farm,” Snell said. “We would go check the water in the back of his pickup truck, jumping in the silage pits, riding on the tractors, showing 4-H cattle and horses in the Pueblo County Fair, State Fair and National Western Stock Show, and doing those types of things growing up on the farm.”

The legacy of the Genova farm carries on today, as he was instrumental in helping son Danny and grandson Nick begin their own farming endeavors.

“He helped me and then he started helping his grandson who would be (a) fourth-generation (farmer),” Danny said. “He mentored him, and even his son-in-law, Jack. He was instrumental in trying to keep the farming going.”

Danny and Cathy said one of the greatest lessons they learned through their father’s accomplishments was the value of work ethic.

“My dad was a soft-spoken and kind man,” Snell said. “But he was very smart in his own right about all of the water rights and cared very deeply about the farmers out here.”

The family will hold a viewing from noon to 2 p.m. Monday followed by a graveside service all at Roselawn Funeral Home and Cemetery. Donations may be made in Genova’s memory to St. Therese Parish Vineland. 

Chieftain reporter Alexis Smith can be reached by email at asmith@chieftain.com or on Twitter @smith_alexis27.