Hot Sheet

A Colorado tomato farmer, a U.S. senator and the vice president of the United States …

Author: Dan Njegomir - July 6, 2017 - Updated: July 6, 2017

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner hands his cell phone — with Vice President Mike Pence on the line — to Clifton farmer Blaine Diffendaffer. Jaime Gardner, the senator’s wife, looks on in the background. (Photo courtesy of Gardner’s office.)

… well, no, they don’t walk into a bar. But they do share a cell phone, taking turns talking to one another. And when it comes time for the farmer to talk to the man who serves just a heartbeat away from the presidency, they talk about — what else? — tomatoes.

It’s no joke. It’s pretty much how things went down Wednesday at Blaine’s Tomatoes & Farm, east of Grand Junction and just outside Clifton, in Colorado’s fruit belt. Proprietor and farmer Blaine Diffendaffer was minding his own business, literally, when not one but two major national political figures dropped by. Colorado Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, in person, and Vice President Mike Pence, unexpectedly by phone.

Gardner had stopped in for a tour of Diffendaffer’s operation; the visit was arranged by the Mesa County Farm Bureau, of which Diffendaffer is VP. He raises greenhouse tomatoes along with salad greens, cukes and some other goodies and was happy to give the senator a look around.

As Gardner — who hails from the eastern plains farm town of Yuma — and Diffendaffer were chatting about ag issues, Gardner got a call.

Colorado Farmer Blaine Diffendaffer speaks with Vice President Mike Pence.

“He apologized and said, ‘I have to take it. It’s the vice president,’ ” Diffendaffer said.

Diffendaffer struck up a conversation with Gardner’s aides (wife Jaime and children also were in tow) for a few minutes while Gardner left the room to take the call.

“(Gardner) came back in and said, ‘Would you like to speak to the vice president,’ ” Diffendaffer said. “And I was just like, ‘Yeah.’ I was shocked.”

“It was a very casual conversation, and it was kind of cool,” he said. “(The vice president) asked about what I do. So many times, when you hear politicians talk, it’s like, ‘I did this bill,’ or ‘I did that.’ But he asked me about what I did. There was no politics involved. It was actually just normal people talking.”

Diffendaffer added, “He said, ‘In my home state we don’t raise a lot of tomatoes. It’s mostly row crops.’ And that’s as political as it got.”

Diffendaffer is a native of the area who grew up on the land he now farms. (Be sure to check out his website’s “about” page for more background on him and the farm.)

His politics? Republican, “…but I’m kind of in between on a lot of things,” he said.

Speaking of politics, the folks at ProgressNow Colorado are of course going to love this anecdote. Meaning, something closer to hate.

“A warm-and-fuzzy for Gardner,” they’ll grouse. After all, their liberal group has been working overtime dogging the conservative senator about the much-debated GOP health-care proposal now pending in the Senate in Washington.

OK, fine, but this isn’t about all that. This is just about a coincidental conversation between a West Slope farmer and the vice-leader of the free world. Not politics, but tomatoes.

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.