Ag advocate C.J. Mucklow retires after 35 years — more than 20 in Routt County — with CSU Extension
Former Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush first met C.J. Mucklow when she was on the county’s planning commission in the ’90s.
The planning commission was trying to preserve family agricultural lands at a time when local housing prices were increasing, and there was real incentive for cash poor and land rich ranchers to sell parcels to a developer.
Mucklow, then the agricultural agent for Routt County’s Colorado State University Extension Office, brought in ag economists to explain the value of open space. That study, called the value of the view, helped start the county’s purchase of a development rights program, which Mitsch Bush said is why the Yampa Valley has the open space it does today.
“The valley floor wouldn’t look the way it does,” Mitsch Bush said. “A lot of our ranching families would have had to sell off and quit ranching.”
Mucklow will retire this month after more than 35 years with CSU Extension, most of that in Routt County. It started with an internship on a ranch known as the Frye Place near Steamboat Lake while an undergraduate at CSU.
After graduating with a degree in animal science, Mucklow still lacked a job and decided to go back for more schooling. After getting his Master of Agriculture degree, he took a job in Elbert County. Three years later, he started working for Routt County’s extension office, beginning a stretch of more than 20 years. In 2011, Mucklow became the regional extension director for Western Colorado. He took on another position earlier this year, before his retirement.
Today, Mucklow said he still gets calls from local ranchers asking for help identifying a weed in their pastures.
“Rather than teaching people to can peaches, he wanted to get his hands dirty with landowners,” said Jay Fetcher, a longtime Routt County rancher who first met Mucklow when he worked at the Frye Place. “He loves being on the land and working with cows. I’ve always thought of him that way.”
Mucklow said he certainly has been more focused on land conservation and managing pastures in his career. Fetcher said early on, he helped a lot of ranchers use more progressive methods of rotational grazing and showed them how keeping extensive performance records can help their herds.
“He was truly remarkable in encouraging us and helping us, the ranchers, look at alternative cattle management,” Fetcher said, adding that each fall Mucklow would come up to his ranch near Clark to help weigh calves.
Fetcher has been a strong supporter of conservation easements and said Mucklow has been a champion of preserving land throughout the county.
“I think that C.J., along with other community leaders at the time, … really should be credited with Routt County and the Yampa Valley, especially the Steamboat area, with continuing to look the way it does,” said Todd Hagenbuch, current Routt County Extension director and agricultural agent.
In 1992, Mucklow published, “A Guide to Rural Living and Small Scale Agriculture,” which is now in its third printing. Hagenbuch said it’s full of information they still share with people moving into the Yampa Valley.
Mucklow also helped create the Yampa Valley Beef Co-op which, at one time, was selling hamburger meat to Steamboat Resort sourced from ranchers across the county. The co-op isn’t around anymore, but ranchers often talk about how great it would be to have today.
The connection between business and agriculture is how former Steamboat Springs Chamber Director Dean Vogelaar became friends with Mucklow.
“We both benefited from it,” Vogelaar said. “Whether it was parents and kids in 4-H or somebody on the business side, he had the ability to work with people.”
The two worked together on establishing the Routt County 4-H Foundation, which Mucklow helped found in 1994 with a $500 donation from Steamboat Resort. Since then, the foundation has awarded 342 scholarships worth more than $550,000.
“I looked up to him as a leader and somebody that I wanted to emulate,” said Adonna Allen, president of Alpine Bank and former 4-H member. “I just remember being at the fair when he would have a lot of energy, and the kids wanted to be around him. He is one of those guys that people are automatically drawn to.”
That has continued for the past decade as Mucklow has traveled to various extension offices across the state. Hagenbuch said he’s been a great mentor for directors and agents.
“He likes to come across as a curmudgeon,” Hagenbuch said. “But really, he’s just a really nice guy.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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