Commissioners designate all next week as Agriculture Week in Routt County

Josh Taylor encourages a small group of calves to move into a holding pen where they will wait to be vaccinated, tagged and branded. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Board of Commissioners will designate next week as Agriculture Week and March 24 as Agriculture Day in the county to celebrate one of the area’s economic pillars.

Commissioner Tim Corrigan said the resolution is not in response to Gov. Jared Polis’ MeatOut Day proclamation that drew sharp criticism from the ranching community. Instead, it is one of the things done each year to show support for local ranchers and agriculture producers.

The county’s week also coincides with National Agriculture Week and other efforts from agriculture producers to draw attention to the work they do to get food on people’s tables.

“I think there is a lot of emphasis in our community on recreation and tourism, and this is an opportunity for people to remember that we have deep roots in agriculture,” said Adonna Allen, local rancher and member of Routt County CattleWomen. “If you enjoy eating your meals and putting on clothes every morning, that is really due to a rancher or a farmer.”

Agriculture accounts for about $47 billion of Colorado’s annual economy and about $46 million of Routt County’s annual economy. Along with tourism and energy production, agriculture is one of the county’s three main industries.

Doug Monger, fourth-generation rancher and former Routt County commissioner, said the proclamation itself generally doesn’t mean much, but the appreciation of ag producers’ work is what is significant.

“I think the understanding is the big thing that the (agriculture) people are trying to do, so that people understand the perspective of why this is important to them, even if they are working a day job in a city,” Monger said. “It is just kind of an appreciation, recognition and education day.”

That education piece can be crucial, as many people don’t fully understand what goes into producing the food they eat.

“I think people tend to look at agriculture as something out there that is doing its thing that does not impact them directly, but it most certainly does,” said Todd Hagenbuch, director and agriculture agent at CSU Routt County Extension.

There have been some requests from constituents for the county to directly oppose Polis’ proclamation — potentially having a MeatIn day like Moffat, Grand and other counties in the state have done — but Corrigan said he doesn’t feel the county should be issuing politically motivated resolutions, saying they are a “waste of time.”

“I’ve never been interested in issuing symbolic political statements,” Corrigan said. “I don’t think that they do any good at all. I don’t want to substitute my judgment or our judgment for our citizens. We have people on many of these issues on both sides of the issue.”

Instead, Corrigan said commissioners should continue to do things that support the local agriculture community they have always done.

As for that support, Corrigan pointed to several efforts by the county to help local producers, specifically the Purchase of Development Rights, or PDR, program that buys these rights from land owners in exchange for them placing a conservation easement on land, which restricts future development.

Corrigan said this program, which was put in place in 1996 and was reaffirmed by voters in 2005 to continue until 2025, has helped legacy farmers and ranchers continue their agriculture operations rather than feeling pressured to sell property to be subdivided.

Monger said this policy is why the Yampa Valley below Rabbit Ears Pass looks the way it does, with the county preventing it from being divided up into smaller parcels of land for single family homes.

Preserving this landscape also has proved to be valuable to the tourism industry as well, as previous studies have shown that the natural environment around Steamboat Springs, open ranching space and the area’s western heritage are all top-rated assets for tourists.

“Those working landscapes are very much what tourism and recreation capitalizes on in Routt County,” Hagenbuch said, pointing to an admittedly dated 2005 study from Colorado State University that found the value of the view of these lands actually exceeds the value of products made from those lands.

Researchers in the study asked tourists how much they would be willing to spend when in Routt County to be able to see these open spaces, and what they said they would spend exceeded the value of agriculture receipts in the county.

These opens spaces are part of what differentiates the Steamboat Springs area from other resort communities that simply don’t have much open space, he said.

“It is that persona we have,” Hagenbuch said. “That comes back to those agricultural roots and the fact that we still see actual ranchers and cowboys walking down main street.”

Routt County CattleWomen are hosting a drawing for people to have a chance to win a local meat bundle. People can participate in the drawing if they purchase any type of beef product during Agriculture Week from a restaurant, grocery store, local producer, meat market or the Community Ag Alliance Marketplace. To enter, people can email a photo of their beef receipt to by midnight March 28.

On March 20 — the proclaimed MeatOut day — many local ranchers have loosely organized a tailgate-type event at noon on Moffat Avenue in Yampa. People are encouraged to bring their own meat and cooking source, ensure any garbage from the event is picked up and to not sell any alcohol. The town of Yampa is not officially connected to this event.

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