Community Agriculture Alliance: Adapt, Diversify, Conserve
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Operating a business for nearly 100 years is an achievement that very few can claim, but Routt County boasts many agricultural producers that have been sustaining their operations for multiple generations. In 1936, the Ives family moved to the Upper Trout Creek Valley west of Oak Creek to expand their sheep operation, and in doing so, laid the foundation for five generations of agricultural production.
Today, the ranch is known as the Knott Ranch and is supporting the third, fourth, and fifth generations of the Knott Family, descendants of the Ives family. When asked about the key to sustained production for the past 87 years, the answer is adaptation, diversification, and conservation.
Increased pressure to subdivide land, inflated cost of living, and an overall decrease in the profitability of traditional agricultural production, have forced regional farmers and ranchers to adapt their operations to remain environmentally and economically viable. Each generation of the Knott Family has been presented with their own set of challenges and opportunities that have resulted in adjustments both small and large to the operation.
When Tyler Knott, the fourth generation on the Knott Ranch, began managing the operation, it looked very different than it had several generations prior. In fact, in 2002, the Knott Ranch had moved away from sheep production entirely and was focused solely on cattle. This shift was the result of labor costs and the loss of a regional wool processing facility. As time progressed, the cost of production continued to rise, the markets failed to keep up, droughts impacted production, and the shift was no longer enough for the Knott Ranch to remain profitable.
As producers diversify their agricultural operations, we as a community stand to benefit. A combination of cattle, sheep, and recreation-based tourism (guided hunting and fishing) now support the Knott Ranch, while a diversification in distribution and products produced helps add resiliency to the operation and the Routt County community. Products produced on the Knott Ranch, sold as Trout Creek Meats, can be found at the CAA Market, jerky and snack sticks can be found at retailers throughout the county, and orders can be placed online at TroutCreekMeats.com.
Additionally, the Knott Family felt it was imperative to the future of the operation that they secure the most important resource to their agricultural operation – the land. In the last 10 years, the Knott Family, supported by the Routt County Purchase of Development Rights Program, has completed two conservation easements and is working toward a third, ensuring the ability to produce food and fiber on the ranch will exist into the future.
With close to 2,000 acres of the Knott Ranch protected by conservation easements, Tyler and his wife, Megan, feel confident that the next generation will have the land and natural resources needed for this farm and ranch operation to continue to adapt as markets and climate shift. As the Knott Family members look to the future, they see an opportunity for continued development of regional supply infrastructure, local food sales, and a growth in recreation-based tourism on working lands that will create opportunities for individuals and families to connect with local foods and in turn generate an increased understanding and support for agricultural production.
Amber Pougiales, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust
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