Community Agriculture Alliance: Farmers, ranchers grow communities
Jim and Jo Stanko
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Who knew that an 1899 edition of Farmer’s Almanac would play an important role in the legacy of what is now one of the Centennial Ranches here in the Yampa Valley?
By 1907, Stanko had acquired property and a business in Walsenberg, he was married and began a family. With the Farmer’s Almanac in hand, they moved to the Yampa Valley and purchased 160 acres which were originally assigned as a homestead for Logan Crawford.
Stanko learned his lessons well from the book and was able to grow the property to approximately 700 acres, and with partners leased the entire Emerald Mountain for grazing. Like many of the early community members, Stanko worked to help to build, grow and improve the community.
He was an original member of the local Rural Electrification Association board who worked to bring electricity to the Yampa Valley. Many of the board members lent the $5 fee to area farmers and ranchers who couldn’t afford it. He helped form the Southside School District and donated the land for the teacherage. The Stanko Ranch was a diversified livestock, hay and grain operation. His wife, Anna Stanko not only had six children to educate and take care of but provided meals and cleaning for the hired hands.
Peter Stanko, Jr, the only boy of 6 children was born and raised in the original house, which is still standing and in use on the ranch today. He rode horseback into town every day to attend Steamboat Springs High School. During WWI, many rural women had to help keep communities in new and different ways.
Natalie Stanko ran the mail from Steamboat to Oak Creek during the war years and served as an observer for the Civil Air Patrol. She was also a Sunday school teacher, substitute teacher, a volunteer at the hospital and nursing home for over 40 years in addition to working on the ranch.
After the war ended, Steamboat was growing. Pete Jr, was one of the original Sheriff’s Posse formed in the late ’50s and ’60s. Since most of them were farmers and ranchers, they were the forerunner of the Routt County Search and Rescue. Meanwhile back at the ranch, the widely diversified business became more refined and focused on cattle, hay and grain.
Jim Stanko was born in his great uncle’s hospital in Steamboat Springs and came home to the same house where his father had been born and raised. Before returning to the ranch after college, he trained as a teacher and coach, served in the Army, got married to Jo and had a son, Patrick. When Jim and Jo returned to take over the Stanko Ranch, Jo was a teacher and Jim was ranching full time.
One of his biggest accomplishments was to help get the first VA teleclinic in the state established in Craig. Jo has worked with the Routt County Cattlewomen and was one of the founding members of the Community Agriculture Alliance. While under their care, they reaped the benefit from the previous generations by being awarded a Colorado Centennial Ranch designation, having remained in the same family continuously for over 100 years and the Colorado Aldo Leopold Conservation Award in 2010.
Jim and Jo’s son Patrick and his wife Jan are just beginning their journey with the ranch. They’re bringing a fresher perspective and have years to write their part of the legacy and have continued the tradition of community activism.
Jim and Jo Stanko of Stanko Ranch.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Each year, the Leadership Steamboat class takes on a project it hopes will make a meaningful community impact, and in 2021, that mission seems to be on target.