Community Agriculture Alliance: Make the most of country living |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Make the most of country living

Todd Hagenbuch
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Routt County has seen increasing housing development in our rural areas for many years, and the trend continues. The reasons for wanting to move out of town and to the countryside are many, but as more people move to the country, the more traffic increases, the quicker the pace becomes and the more like town it can become.

How does one move to the country and help to ensure the reasons you moved in the first place are preserved? First, embrace the reasons you moved out to the country and don’t fight them. Also, know that the right to own property also comes with a list of responsibilities. As such, consider the following points.

Know the law

Colorado fence law is complicated. In general, you are required to fence livestock off of your property. If you adjoin another agricultural property, you’ll fix half of the fence and your neighbor will fix the other. Water law is complicated, too — just because a stream or ditch is running through your property doesn’t mean you can use the water. Research whether or not you have or can get water rights before you buy. Check well permits, too, since some well permits do not allow outdoor water use, including watering animals.

Your property may not produce what you think it will

Plan for dry years before you figure out the number of animals you can have. Allow for pasture rest and regrowth, and remember that if you build a house, barns, roads, etc., you’ve just taken acres out of the equation for how many head you can graze.

Keep it dark

Rural areas are dark, so keep them that way. Outdoor lighting can be downcast near doors or gates, so you can see what you need to without interfering with everyone’s view. Using motion detectors and turning lights off until you need them also help keep the neighborhood dark while saving electricity.

Cut down on the trips

Rural roads are not designed for a lot of traffic, and the extra dust created by increasing traffic is harmful to adjoining flora. Plan on making fewer trips to town by consolidating your tasks and keeping trips to a minimum. Your car and pocketbook will be thankful, too.

Over 20 years ago, Colorado State University Routt County Extension saw the need to help educate new rural landowners about these issues and many more and published the “Guide to Rural Living and Small-Scale Agriculture,” which is available at

Extension also partners with the Community Agriculture Alliance to host the Land Stewardship 202 educational series for new landowners and real estate agents, and we invite you to take the class this fall. Running for six weeks on Tuesdays starting Sept. 10. We’ll cover many land ownership subjects to help you figure out how to get the most from your property.  You’ll also learn how to be the neighbor everyone is glad moved in. 

For more information or to register for the class, contact the Extension Office at 970-879-0825 or the Community Agriculture Alliance at 970-879-4370. 

Todd Hagenbuch is the extension agent and director (agriculture) of the Routt County Colorado State University Extension Office.

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