Community Agriculture Alliance: What 400 inches of snow does to agriculture |

Community Agriculture Alliance: What 400 inches of snow does to agriculture

Meredith Rose
Community Agriculture Alliance

400 inches of snow in the Yampa Valley looks like epic powder days that last from November until April, recreational opportunities in the backcountry well into the summer, busy snowplows, and a long season of ski socks and beanies.

What does 400 inches of snow look like for agriculture?

It looks like an appreciation of a watershed refueling itself to withstand drought conditions the following year, worry about calving too early in the spring with single digit temperatures, replanning pasture rotations to allow cattle to be out on the most fertile pastures at the ideal time, looking through seed catalogs and dreaming of the summer garden, and pushing back planting dates because of the still frozen ground.

Come early June, when things start to thaw out, you could be wondering, “where are my spring veggies?” We are a hearty bunch in Northwest Colorado that know of long winters, short summers, and the constant need to adapt. This coming summer will prove no different.

Farmers and ranchers across the valley are impacted by the shift into a later spring this year. 

“This winter has presented many challenges for us. Early on with the heavy snows, one of our caterpillar tunnels collapsed, which will greatly reduce our capacity to grow warm season vegetable crops for this season,” said Mikinzie Taylor, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union NW CO Chapter member, and owner of Mystic Hills Farmstead. “That, compounded with the long winter and later snow melt, has greatly pushed back our normal seeding/transplanting time table. We feel fortunate for all the water this snowpack will bring this season, especially for our pastures and running livestock/our haying operation, but we foresee that much of our season will be pushed back a bit. We hope that by the time we begin lambing in the next few weeks that temperatures will have increased a bit. It’s been rough out there for everyone calving and lambing this spring.”

Colby Townsend, chapter member and owner of Hayden Fresh Farm, adds, “The extreme cold and snow has delayed all of our plans. It took three months longer to grow our pigs to mature size. We have already delayed the arrival of our chicks by a month because we won’t have green grass to turn them out. We are also concerned about flooding and wet areas that could attract wild fowl and expose us to the avian flu.”

Every local food system has their own set of troubles and celebrations and in Northwest Colorado we celebrate the snow, but have to adapt when that leaves us 59 frost-free days a year. So when you are at a farmers market, farmstand, local food market, or asking a neighbor about their garden, consider reframing the question.

Instead of asking about the lack of product during a particular time, ask about the seasonality of local food and how the current season is affecting crops and livestock. They’ll give you their honest answer and appreciate the sense of curiosity into how they provide food to our community 

Meredith Rose, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union NW CO Chapter President

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