Community Agriculture Alliance: Where would you be without agriculture? Naked and hungry
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Yes, it’s a funny tagline, but take a minute and really think about it. Everything we eat comes from agriculture. Most of our clothing, including shoes, coats, gloves and even down to those cozy warm wool long johns’ come from animal or plant fibers.
We could add thirsty to the list as well. Beer, wine, juice and most alcohol have plant-based ingredients that are raised by a farmer somewhere in the world. Obviously, most of this farming and ranching does not happen in Routt County, or even in Colorado or the U.S. But we can celebrate and acknowledge our history and connection to agriculture right here at home.
Since the very first people came to live in Northwest Colorado, they had to find ways to raise and grow their own food. The first cattle were brought into the area back in 1871, and by 1880, up to 65,000 cattle were trailed here for summer grazing with sheep coming by 1890. By 1913, more cattle were shipped from the Steamboat Springs rail yard than any other single point in the United States.
The history of grain production can be found in the grain elevators of the early 1900s around the county. Clues to past vegetable production are in the names of Strawberry Park and with the historic ice sheds in South Routt. In 1923, the Yampa Valley Head Lettuce Association was formed with more than 2,000 acres of lettuce in production.
Clearly agriculture has changed over the years. Economics, changing weather patterns, the demise of railroad distribution and a global food system are all factors that impact agriculture. Current agriculture looks very different in Routt County. The 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture indicates there are 799 farms in Routt County with over 612,000 acres of land in production. To clarify, most farms are locally considered ranches, with cattle and hay production being the main crops.
Since 2013, Community Agriculture Alliance has coordinated Ag Appreciation Week annually in March to coincide with National Ag Day. Locally, the CAA celebrates all things agriculture with partnering ag organizations and area businesses. Our goal is to unite and connect everyone with the past, present and future of agriculture.
This year events are scheduled for March 21 to 28. Several popular events will continue, including heritage ag storytelling in Steamboat and South Routt and local food specials at area restaurants. New activities include a screening of the movie “Biggest Little Farm” at Library Hall and an indoor Farmers Market breakfast, with local food and products for sale.
Ag Week is also the one time of year that CAA asks for business sponsorships and individual contributions. If you’re not already donating, please consider joining us. The next time you eat, drink and get dressed take a moment to truly think about it. And consider thanking a rancher or farmer for all they do. Details on events and donation information are at http://www.communityagalliance.org or call the CAA office at 970-879-4370.
Michele Meyer is the executive director of the Community Agricultural Alliance.
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