Tammie Delaney: Protecting our agricultural heritage | SteamboatToday.com

Tammie Delaney: Protecting our agricultural heritage

— What is it about the Yampa Valley that captures the hearts of so many of us? Is it all the built amenities — the ball fields, ski lifts, tennis courts and incredible shops, restaurants and lodging properties? Or is it the wide open hay meadows with cattle grazing and horses running and the iconic barns gracing the landscape?

I dare suggest that it's the treasures of our agricultural heritage that foster our deep connection and profound attachment to this region. Our ranching and farming heritage is a unique asset that once lost or destroyed, can never be restored. The Yampa Valley is one of the few remaining resorts in North America that still has viable agriculture production. Those are indeed real cowboys and cowgirls riding their lightning fast horses down Lincoln Avenue at the Winter Carnival street races, and those horses are descendents of the founding sires of the quarter horse breed from our own valley.

We would be wise not to take this for granted. Vision 2030 identified community character and the connection to our history and ranches as two of the greatest assets needing our diligent stewardship if we are to achieve the future we desire. The Community Agriculture Alliance is doing its best to ensure the continuance of our agricultural heritage. It is up to all of us to recognize the important values and contributions of agriculture to our community, our nation and our world. From the food we eat to the views we value to the health of our local and regional economies, agriculture is essential to our well being.

The Community Agriculture Alliance formed in 1999 through an extraordinary gathering of resort, business and ranching leaders in our valley who understood and valued the agricultural way of life, including the deep-rooted values and work ethics it provides. This extraordinary collaboration continues. Community Agriculture Alliance has achieved many of the ambitious goals outlined in the beginning, yet the urgency of ensuring that the Yampa Valley continues to have working ranches is greater than ever. Current programs include fostering new efforts such as Deep Roots, which promotes local food and sustainable living; Northwest Colorado Products, which promotes local, value-added products; and Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Tourism, which promotes the heritage of our land, from birdwatching to museum and gallery hopping to ranch and historic site tours. Education on agricultural issues is another program of Community Agriculture Alliance which offers classes, forums and seminars on land stewardship, water and more.

Community Agriculture Alliance has built its reputation upon forming effective collaborative partnerships to offer a diverse spectrum of programs and enable greater capacity to retain agriculture. Community Agriculture Alliance needs your support now more than ever. If you value the views in the Yampa Valley, if you enjoy eating some of the best lamb and beef in the country, if you enjoy the hay meadows and the down-to-earth values of our region, become a member of Community Agriculture Alliance. You'll find we all have a lot in common. Visit http://www.community agalliance.org or call 970-879-4370 for more information.

Tammie Delaney is an advisor to the Community Agriculture Alliance board of directors, and past co-chairwoman and coordinator of the Community Agriculture Alliance Development Plan and Northwest Colorado Products Development Plan. The Delaneys own and operate Yampa Valley Feeds at the Hayden grain elevator.