Brock Canty earns most of his family's living through his cow calf operation near Alamosa. He grew up in a ranching family and understands the challenges that face today's producers.
"You try to grow and get bigger, but the cost of land has increased, and the available water has decreased," Canty said.
So he sought out advice from other ranchers at the annual Colorado Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Leadership Conference five years ago.
Now, Canty is the state chairman of the conference, which brought 55 Colorado farmers and their families to Craig on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
"The conference is here to try and develop leadership in young farmers and ranchers," Canty said. "We try to give them some training and educate them on issues."
The conference invites anyone ages 18 to 35 to attend workshops and tour local industries that affect ranchers.
This year, attendees participated in workshops at the Holiday Inn of Craig. Some ranchers said this was the first time they had been to Craig and that they enjoyed learning about the unique issues local farmers face.
The attendees also toured Trapper Mine, which Canty said helps supply power to irrigation systems in eastern Colorado.
The state Farm Bureau agency divides Colorado into five districts and rotates the location of the conference each year. Every five years, the conference will be held in the northwest corner of the state.
Participants said they enjoy discussing legislative and other issues with fellow producers, but they said the most beneficial part of the conference is the contacts they make.
"What I got out of it is associations with people with the same values, with the same goals," said Kevin Roberts, of New Castle. "That's probably more important than the stuff on the agenda."
Roberts will serve on the American Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Committee beginning in March. He will help plan national conferences for the organization.
There are other ways to be active nationally in the organization. Glenda Bellio, who raises Normandy cattle near Craig, does it through competition.
She won the state discussion meet in 1999 and went on to compete at the national level.
Discussion meets invite young ranchers to engage in a roundtable discussion about issues affecting producers. Based on knowledge, cooperation and ability to spur conversation, participants can walk away with prizes.
Richard Connell, regional manager and farm safety coordinator for Farm Bureau, said this year's national winner will drive home a Dodge Ram pickup.
The topics discussed include some of those addressed at the conferences, such as finances, resource management, policy-making and equipment safety.
Canty said the discussion meets and conferences are a way for ranchers to learn about issues and be active in their industry.
"We're trying to get young producers involved," Canty said. "They could stay home and cry and complain about how hard things are, or they could get out and get involved in Farm Bureau and the legislative processes."
Canty said he hopes the conferences will encourage ranchers to do the latter.
For information on Colorado Farm Bureau, visit www.colofb.com.