Community Agriculture Alliance: One group, many projects

— In 1999, a group of Routt County residents thought agriculture was being threatened, and they decided to do something about it.

With the help of a small grant from the Kellogg Foundation, they organized the Community Agriculture Alliance. The purpose of the Alliance is to figure out ways to sustain agriculture.

According to its bylaws, the Alliance is to be represented by different agriculture organizations, the resort industry, agriculture business and the general community. The makeup of the 16-member Board of Directors and 13-member Advisory Board includes agriculture producers, Steamboat Ski Corporation, developers, lawyers, bank presidents, stay-at-home moms and retired people.

The Community Agriculture Alliance's mission is to preserve the agriculture heritage of the Yampa Valley by initiating, supporting and encouraging actions, programs and policies that mutually benefit and connect the agriculture, business, community and resort interests of the valley.

The Alliance's goals are to unite the communities' residents, provide education and awareness of agricultural issues, preserve and protect agricultural lands, and to develop agriculture business activities.

The Alliance gets its support from the Routt County Commissioners, city of Steamboat Springs, memberships and small grants.

Marsha Daughenbaugh has been the Alliance's executive director since 2003.

The Alliance meets quarterly to talk about what's going on in Routt County, and seemingly, there is a lot going on.

For example, with partners from the Routt County Extension, Routt Natural Conservation Service, Routt County Conservation District, Routt County CattleWomen, Historic Routt County and Colorado State Forest Service, the Alliance puts out a quarterly newsletter of topics of general interest, with a mailing list of 1,100.

The Alliance coordinates 15 organizations, which take turns contributing to a weekly column in the Steamboat Pilot & Today. The community column comes out in the paper's Sunday edition and covers a wide variety of topics, such as history, human interest and agriculture.

They have an 1-minute spot on Yampa Valley Radio, too, which covers everything from current agriculture issues to history.

The Alliance, In partnership with Historic Routt County, hosts Cowtown Ranch Tours about six times a year. During each tour, about 25 people board a bus and ride to ranches where they get to visit with working ranchers. The ranches represent all kinds of agricultural animals, including cattle, sheep, llamas, horses and domestic elk.

Daughenbaugh said there's narration during the bus ride, too, with all kinds of topics concerning the agricultural world.

Since the Cowtown Ranch Tour starts from the Artist Gallery of Steamboat, tour guests get to check out Northwest Colorado products that are made locally, such as food items and homemade soaps.

Northwest Colorado Products is another of the Alliance's projects. Nancy Kramer is the Alliance's project coordinator for Northwest Colorado Products.

The purpose of this project is to connect people whose products are made locally with local retailers. In addition to serving on the Northwest Colorado Products Board, Moffat County residents Melody Villard, Lorrae Moon and Bernie Rose also contribute locally made products.

Another project is the Cayuse Classic, which is on June 21 at Sidney Park Ranch in Steamboat. Four horse competitions include hunter jumping, timed pair pace, ranch horse versatility and poker run, and crazy eight trail ride. A registration fee is charged for these competitions.

A barbecue and silent and live auctions round out the day's events. The Cayuse Classic is a moneymaking project for the Alliance.

Still another in the many Alliance projects is the Ranch Rendezvous, held in partnership with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation. It's held the last Saturday of July on the courthouse lawn in Steamboat. The event features all kinds of agriculture animal exhibits and agricultural topics. Included are activities for kids, too, which include a stickhorse race and craft tables.

Community Agriculture Alliance is a member of the Bark Beetle Information Task Force. It strives to make people aware of environmental solutions to the beetle and options to using the blue-stained wood.

With partners the city of Steamboat, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation, Colorado State Parks, Colorado State Forest Service, U.S. Forest Service, Routt County Extension and Routt County, the Alliance has offered seminars during the past three months of this year.

In May, the Alliance will offer a tour of one of the mills and a home that have utilized the blue-stained wood.

The Alliance and Routt County Extension offer two classes, Land Stewardship 101 (held in January and February) and the more-in-depth Land Stewardship 102, held in September and October.

Forthcoming will be information about a water forum that will be of interest to people in Northwestern Colorado and a political forum.

The Alliance also sponsors a horseshoe-pitching contest the afternoon of the livestock sale during the Routt County Fair and coordinates the Northwest Colorado Bull Sale.

"The Board of Directors from the Alliance" Daughenbaugh said, "are engaging in numerous activities and programs in an attempt to bridge the interest between existing business and agriculture interests, and longtime locals and new residents of the valley."

Call 879-4370.

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