Bringing home the bread, steak, lamb and bacon — how agriculture continues to drive Moffat County economy
Producing food for the family table and for market’s near and far is a 150-year-old legacy in Northwest Colorado.
Agriculture continues to match mining as a major driver of the local economy, according to the Colorado State Demography Office’s latest analysis, published in 2014.
Since 1840, the U.S. government has conducted an agricultural census every five years. It is the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation.
The last two censuses were conducted in 2007 and 2012, and data for Moffat County show the following.
• In 2007, Moffat County had 503 farms, and in 2012, only 492, which represents a loss of 2 percent.
• The total number of farms decreased, however, the average size of each increased from 1,663 acres in 2007 to 1,890 in 2012.
• About 80 percent of all farmland in Moffat County is pastureland, about 13 percent cropland and about 7 percent other uses.
As a basic industry, agriculture is one of the commercial activities that bring outside dollars into a community, as well as additional jobs that result from the spending of those dollars on local resident services. It also generates additional secondary jobs in the economy.
The market value of products sold by Moffat County producers in 2012 was a little less than $27 million, down 5 percent from more than $28 million in 2007, according to the 2012 Agricultural Census. The same source shows that about $2 million in government payments was made to farmers in 2012, averaging a little more than $11,000 per farm.
Agriculture contributes 5.6 percent of the jobs to the local economy, compared to 18.9 percent from government, 12.4 percent from retail trade and 8.5 percent from mining, according to the State Demography Office.
What is farmed?
The Census of Agriculture is not only a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches — including the small plots of rural and urban land — used for growing fruit and vegetables, it also collects data about the people who operate them and the food animals count, if $1,000 or more of such products were raised and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year.
In 2012, of the nearly $26 million dollars in agricultural products sold by Moffat County producers were from the following commodity groups.
• Grains, oilseeds, dry beans and dry peas ($106,300)
• Other crops and hay ($241,900)
• Cattle and calves ($1,719,600)
• Sheep, goats, wool, mohair and milk ($590,400)
• Horses, ponies, mules, burros and donkeys ($33,600)
• Other animals ($13,000)
• Producers also sold items in the categories of vegetables, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes; nursery, greenhouse, floriculture and sod; poultry and eggs; milk from cows; and barley for grain. The total value, however, was withheld to avoid disclosing data for individual producers.
Cattle tops the sales list, but there are more sheep and lambs in the county than any other livestock. The 2012 Agriculture Census showed the following.
• Sheep and lambs numbered 51,255.
• Cattle and calves numbered 27,260.
• Horses and ponies numbered 1,524.
• Laying hens numbered 751.
• Goats numbered more than 605.
Nationally, farms and ranches run by women account for about 26 percent of annual sales — $6.9 billion of the total $182.2 billion in sales, according to a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In Moffat County, women primarily operated only 70 of 492 farms.
In line with national trends, the average age of the principal operator of Moffat County’s farms was almost 60 years old. Farmers were mostly white, with only 23 of the operators surveyed identified as a race other than white.
For most Moffat County farmers (309), working in agriculture was not their primary occupation, according to the 2012 Agricultural Census.
The 2017 census concluded in February 2018, with results expected in about a year.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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