Group aims to link agriculture, business

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— Against a backdrop of ski runs and subdivisions, third-, fourth- and fifth-generation ranchers in the Yampa Valley work the land as their fathers and grandfathers did.

Past and present meet here.

Carl Herold, a fourth-generation rancher who lives just north of Yampa, understands the complexity of blending tradition and progress.

The land that surrounds his ranch has changed hands several times, and with new owners come new challenges.

Herold met with several other ranchers and business people Wednesday evening in Yampa to discuss ways to reconcile the Yampa Valley's ranching and farming heritage with the pressures of growth and development.

The men and women comprise the board of directors that directs the Community Agricultural Alliance, a nonprofit corporation established in Colorado in 1999 to bring together the agricultural, resort and business communities in Routt County.

The organization aims to find and implement strategies that preserve the agricultural landscape while making it economically viable.

Board members and advisers intend to hold their quarterly meetings in outlying areas like Yampa to increase their name recognition with the community.

The next meeting will be held April 17 at Legion Hall in Hayden.

People who purchase ranches in Northwest Colorado increasingly do not come from agricultural backgrounds.

The alliance aims to retain more agricultural land for farming and ranching by giving these new landowners an opportunity to partner with family ranchers and farmers.

The Land Stewardship Network opens the door for new property owners to lease their land to farmers and ranchers who are looking for additional space for growing crops or grazing.

"It's a way to educate people who don't know anything about agriculture," Herold said.

The alliance wants to provide new landowners with the resources they need to realize the agricultural potential of their property, said Herold's son, Chip.

Chip Herold, a fifth-generation rancher, sits on the board of directors and said he appreciates the gains the organization has made since its inception.

But future success depends on the ability of the organization to get its message out to the community, he said.

"If people aren't aware, then we can't do anything," Herold said.

Agricultural land must not only be protected but also made viable through new business opportunities, Executive Director Ellen Stein said.

The alliance works to connect ranchers and farmers with the resort and business communities.

Routt County Woolens represents one of those successful partnerships.

Local wool producers sell their product by marketing fine wool blankets rather than just the raw material.

Wool in itself does not currently draw a large market, said board member Medora Fralick, but the end product has found a niche in the local economy.

Fralick, owner of Commercial Property Group in Steamboat Springs, helps to represent the business community on the board.

The tourism industry has long marketed the Yampa Valley's western heritage, she said, and now is the time for the agricultural community to profit from it as well.

The resort community is more that willing to partner with that effort, she added.

The alliance sits on the cutting edge of organizations that bridge the gap between what is urban and what is agricultural, Fralick said.

"This is a vehicle to bring both of the worlds together."

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