Ranchers honored

Families' contributions to county noted

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From the outside, ranching might seem glamorous -- an independent lifestyle in which nobody tells you what to do.

Duane Acord wonders whether newcomers, particularly those building vacation homes and ranchettes near his South Routt ranch, realize the grit, determination and hardship involved in running a cattle operation.

"They really don't understand what it takes to dig out a living in this country," he said. "They just think we're doing it for fun."

The Acords were among three Routt County families honored at the Ranch Rodeo on Sunday for their steadfast dedication to agriculture in the face of encroaching development and other challenges.

"It felt really good," Acord said. "It's worth something to freeze your hiney all these years."

The Acords' history in the Yampa Valley began almost 40 years ago when Duane, his wife, Leigh, and their three young daughters moved to South Routt from Grand County.

With the help of the growing daughters, the family's ranch grew into a prosperous cattle operation, now the Acord Land and Cattle Company.

"When all the family was on the ranch, it was real enjoyable," he said.

Along with the Acords, three generations of the Camillettis also were honored for their family's contribution to Routt County's agricultural heritage.

The family's ranching legacy dates to 1928, when Francesco Camilletti, after working in local mines, purchased land in Milner. He, his wife, Brigidita, and their children had moved to Routt County in 1921.

The children helped build the ranch into Camilletti & Sons Inc., a thriving cow, sheep, grain and hay ranch. Family members continue operating the ranch as a yearling cattle and hay operation.

Sunday marked the first time longtime ranching families were recognized for their solid ranching practices, community service and overall commitment at the Ranch Rodeo, said Marsha Daughenbaugh, executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, which helped organize the event.

"We wanted people to know there are still longtime ranching families here," she said.

Immersed in her world of steers and horses on her ranch in North Routt, Jo Semotan was surprised to find out her family would be among those honored at the rodeo.

"I was swept off my feet," she said. "I just couldn't believe it. ... It was really an honor, I was just thrilled."

The last to carry the Semotan name in the Yampa Valley, Jo's love for horses continues her family's strong tradition in horse breeding.

Her parents, Evelyn and Quentin Semotan, bred and showed champion horses, including Starduster, a foundation horse that sired a line of quarter horses.

Jo, who remains on the family ranch, always is on the lookout for promising mares and colts.

Like many other ranchers, Semotan holds other jobs -- she's a tour guide at the Hayden Heritage Center and housekeeper at Steamboat Lake Outfitters -- to help support her steer and horse operation.

Like other ranchers, she also has contemplated the future of her land. Semotan is working with the Yampa Valley Land Trust to place conservation easements on the remaining ranch, a small portion of the original ranch.

Although it's hard to say how long the land will stay in her family, she wanted to make sure it wouldn't be developed.

"The one reason we wanted to do it was because it was the last of the Semotan legacy," she said.

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