In 1948, Michigan established the first Centennial Farm Program in the United States to recognize working farms owned by the same family continuously for 100 years or more.
Since then, many states, counties and Canadian provinces have created similar programs. The Colorado Centennial Farms program was established in 1986 to recognize the important contribution of agriculture to Colorado's history and economy. A partnership of the Colorado Historic Society and the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the program is administered by the State Historical Fund. The Colorado Centennial Farms was the first in the nation to also give a Historic Structures Award to families who have successfully preserved historic buildings on their farms and ranches, sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Why does Colorado have this program? We all know family farms and ranches, historic barns and other agricultural resources are disappearing throughout the nation. The ability of a family to withstand the pressures of growth, changes in the economy, farming methods and climate to stay on their farms or ranch properties for generations deserves recognition and our appreciation.
As of 2005, more than 300 farms and ranches in Colorado have been designated as Centennial Farms in 57 of the state's 63 counties. Weld County has the most designated Centennial Farms, with 43 listed. The oldest Centennial Farm is the Ortega Farm in San Luis, established in 1851, long before Colorado became a state.
To qualify as a Centennial Farm, the property must be a working farm or ranch, have a minimum of 160 acres or, if smaller, gross at least $1,000 in annual sales, and be held by the same family continuously for 100 years or more. To receive the Historic Structures Award, the property must have four or more well-maintained structures that are at least 50 years old. Nearly 200 Colorado Centennial Farms have received this additional recognition.
An awards ceremony is held in late August at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. Honorees receive a sign to display on their property and a certificate signed by the governor and other state officials.
We, in Routt County, are proud to be the home of six Centennial Farms, three of which have also received the Historic Structures Award, and two of which are also listed on the Routt County Register of Historic Places. We congratulate the Zehner Family for being honored this year as one of Routt County's newest Centennial Farms. The Zehner Ranch near Hayden was established in 1901. Additional Routt County Centennial Farms include the Summer Ranch near Sidney, established in 1889; the Crags Ranch south of Hayden, established in 1895 and listed on the Routt County Historic Register; the Hitchens Overlook Ranch near Milner, established in 1886 and listed on the Routt County Historic Register; the Soash Ranch near Steamboat Springs, dating to 1904; and the oldest, dating to 1884, the Sullivan Ranch, with property in Routt, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties.
For more information contact the State Historical Fund at (303) 866-2825 or Historic Routt County at (970) 875-1305.