Steamboat Springs At an economic discussion this winter, agriculture in the valley was considered level; it wasn't growing economically, but it wasn't declining, either. Theoretically, this is a bad thing. Many economists think that anything stable has no value to the local economy. I beg to differ. Agriculture has much to offer economically and otherwise.
The most obvious economic values of agriculture are in the taxes paid, goods and services purchased and sold, and wages paid. Because agriculture is stable, this allows the various government planners to have a base amount upon which they can depend in good times and bad. Tourism went flat after Sept. 11 and planners probably are looking at ways to cut costs in light of the current economic situation. It was reported to the state Legislature earlier this year that if the United States went into a recession, Colorado would be impacted less because of the presence of the agricultural and mining industries within its borders.
There are a number of less obvious economic benefits of agriculture. The most recent survey done by the Routt County Extension Office found that the presence of agriculture had a direct, positive impact on the length of time tourists were willing to stay and the amount of money they were willing to spend while here. Agriculture provides manpower to other local businesses within the area.
These are workers who, because they are already here, do not impact the need for infrastructure, housing, roads, water, etc. In addition, agriculture requires less in services from the various governmental agencies than the various developments and urban areas, thus helping through their assessments to fund those other needs.
One non-economic value to agriculture in the valley is that it provides a special identity to the area. It is and has been the defining cultural heritage of the area. This is one that individual groups are marketing for their own economic advantage. Another contribution to the valley is in the form of community service. Agriculture has in the past, and is currently providing members to the various panels, boards and commissions throughout the communities of the valley. Agriculture provides the open vistas along the river corridors for all to enjoy, and you'll find habitat for a wide variety of animals not only maintained, but also improved upon. Local agriculture provides the opportunity for people to go "green." There are opportunities for people to buy local products thereby lessening their imprint on the environment.
Is it important to keep agriculture viable in the area? Yes. How can you support this as an individual? You can participate in the events of the Cayuse Classic. This is the major fundraiser of the Community Agricultural Alliance, a 50-C3 organization whose mission is to bring the tourist, business and agricultural industries together. The most recent project has been providing an umbrella under which the fledgling local products consortium can begin to grow.
Cayuse Classic, June 21, 2008, is a family-friendly equine event in which people with or without horses can participate. Spectators are welcome and encouraged to meet the horses and riders. For more information, call (970) 879-4370 or visit the Web site at www.comunityagalliance.org