If you go
What: Cow Town Ranch Tours
When: 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Thursday and July 16 and July 23
Where: Depart from Artists' Gallery of Steamboat, 1009 Lincoln Ave.
Cost: $50 for adults, $10 for children ages 7 to 12, free for 6 and younger
Call: Routt County Extension at 879-0825 or Steamboat Central Reservations at 800-922-2722
Steamboat Springs Routt County's ranchers are opening their doors to the public during upcoming ranch tours, hoping to teach people about agriculture and their food supply.
Marsha Daughenbaugh and C.J. Mucklow organize and help lead the Cow Town Ranch Tours. Daughenbaugh is executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance, and Mucklow is an agent at the county's Colorado State University Extension Office. They aim to educate the public through the annual tours. The first of four is Sunday.
"We think it's so important people understand why agriculture is important and why agriculture has been stable in this area," Daughenbaugh said.
Sunday's participants will visit Christy and Matt Belton's cattle ranch and the M&M Elk Ranch. The tour will be in conjunction with the cattle drive down Lincoln Avenue in the morning and the Ranch Rodeo at 5 p.m. The tours run from 1 to 4:30 p.m. The tours are on coaches and leave from the Artists' Gallery of Steamboat.
Daughenbaugh said she and Mucklow usually get 25 to 30 people. About half tend to be visitors and half tend to be residents interested in agriculture.
"There's the lure of the West also," Daughenbaugh said. "People want to understand why people wanted to come to this area and homestead."
The tours cost $50 for adults, though people who ask for a $10 discount can have one, Daughenbaugh said. Children ages 7 to 12 cost $10, and children 6 and younger are admitted free. Organizers provide activity packets to keep children entertained while Daughenbaugh and Mucklow narrate the tour on the bus. The ranchers speak about their operations and allow visitors to touch things and participate.
They use Go Alpine coaches and encourage people to wear shoes, not sandals, and bring water along. This is the fifth year of the Cow Town Ranch Tours. The events aren't big moneymakers, Daughenbaugh said.
"We never make enough money to hardly cover our expenses," she said.
Mucklow said people sometimes attend one and then come back for more. He sees a lot of second-home owners on the tours. The event reminds them about the history of the Yampa Valley, Mucklow said.
"It's a ski town : but its roots are ranching, so I think it's cool to show that off," he said.
Sunday's participants will get a treat because few elk ranches exist, Mucklow said. M&M Elk Ranch has been around about 18 years, ranch manager Steve Ullrich said. The ranch raises elk for food and hunting.
M&M has about 80 elk right now, Ullrich said.
"Right now, you'll be able to see baby calves, so that's a very special time of year for kids and stuff," he said. "My grandkids love it."
All the ranchers approached by organizers have happily participated, Daughenbaugh said. Ranch tourists will have the opportunity to ask questions.
"Ranchers and farmers are very highly educated in their jobs, in their professions," she said. "They're good spokespeople for their profession."
Mucklow said he's gotten great reviews for the Cow Town tours.
"They really enjoy themselves," he said. "I think they're surprised at how little they know about where their food comes from and how much fun they have."