Routt County agriculture made it through the 2012 drought, even with losses that averaged about 90 percent on dryland crops and 35 percent on irrigated crops. Cattle and sheep herds were culled and production was re-evaluated for 2013. Water was low in some areas and nonexistent in others. It wasn’t pretty, but Routt County agriculture producers made it through.
And now it has snowed.
We lost some of our old-timers: pioneers who led Routt County forward with a vision based on trust, an honest statement and hard work. We hated to see them go, but at the same time we welcomed some new little ones into our world and look forward to where they will take us throughout the course of their next 80 years.
We were divided on issues. The 2012 election was bitter and partisan, but we remain grateful that we are able to express our opinions without fear of retribution, knowing that our families, homes and properties are safe. We will continue to exercise our rights as Americans to vote. And we will see some new young leaders bring wisdom to our plight.
Agriculture faces many challenges, and sometimes it would be easier to climb down from the saddle and the tractor, sell the place and move to town. But that isn’t the way it works. Ranchers and farmers have an inherent love of food and fiber production, of the land, of the animals and of their freedom. We like to feel the warm sun against our faces and the cold wind against our backs. Next year will be better is always the mantra — and it will be better next year.
Today’s American farmer and rancher grows twice as much food as the previous generation — and does so using less land, energy, water and fewer emissions. The average U.S. farmer feeds 155 people today while in 1960 we fed just 26. We produce about 40 percent of the world’s corn, using only 20 percent of the total area harvested in the world, and American farmers ship more than $100 billion of their crops and products to other nations. The beef industry provided $79 billion of retail equivalent value in 2011, and farmers are a direct lifeline to more than 23 million American jobs in all types of industries.
Demographers predict that by 2050 we will need to feed and clothe 10 billion people across the globe. That means we will have to produce more food in the next 50 years than in the past 10,000 years combined.
Will Routt County be a vibrant part of the effort? Absolutely. In this county, we have the desire to succeed. We have tough ranchers and strong farmers. We have the wisdom of our heritage, and we have new ideas. We have traditional crops and livestock, and we have alternative agriculture. We have agri-production, agri-tourism and agri-business. We have taxpayers willing to tax ourselves to protect vital parcels of agricultural properties from development. We acknowledge and value the importance of our natural resources. Even in an area hindered by the weather, we are leaders in “the right way to do things.”
So to all my friends involved with production agriculture and to all the people who believe in Routt County Agriculture, happy 2013. Together we will achieve great things.
Marsha Daughenbaugh is the executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance based in Routt County.