Community Agriculture Alliance: Today is the day

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— When is the last time you thanked a rancher or farmer? When have you given thought to the fact that food in America is abundant, affordable and amazing?

Thursday is National Agriculture Day, a time when producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others across America recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture. Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis, and it’s increasingly contributing to fuel and other bio-products.

A few generations ago, most Americans were directly involved in — or had relatives or friends involved in — agricultural related endeavors. Today, less than 1.4 percent of the American population is in production agriculture, and their average age is close to 60.

In Routt County, $23 million is contributed annually to our economy by the sale of livestock, grains, hay and alfalfa. This figure has remained constant throughout the past three decades despite the loss of farmland and the rising age of our producers.

Equally important is the cultural contribution of our ranchers and farmers. Many are multigenerational families whose ancestors built our towns, churches, schools, civic organizations and communities from the time this area was first developed. They remain active in the community and are the best of the best when it comes to farm production, agribusiness management and marketing, agricultural research and engineering, food science, processing, retailing, banking, education, landscape architecture, urban planning, energy development, veterinary research, wildlife protectors, youth volunteer workers, historians, health care workers and, of course, stewards of the land.

Families have chosen to remain in Routt County, continue in agriculture and hang onto family values. It might be easier to sell their property and move away, but they have made the decision to stay in the Yampa Valley and raise their families in the finest possible lifestyle this country has to offer.

Tradition is important to the fiber of Northwest Colorado’s agriculture, but success also is built on applying best-management practices for land stewardship, updating energy methods and adapting new technology. Since 1985, each American farmer is able to feed 12 more people through increased efficiency in resource management and production techniques, and the soaring world population demands that farmers and ranchers continue to be progressive with innovation.

The good news is that there is a large contingency of young people who are saddling up and taking the reins of Routt County agriculture. They are educated men and women who understand the challenges before them and are willing to be leaders and contributors for our future. They are looking to the future while garnering the knowledge of the past.

So on Thursday, on National Agriculture Day, I encourage you call your favorite local farmer or rancher. Acknowledge their long, hard hours and let them know that you appreciate their amazing dedication to a profession that is important to your lifestyle. Recognize your friendship and tell them thanks for producing affordable food and fiber. Show your appreciation for abundant food at the grocery stores and clothing in the retail stores. Say thanks.

Marsha Daughenbaugh is a Routt County rancher and the executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance. She can be reached at marshad@communityagalliance.org.

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