Steamboat Springs Efforts to preserve Routt County’s rural and agricultural heritage appear to have paid off in recent years.
Routt County has more farms, more acreage in farms and greater total sales of agricultural products produced here in 2012 than 2007, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture.
The USDA released its 2012 Census of Agriculture data Friday, including county-level information. The Census of Agriculture is completed every five years.
The most recent census was performed in the midst of a historic drought that affected a large swath of the nation, including Routt County.
Wildfire season started early in 2012, water restrictions were put in place and a voluntary recreation ban was enacted to protect the Yampa River.
While the drought certainly affected the agricultural community in the Yampa Valley, with ranchers making tough decisions about herd sizes in the face of rising hay costs, 2012 still showed more favorable numbers for farming and ranching almost across the board compared to 2007.
The number of farms in Routt County increased from 610 in 2007 to 799 in 2012. However, most of that growth came from farms between 10 and 49 acres, which might be bolstered by 35-acre ranchettes that are involved in agriculture production.
Land involved in agriculture production is taxed at lower rate than residential land.
There were 612,532 acres of farmland in Routt County in 2012 compared to 533,014 acres in 2007, but the average and median farm sizes fell in that time period.
The average Routt County farm was 767 acres in 2012 and 874 acres in 2007. The median farm was 63 acres in 2012 and 98 in 2007.
There also were fewer acres of cropland and irrigated land in 2012 than in 2007 while the total number of farms for each category increased.
Despite the two surveys being on separate sides of a real estate bubble, the average per acre value of Routt County farms was higher in 2012 than in 2007, $2,218 to $1,365.
The market value of all agricultural products produced in Routt County and sold was $46,460,000 in 2012, a 36 percent increase compared to 2007.
The per farm average for sold product value was $58,147 in 2012 compared to $55,926 in 2007, about a 4 percent increase.
Routt County had more cattle in 2012 than in 2007: Cattle and calves inventory reached 37,231 on 294 farms in 2012 compared to 22,397 on 219 farms in 2007.
Nationwide, there was a drop in beef cattle from 2007 to 2012, a trend Routt County bucked, seeing an increase of about 30 percent. However, beef cows made up a smaller share of Routt County’s overall cattle and calves in 2012 than 2007.
Another major production increase for Routt County was crops, which includes nursery and greenhouse crops along with hay. The value of crops increased from $4,655,000 in 2007 to $7,802,000 in 2012.
Higher prices for agricultural goods might explain some of the increase in market value, as cattle and hay prices reached new highs in 2012.
Routt County saw a sorting of farms away from the mean in terms of production value: More farms sold less than $1,000 or more than $500,000 in 2012 than in 2007. The number of farms selling more than $500,000 of agricultural goods jumped from eight in 2007 to 17 in 2012. The number of farms selling less than $1,000 worth of goods increased about 50 percent, as well.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206, email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @MLSchrantz