Data Sense: Data highlights importance of agriculture in the valley | SteamboatToday.com

Data Sense: Data highlights importance of agriculture in the valley

Kate Nowak/For the Steamboat Today

Kate Nowak

Colorado State University recently released a study called "The Value Chain of Colorado's Agriculture." The study draws upon data collected through the U.S. Department of Agriculture census of 2002 and 2007, among other data sources. The study finds that agriculture contributes at least $40 billion to the state's economy and is one of the largest industry sectors. The study also maps the economic relationships among the various sectors of Colorado's agricultural industry. The report highlights the importance of agriculture to Colorado and the Yampa Valley.

Agricultural lands are important not only because of the beautiful vistas they provide, but also because of the substantial local revenue that agriculture products generate. Total agriculture sales in Routt County were $34 million as of 2007, according to the USDA census. The majority of this income came from small farms. According to the census, 77 percent of the ranches and farms in Routt County are less than 1,000 acres and are considered mid- to small-size operations.

These farms derive their income from many sources. One current trend in agriculture is sales of products that are produced for individuals to consume. According to the census data, the value of agricultural products sold to individuals increased by 26 percent from $54,000 to $68,000. We expect these numbers to be even higher when the 2012 census figures are released in February.

The census data also reveals that Northwest Colorado leads the state in farm-based recreation income, mainly from hunting and fishing. In Routt County, recreation income jumped from $963,000 to $3.7 million between 2002 and 2007. Routt ranks second in the highest amount of farm-based recreation income in the state at 11.5 percent.

The CSU report and the census data provide us with a look at farm to fork in Colorado and help us understand the importance of agriculture to the Yampa Valley. As the numbers reveal, agriculture plays a role in sustaining the local economy and maintaining our way of life in the Yampa Valley.

Kate Nowak is the executive director of Yampa Valley Data Partners.

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