Marsha Daughenbaugh, outgoing Community Ag Alliance director, worked to keep tradition alive | SteamboatToday.com

Marsha Daughenbaugh, outgoing Community Ag Alliance director, worked to keep tradition alive

Marsha Daughenbaugh will retire as executive director of the Community Agriculture Alliance at the end of March. Photo by Matt Stensland.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For more than a decade, it has been Marsha Daughenbaugh's job to make sure one of the Yampa Valley's oldest industries thrives for future generations.

On Fridays, the Community Agriculture Alliance office in downtown Steamboat Springs is a busy place with customers coming in to pick up carrots, bacon, CBD hemp honey and other locally-produced products.

In her office, Daughenbaugh has a large plastic bag filled with buttons that read: "Naked and hungry. Where would YOU be without agriculture?"

That mantra has driven the Ag Alliance since it was formed in 1999 with the mission of preserving the Yampa Valley's agricultural heritage by helping the industry adapt to change.

Since 2003, Daughenbaugh has served as the organization's executive director.

"We were extremely lucky to have her come on board as executive director," Greg Brown said. "She brought a wealth of experience from a life that has been lived close to agriculture."

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At the end of the month, Daughenbaugh will retire from the organization and have to find a new home for her father's weathered cowboy hat and horse tack that hang on her office wall.

Daughenbaugh was raised at her family's Rocking C Bar cattle ranch west of Steamboat. Before joining the Ag Alliance, she spent more than 20 years working with the Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.

Under her leadership, the Ag Alliance has grown, and today, has a calendar filled with events and programs aimed at supporting local producers, including the upcoming Ag Appreciation Week, which will be held March 18 to 24.

"Of all the events we worked on, the bull sale was probably my favorite," Daughenbaugh said.

The annual sale was started out of necessity in 2003 because there were no sales in Northwest Colorado, and cattle producers had to look elsewhere. Over 12 years, the sale evolved into a networking event that connected cattle producers and bull sellers.

The producers found bulls on their own, and the last sale was held in 2012.

"I think we actually worked ourselves out of business," Daughenbaugh said.

During the summer months, the Ag Alliance hosts Cow Town Ranch Tours, which allow city slickers to meet ranchers and learn about the important role agriculture plays in the Yampa Valley.

To meet another need, the Ag Alliance last summer hosted eight water education programs to help the community navigate a topic that only becomes more complicated as the demand for water increases.

To promote local food, Daughenbaugh and the Ag Alliance help coordinate the annual Plate and Pint at Butcherknife Brewing Co. and the Yampavore Farm to Table Dinner at Harwigs.

Solving problems has been one of Daughenbaugh's strengths.

"It's very easy for her to reach out and talk to people from various groups," Brown said.

This June, the Ag Alliance will help put on the fifth annual Moots Ranch Rally, an event that takes cyclists from throughout the country on a 50-mile bike tour past historic ranches with lunch served at the Daughenbaugh ranch.

The event was started as a response to rising tensions between the agriculture community and cyclists.

"We were hearing a lot of negativity about bikes on the roads," Daughenbaugh said.

The Ranch Rally helped ease the tensions by bringing the two groups together for a fun event.

The work to educate different segments of the community never ends, and Daughenbaugh knows incoming Executive Director Michele Meyer will not face a shortage of challenges.

Meyer helped start the online CAA Market — caamarket.org— that has provided an easy way for producers to sell their products and for customers to buy them. There are now 65 producers who supply products for the market, and weekly sales have grown to about $2,000.

"And, all that money goes right to the producers," Meyer said.

The program so far has been extremely successful, and the agriculture community will have some decisions to make if the goal is to keep everyone in the Yampa Valley clothed and fed with local products.

"I think that has been a focus for us in the past year," Daughenbaugh said. "Where do we want to be in Northwest Colorado food production? Do our meat producers want to figure out a way to service all the institutions and all the restaurants?"

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.