Having a perspective from both agriculture and real estate, I often notice the successful and interesting balance agricultural producers, absentee property owners and the resort industry in Routt County have established. Steamboat Springs has maintained and protected its deep agricultural roots, making it unique among many other Colorado ski resorts. The powder is legendary and Steamboat is one of the top destination resorts in the world. The friendly atmosphere and true western heritage endear visitors, sometimes converting them in to residents. As residents, they often become a part of the local agricultural scene as new producers or as owners who lease their land to existing producers.
Despite land prices that can’t reasonably be supported by agricultural production alone, crop and livestock sales still contribute significantly to Routt County’s economy. These sectors supply more than $35M annually to the local economy. For those involved in farming and ranching, the connection to the land and livestock and working in the great outdoors is an intangible reward that can’t be measured or quantified. However, the importance of agriculture and the scenic vistas to the citizens can be measured: Routt County voters on two occasions have approved initiatives that set aside tax dollars to purchase development rights. The efforts of the Steamboat-based Yampa Valley Land Trust and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust combined with landowner participation have protected tens of thousands of acres in the area Yampa Valley from large scale development. These wide open spaces are ideally suited for raising livestock and hay; fortunately there are plenty of willing and capable families and landowners here who sustain the agricultural traditions.
Through the hard work and dedication of the agricultural producer, the local land owners and various organizations dedicated to farming, ranching and sustainable food production, Routt County is a true model of how recreation and agriculture have found the perfect balance to enhance a community.