In 1999, third-generation rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh was watching Steamboat Springs’ resort business prosper and grow. But she and a few like-minded folks began to wonder if the open spaces and working agricultural landscapes that lured visitors and second homeowners here in the first place were imperiled.

In the face of increasing development and rising land prices, the seed of the Community Agriculture Alliance (CAA) sprouted. The goal was to bridge the gap between agriculture, recreation and business interests. The only organization of its kind in the nation, the CAA’s mission is to lead the rural community, be a partner with the urban/resort community and grow agriculture.

The work that’s been accomplished in less than two decades can make your head spin. Its influence runs wide and deep in Steamboat, the Yampa Valley and the northwest corner of Colorado.

“We are respected and invited to participate with so many endeavors, whether it’s an economic development council, long-range planning group or just a conversation with a group of third graders,” said Marsha, the CAA executive director. “I’m proud we can be a voice for agriculture and help people understand why it’s important to protect it.”

With a 59-day growing season in Steamboat, it’s remarkable that the CAA online market offers 65 locally-grown products. The goods range from salad greens to eggs, honey to vegetables, and a selection of beef, lamb, pork, veal and chicken. The CAA supplies hundreds of residents and Steamboat’s finest restaurants with fresh, local meats and produce.

The work of the CAA is to help farmers and ranchers be successful, as well as stewarding the next generation of farming families.

“I’m proud we can be a voice for agriculture and help people understand why it’s important to protect it.”

—Marsha Daughenbaugh, former Community Agriculture Alliance executive director

”We’ve got young people coming into the industry who are smart, and they’re going to make a difference,” Marsha said. “They’re going to grow more food with less resources.”

The CAA continues to grow in size, volunteer support and impact every day. Communities seek out Marsha regularly, asking for mentoring in the CAA organizational model.

“People feel it in their heart and know in their head that they’d like to see agriculture succeed. They want to see open lands working,” she said. “If we can help one more person stay in agriculture, or one more family pass on a generational ranch, help water be saved or get food in a tummy, we have had a successful day.”

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