Farm to Table Done The Routt County Way

Mountain Connection, February 14, 2022

Routt County history combined with learning about Farm to Table took on a whole new spin with one of the SMS Winter Wonderment group outings. It was a dream of Margi Missling-Root’s to show the ranching and agriculture side of our county and the people who work in those industries. Based at teacher Trenia Sanford’s 100-year old cattle ranch, students learned about the history of Winter Carnival, ranching, farming, transportation, and homesteading.

We started the weekend by giving the students time to make themselves comfortable among the horses and cows. Friday afternoon found us at Del’s Triangle 3 Ranch, for a two hour winter horseback ride with Olympian/author Ray Heid. Ray and his son, personally snowshoe the horse trail to assure that the snow is packed down for the safety of both the horses and riders. A winter ride under a clear blue sky brought many smiles, and some sore hips and knees. Riding horses isn’t an everyday affair for our students! After making personal pizzas Friday evening, we gathered together near the fireplace as Trenia brought out her guitar and songbooks. It was a lovely site to see the students nestled together singing, drinking hot chocolate, and simply enjoying one another’s laughter-filled stories.

After a quick breakfast Saturday, students walked the horses as the dogs traveled alongside and we made a train of happiness on County Road 56. The students loved being with the horses and cattle but the time came to get ready for a cheese-filled lunch at the Moonhill Dairy Farm. This was followed by learning a bit about the chemistry of cheese making. We made an attempt at making cheese, but it was fed to the turkey, because it didn’t turn out as it might! John Weibel, owner, chemist, and cheesemaker, discussed the challenges of holistic management by functioning as a business for the triple bottom lines of ecological, economic, and social considerations. This was coupled with strong core values and a belief that agriculture must work with nature as opposed to working against it. We ended our time at the farm by milking 6 cows. This was quite an eye-opening activity and everyone gave it a try. Carly Simmons ’22 was a pro and Mustafa Sulleymanov ’24 stated it was the dirtiest thing he’d ever done, but he liked it. Quite a statement coming from Mustafa.

Saturday night Trenia Sanford headed up instruction for a variety of country dances (Two step, BootScoopin Boogie, Western Wobble, Virginia Real, and a few other line dances). We had a raucous country dance with a group of 25 students and faculty. Everyone agreed that another dance at Moonhilll Schoolhouse Community Center near Clark must become a tradition for Steamboat Mountain School!

On Sunday, we started with a fabulous multi-course breakfast which included a fresh trout that Mustafa caught with the fishing group on Friday. We then journeyed to Hayden Farm Fresh. Hosts Colby and Michelle Townsend educated us on egg production while walking amongst 2800 chickens. Many students enjoyed the challenge of holding a chicken and assisted in collecting eggs. Hayden Fresh Farm, south of Hayden, provides the valley with fresh and nutritious products from their farm, to nearby families and local restaurants. Their layers are cage-free and the Townsends are committed to providing premium nutrition by keeping their chickens happy and free from hormones or antibiotics. The science around raising chickens, pigs, and turkeys was quite mind-blowing and worth another story in itself. Routt County agriculturists are seeking to work together to collaborate with one another to bring farm-to-table products into the valley. Both Moonhill Dairy and Hayden Fresh Farm are members of the Community Agriculture Alliance (CAA). CAA has been promoting agriculture in the Yampa River Valley since 1999 and is working to ensure the vitality and continuity of local agriculture. They believe agriculture is critical to the fabric of our community and help to pave the way to create an alliance among individuals with shared passions and goals.