Ski corp. to buy local meat

Yampa Valley beef again will be offered at mountain restaurants

— Yampa Valley Beef is getting geared up for winter, planning to supply Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. restaurants with its products for the second year in a row and also looking toward the future.

Nothing is in ink yet with the ski corp., but both sides say they plan to go through renewing an arrangement begun last year.

"They made a verbal commitment with us," Yampa Valley Beef President Geoff Blakeslee said.

The pilot company, which markets locally grown beef at a premium price, depends on the ski corp. deal as its largest customer. Last year, ski corp. initially bought 14,000 pounds of Yampa Valley ground beef. By the end of the ski season, ski corp. had bought 21,000 pounds of the product to cover the demand.

Mike Lane, ski corp. public relations manager, said that as far as he knows, another 14,000 pounds will be bought for the ski season.

"This is an incredibly good relationship," Blakeslee said. He explained that ski corp.'s willingness to pay a premium price for local beef shows the company's commitment to protect agriculture.

With winter on its way, Yampa Valley Beef also is looking at solving some of its stocking and shipping problems.

"We've arrived at the point that we need to think about the future of this company," Blakeslee said.

Company heads are looking into using Mountain Meats in Craig and Steamboat Meat and Seafood Co. more to help with distribution and stocking.

"We've made a commitment to resolve those problems," Blakeslee said. "We're getting a lot of support, but that doesn't make it easy."

The local agricultural company also recently followed through on its annual donation to a land preservation organization. Blakeslee explained that Yampa Valley Beef is the only company he knows of that markets a product that helps preserve agricultural land.

"It's a unique approach, and we're the only ones doing it," he said.

Every year, the company donates a fraction of its profits to an organization trying to save agricultural land.

This year, it gave $500 to

the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust. Although it is a statewide, nonprofit organization, the CCA Land Trust has its roots in Routt County, Executive Director Lynne Sherrod said.

It was formed in 1995 after local rancher Jay Fetcher donated part of the Fetcher Ranch to a land trust to devalue the acreage. That made it possible to will the ranch to his family while avoiding high inheritance taxes.

"Jay got the idea that this would be something that could work for some other folks," said Sherrod, an Elk River Valley rancher like Fetcher.

Fetcher contacted CCA and in 1995, the land trust was formed. Now it has 36 easements on 68,000 acres in Colorado.

"It's been absolutely phenomenal," Sherrod said.

She said it was an honor to receive the donation from Yampa Valley Beef. "Anytime we get recognition from our peers telling us that we are doing the right thing that means more to us that anything else," Sherrod said.

Yampa Valley Beef supports agricultural preservation on another level, Sherrod added. The company is required to have 25 percent of its cattle on land that is protected from development. Right now, 65 percent of the company's cattle is on protected land.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206

or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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