Why Colorado is a Great Choice for New Farmers and Ranchers
Looking to start a farm someplace beautiful and friendly with a healthy and diverse agricultural economy? What about setting down roots in Colorado? Yes, ranching thrives here, but that’s not all Colorado’s annual $5 billion agriculture industry is about.
Colorado is great for all kinds of operations, including:
- Crop Farms
- Livestock farms
- Dairy Farms
- Organic Farms
- Subsistence and hobby farms
No matter your farming ambitions, Colorado certainly has a growing season, a view, a farmers market, and an industry nook for you.
Colorado’s Farming Landscape
Colorado’s eastern plains have plentiful cropland. Statewide, Colorado ranches raise cattle, hogs, chickens, and lamb—the latter of which has an excellent reputation with chefs around the world. (Yes, Colorado lamb is definitely “a thing.”)
Larimer and Weld counties, in the north central part of the state, account for nearly half of the vegetables grown in Colorado. Root vegetables and leafy greens do well as fall crops, in addition to peas, carrots, leeks, onions, broccoli and cauliflower. In the summer, eggplant, tomatoes, squash, peppers, beans, corn and cucumbers are good choices.
Colorado is a large producer of potatoes, barley, cantaloupe, lettuce, sweet corn, winter wheat, millet (#1 in the US!) and other grains. We have more certified “organic” acres than any other state. We also have specialty farmers who raise bison, elk and ostrich, and grow grapes, mushrooms and Anasazi beans.
Surprisingly, we’re the sixth largest US producer of peaches, although apples are our biggest fruit crop. Colorado is a leader in dairy and eggs (we produce over a billion eggs a year). Our state has some of the best animal welfare practices and meat-processing technology in the US. Our products are exported to 130 countries, but a lot of our barley stays here in Colorado (our state is the fourth-largest beer producer in the nation).
Colorado has more certified “organic” acres than any other state.
How to Start a New Farm in Colorado
If you’d like to begin your farm in Colorado, there are a number of programs to help you get started.
Building Farmers, run by the Colorado State University extension services, helps new farmers and ranchers understand the business side of things.
Loans and Taxes
The Colorado Agricultural Development Authority has a Beginning Farmer Loan Program and a Farm Lease Income Tax Deduction Program to make the financial stuff easier.
Find more resources and programs at the state of Colorado’s Department of Agriculture.
Fast Facts about Colorado
If you’re thinking of starting a farm in Colorado, some things to keep in mind:
Our Top Counties
Our top agriculture counties are Weld, Yuma, Morgan, Logan, Kit Carson, Prowers, Adams, Phillips, Washington and Larimer.
Colorado Growing Zones
Colorado has nine different “growing zones,” so if you want to grow a particular crop, you need to make sure you’re shopping for land in a zone that serves that crop’s needs. If you want a longer growing season, buy at a lower elevation. Avoid valleys because the “bowl” surrounded by mountains tends to be chilly and not ideal for crops.
Weather can be tricky here. You can have a snow-storm a week after you’ve had 80 degree days. Don’t get impatient and plant too soon. You may want to consider seeds engineered for cold-tolerant, short-season growth.
Over 60 percent of our electricity is coal-generated, which is the most inexpensive source of electricity. Farming overhead is low as a result. Another 17 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources. Some Colorado farmers feed the grid with wind turbines as an additional revenue source. The state has developed Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy (ACRE) to help farmers explore this option.
Because Colorado has the second-highest percentage of college graduates in the nation, you’ll have access to a well-educated workforce when you’re making hiring decisions. We’re also the third-fastest growing state in the US as well as the most populous state in the Rockies. If you want to diversify your farm income, agritourism here is keeping pace.
According to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, Colorado is the sixth happiest state in the US. All in all, it’s a pretty great place to be—as a farmer, or otherwise.
Insure Your New Farm with Colorado Farm Bureau Insurance
No matter what you choose to grow, you should protect your new farm by getting an insurance policy that covers your assets. Colorado Farm Bureau Insurance offers Farm & Ranch coverage that fits your business. To learn more, contact one of our local agents.