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One Colorado Rancher fighting to keep his way of life alive, whatever it takes

 'We’d much rather have the water in the ground than the money.' says a Colorado Rancher holding onto his land
Posted at 10:15 PM, Oct 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-13 09:19:05-04

FORT COLLINS — Colorado is home to about 39,000 farms.But many of the small family farms have been struggling to make ends meet.

I spent the day with a 5th generation farmer in Fort Collins who has been carrying on his family’s legacy. Despite challenges.

For James Bennett, farming is a way of life.

“And it’s a good lifestyle. To be able to wake up and watch the sunrise. See the sunset. It’s a cool deal,” said Bennett.

A way of life that’s deeply rooted in the Bennett family.

“My great grandad, he herded horses from Wyoming to Kansas City on horseback when there was open range. My other grandparents were in farming ranch. It’s just important to continue that lifestyle.”

Life on the farm can be peaceful. But it’s not a walk in the park. Bennett has very few days off.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize what it takes to raise a crop or livestock. It requires 24/7 attention,” said Bennett.

Farmers pay a lot of attention to their crops, with the hopes of having a bountiful harvest.

“It may or may not be profitable. I don’t think a lot of people realize that a lot of the farmers that are growing their food may or may not break even at the end of the year,” said Bennett.

The past few years have been especially hard for farmers.

“It’s really tough with inflation right now. The overhead costs have changed dramatically, yet the rates that we receive when we put our products out really haven’t changed,” said Bennett.

It isn’t just the economy that’s hurting small farms. This way of life has been steadily declining. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average age of a Colorado farmer is now 59 years old.

“A lot of younger generations aren’t moving forward with the farm, a lot of time assets need to be sold off in order to keep the farm operational, a lot of times, lines of credit are utilized and if you can’t make a note payment, you end up refinancing,” said Bennett.

Still, farmland is valuable. And Bennett is no stranger to receiving offers from out-of-state real estate companies.

“It’s not uncommon to receive offers for 15-20 thousand per acre. We’d much rather have the water in the ground than the money,” said Bennett. “The amount per acre is very tempting but we are committed to staying on our place and weathering it out.”

Bennett tells me Colorado’s drought has been hard, but his family has found a way to still produce a decent crop.

For Bennett, holding onto his farm, the Bennett Family Farm in Fort Collins is everything to him. Over the past 30 years, his family lost possession of his great grandparent’s farm and feedlot operation. The Bennett’s also lost possession of his grandparent’s farm and ranch.

The family still has Bennett’s parent’s farm and one small farm in Nebraska that his father has owned for 30 years. However, Bennett tells me it’s getting hard to hold onto their Nebraska farm without finding additional income.

Still, the Bennett’s remain optimistic. They care deeply about protecting this way of life. The life of a farmer.


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