Keeping the ranch whole. That’s what generations of farmers and ranchers have gone to bed and woken up worrying about.
Agriculture is tough business. Always has been. Working the land to support a family is hard work. The variables and uncertainties of weather, water, labor, machinery, finances, fertile soil and good luck all play into the success of a farm or ranch operation.
Ceding to economic and other pressures, the viability of family farms and ranches, historic barns and granges has been in serious decline nationally for decades. Colorado is not immune. The sale or subdivision of these lands breaks hearts, sometimes owners, and fragments landscapes and prime ecological systems.
For a single family to keep land in agricultural production for 100 years is quite a feat, one that should be recognized and celebrated.
That is exactly what Ed and Patti Zink, and their immediate and extended family, have planned for Saturday, with a wetlands tour and community potluck to which all who are interested are invited.
Waterfall Ranch, in the Animas Valley, was purchased on May 31, 1917 by James Zink and Ida Dickerson Zink, the parents of John Wilson Zink and grandparents of Anne, Ida, Nelson, Ed and Jerry Zink (whose mother, Ruby Nelson, married John W. and moved to the ranch in 1945).
Ed has spent all of his 70 young years at Waterfall Ranch. He started Outdoorsman Sporting Goods, which later became Mountain Bike Specialists, and has long seen the mutually beneficial relationship between agriculture, recreation and conservation.
John and Ruby Zink were the first in La Plata County to put land into a conservation easement, something many agriculturalists have done with the help of land trusts like La Plata Open Space Conservancy, on whose board brother Jerry serves, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
Jerry and Karen Zink also have put over 80 acres of land under easement.
In addition to the weed-free hay Waterfall Ranch still produces, another cash crop the Zink’s have pioneered is preserving high-quality top soil in a 50-acre wetlands bank they manage and sell as wetland mitigation credits for entities who develop wetlands to purchase.
That helps sustain their family and keeps intact open space, two key parts of the driving ethos of the Zink family through the generations – stewardship and love of the land, and the betterment of community and family.
Ed and Patti applied and were awarded History Colorado’s Centennial Farm status this year. Waterfall Ranch will join ten other Centennial Farms in La Plata County when they pick up their plaque at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo in August.
Congratulations and thank you to the Zinks for your family’s contribution to these enduring values of benefit to us all. Visit waterfallranch.com for an in-depth history, photos and celebration information.