Planting and Growing

Agriculture has been an important part of Colorado history. Many people have lived and died by their ability to raise crops. The promise of a new life as a farmer brought many settlers to western Colorado and helped to build towns.

Agriculture has changed a lot through western Colorado’s history.

  • The Fremont were the first farmers in western Colorado. They grew the “Three Sisters;” corn, beans and squash.
  • It wasn’t until the Homestead Act in 1862 that widespread farming started again. Settlers built irrigation ditches and canals making whole valleys of farmland. The Government Highline Canal was one of the earliest large irrigation projects. The canal was built between 1912 and 1917, and today, much of the canal is found on BLM land.
  • Farmers planted cash crops like sugar beets, beans and potatoes that did well in the dry climate. In some areas, such as Mesa County, a thriving fruit industry developed.

Settlers also found that Colorado was perfect for pasture land.

  • Cowboy history in western Colorado covered a short but important period between the late 1850s and the late 1880s. As the Colorado territory opened, cowboys moved in, coming from Texas with herds of cattle.
  • But cowboys weren’t the only group who thought Colorado was perfect for grazing animals. Known as the Range Wars, sheep herders and cowboys alike fought for grazing land, often with deadly consequences.
  • In 1934, the Taylor Grazing Act was passed, changing grazing rights on public lands and ending the Range Wars. The grazing service and the General Land Office merged in 1946 to form the Bureau of Land Management, which now administers many grazing permits on public lands.

Ranching is still an industry in western CO, and public lands are used extensively for grazing.


Click on the photos below to find out more.