Since it closed in 2011, a lot of ideas have been tossed about on how best to use the former Colorado State University Extension Research Center on Rogers Mesa. After all, the 83-acre chunk of agricultural land has water rights, hay fields, fruit trees and grape vines, a three-bedroom house, and more than 4,000 square feet of laboratory and office space. It also offers some of the most scenic views in Delta County.
The site was listed for sale in recent years, but no reasonable offers were received.
A coalition including Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU), Valley Food Partnership (VFP) and Delta County Economic Development (DCED) is asking the public how best to utilize the facility as it works to create a proposal to lease it from CSU to promote local economic development. Coalition representatives are hoping to revitalize the site and have submitted a letter of intent to CSU. The letter was accepted, allowing the coalition to move forward with creating a proposal. They are now seeking ideas from interested local stakeholders.
According to an August, 2015, feasibility study funded by Delta County, Region 10 Economic Development Area and the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Stations, site goals include creating a sustainable organization that complements the agricultural heritage of Delta County; promoting economic development opportunities in agriculture; enhancing educational and research opportunities, and leveraging existing partnerships to avoid duplication of services and strengthen relationships among interested community organizations.
Some of the ideas already proposed include a farm incubator, agricultural education center, multi-use facility that includes a commercial operation, or a combination with all of these.
"We look forward to hearing what your ideas are and if you have a project that you want to move forward on this property," said VFP president Carol Parker during an open house presentation in January.
Trish Thibido with DCED said the business and community development organization has a longstanding interest in the facility "and keeping it as a resource for the community and the agricultural community." DCED has spent the last year working on the Economic Development Adjustment Assistance Program grant. "Agriculture really is the bedrock of our community," said Thibido, and many of the proposed projects could fit well with DCED's goals. "That's one of our big reasons for being part of this proposal."
VFP is a nonprofit local food initiative with about 90 producer and organizational partners throughout a five-county region. One of the goals, said president Carol Parker, is to work with other interested parties in forming a food hub with aggregation and food distribution products.
One of those parties is the Hotchkiss-based Teens on Farms program, founded in 2009 by Cassandra Shenk. The countywide leadership program connects teenagers interested in farming with farmers who need workers, and teaches students about the business of farming. Shenk said she is interested in hiring a mechanics educator to help Future Farmers of America students throughout the county learn to maintain and safely operate farming equipment. Teens could also help provide maintenance.
The feasibility study is available online at www.deltacounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/9067.
For more information, contact Thibido at 874-4992, Harrison Topp with RMFU at 303-918-3538 or email@example.com, or Carol Parker at 970-249-0705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The seventh annual Eckert Crane Days, the annual viewing of the sandhill cranes migrating north from New Mexico through Colorado's West Slope, will be March 16-18. Representatives from the Black Canyon Chapter of the Audubon Society (BCAS) will be at the viewing site east of Eckert at Fruitgrowers Reservoir, 9 to 11 a.m. each day, to answer questions and provide binoculars and spotting scopes.