Family Farms Conserved Permanently by Land Trust
KREX News Room
PALISADE, Colo. - Recently the Mesa Land Trust has surpassed 64,000 acres of land they've acquired to conserve permanently for agriculture.
The Fruitlands Forever Initiative is aimed at protecting the future of the multi-million dollar peach and wine industry.
The Mesa Land Trust has set a goal on conserving at least 1,000 acres specifically of prime East Valley farmland, and they are quite a bit closer to that goal with three recent acquisitions.
Laura and James Sanders are first generation farmers and are hoping to pass the land they've been working on for the last seven years, down to their daughter.
"She will hopefully be the second generation of this farm," said James.
The Mesa County Land Trust has made big strides to make that as easy as possible for the Sanders and other local farmers.
"This is an effort to conserve a critical mass of farmland to support the fruit industry into the future," said Rob Bleiberg with the Mesa Land Trust.
The Fruitlands Forever Initiative allows the Mesa Land Trust to buy out the land's development rights, permanently reserving them as agricultural areas.
"By conserving family farms and blocks of continuous agricultural land, farmers have more confidence making the multi-year investments in their orchards and vineyards," said Bleiberg.
So far more than 45 family farms have been conserved in the Palisade area, totaling more than 720 acres of their 1,000 acre goal.
"We get to know that this land will always be agricultural which is neat," said Laura whose farmland was recently conserved through the initiative.
The Mesa Land Trust raised more than $580,000 for acquisitions, with lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado providing $313,044, the Natural Resources Conservation Services awarding $148,616 and Community Separator Partners (Mesa County, Fruita and Palisade) added $119,252 to the cause.
All three landowners of the recent conserved farms donated a total of more than $216,000 of property value.
"It feels great knowing that this is going to be there for [my daughter] and not just her, but everyone on the Western Slope of Colorado and the Western United States, this fruit goes a long way," said James.
Mesa Land Trust officials say they also hope the conservation of these lands help continue employment in the Palisade area. Typically, fruit and wine production provides more than 450 jobs a year.