Fort Lewis College projects conducted at the Old Fort at Hesperus include small acreage studies in season extension, food safety, organic weed control in market gardens, hoop house production, and a hops variety trial . Additionally, the College runs a 120 cows that are used for high elevation studies, range-grazing, and grass-fed beef production. It utilizes its water rights to maintain 250 acres of hay production.
Our Sustainable Agriculture program offers internship opportunities in the 1/2 acre Education Garden from May through October to receive a well-rounded sampling of the work that goes in to small-scale agriculture, from helping with bed preparation and planting early in the season, to harvesting, weeding, and marketing into the summer. The Farmer in Training program is for those who want more experience before starting their own business or getting a farm job, farmers-in-training (FITs) work 2-3 days per week, both in the Education Garden and co-managing a 1-acre plot in the Incubator Field from May through October. Lastly, the Market Garden Incubatorprogram is for those who are ready to take the next step toward your goal of operating a farm in Southwest Colorado, this program provides educational classes, access to land, water, infrastructure (irrigation, harvest sheds, cooler and root cellar), and marketing assistance. Incubator farmers work together on 6.5 acres, running independent businesses and sharing infrastructure and knowledge.
The 6,300 acre property is at elevation of 7600 feet and receives 18.5 inches of precipitation annually. Crop varieties adapted to the 100-day frost free growing season are limited to small grains, forage and hay crops
Photo courtesy of Fort Lewis College Center of Southwest Studies
Research dates back to the early days of Fort Lewis school when several types of trees were planted from 1918 to 1921 for high altitude adaptability studies. Field crop research began in 1922 and was discontinued in 1975. Range research became a part of the research program in 1962. The Research Center was closed on June 30, 2010.
Beef cattle breeding research was conducted in the early 1940's in cooperation with Fort Lewis School. Many of the foundation lines for their cow herd were established in 1946 by Dr. H.H. Stonaker. Colorado State University purchased the cow herd from Fort Lewis in 1956 to continue their work on Herefords.
Ranchers from the Four Corners area began testing bulls at Hesperus station in the early 1950s. This test offered commercial cattlemen the opportunity to purchase bulls with good genetics that will perform on mountain ranches. Unfortunately, the bull test ceased operation in 2007.
Photo courtesy of Dave Schafer