Farmer Training Programs

Old Fort Market Gardens

The Old Fort at Hesperus is a growing and multi-faceted answer to farmer training in the Four Corners region. Welcoming everyone from college interns for brief summer experiences to incubator farmers ready to start a business, the Old Fort offers good (and challenging) growing conditions, supportive and knowledgeable staff, and rich resources for high elevation market farming.

The Old Fort at Hesperus is offering two different farming opportunities for the 2020 growing season:

Farmer in Training:  For those who need more experience before beginning their own business.  Farmers-in-training (FIT) work 2-3 days per week, both in the Education Garden learning farming skills and co-managing a ¼ acre plot with other FITs. Crops in the ¼ acre plot may include onions, winter squash, zucchini, snap peas, green beans, potatoes, carrots, beets, kale and broccoli. FITs will also care for a small perennial plot, which may include raspberries, thyme, lavender, garlic, and flowers. Experience in the education garden and FIT plot will range from harvesting greens to fixing drip irrigation, from planting peppers to packing CSA bags. In addition to winter educational classes, monthly informal classes will be offered during work hours, including pump maintenance, harvesting and food safety, direct seeding, and other topics with hands-on components. Learning farming skills that will support them in the future, FITs will be able to plan and run irrigation, select varieties, manage weeds, and harvest, process and market many different crops.

Farm Incubator:  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 and much needed infrastructure (irrigation, post-harvest sheds, coolers and root cellar). You will join a team of farmers on 6.5 acres who run independent businesses but also cooperate with each other to produce a variety of foods at 7,600 feet. Marketing assistance is available through the Old Fort Market Gardens brand to access Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares as well as providing produce to Sodexo, the campus dining service at Fort Lewis College.

The 2019 Growing Season has ended.  Applications for the 2020 season will be available in November.  See previous applications for a sample application.

Program Information 

Sample Application for Farmer in Training Program  PDF Version  Word Version

Sample Application for Market Garden Incubator Program PDF Version  Word Version

Site Guidelines

Applications for 2020 will be due in December of 2019.  Contact Beth LaShell at lashell_b@fortlewis.edu or 970-385-4574 for more information

Market Garden Incubator

Mission:

To offer an alternative point of entry for beginning farmers in the Four Corners region, providing them with access to support services that enable them to develop the skills necessary to succeed.

History:

2009:  Incubator concept introduced to Task Force as a long term idea for Old Fort property.  Parcel known as upper seedhouse was identified because it served as the college gardens prior to 1956 and was close to an irrigation ditch fed by the Taylor Spring.

2010: LaBoca Center for Sustainability dissolves and offers grant opportunity for sustainable agriculture projects.  Request was submitted to create needed infrastructure including wildlife fencing and basic irrigation structures for $18,000.

2011:  Old fence and oakbrush was removed surrounding the 6.5 acre plot.  Wildlife fencing construction around perimeter began in May and 2.5 acres were plowed and disked. Mike Nolan began as the trial incubator helping to set up irrigation, planting schemes and growing models.   Initial phase of fence was completed in June.  Irrigation lines, a gas pump and overhead impact sprinklers were purchased.  Root crops were grown on 2.5 acres with good success.  Beth LaShell submitted a grant to Colorado Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop block grant program to provide training, equipment and mentorship for participants.  The Specialty Crop grant was selected and will support the program through 2014.

2012:  Ditches were cleaned during the off-season.  Gates were constructed.  2400’ of gated pipe was purchased and a diversion box was installed so that lower part of field could be more easily flood irrigated.  Second year of trial incubation added SouthWest Conservation Corp growing produce on a 1/8 of an acre that was donated to the USDA Commodity food distribution in June and September. Small equipment was purchased including tiller for BCS-type tractor and hand tools (rakes, shovels, hula hoes).

 2013:  First class of market garden incubators were selected and completed training.  3/8 of an acre of drip irrigation was added on the North end of the field.  Incubator participants formed the Old Fort Market Garden Cooperative to allow them to purchase general and product liability insurance as a group.

2014:  Expanded drip irrigation to ½ acre and converted 1 acre of flood to overhead.  Installed 12x12 walk-in cooler and 12 x 20 cold storage.  Received second Specialty Crop Block Grant to assist with marketing and promotion.   Come Alive Outside plot established to provide rural access to fresh food.  Ten incubators in program.

2014:  Expanded drip irrigation to ½ acre and converted 1 acre of flood to overhead.  Installed 12x12 walk-in cooler and 12 x 20 cold storage.  Received second Specialty Crop Block Grant to assist with marketing and promotion.   Come Alive Outside plot established by La Plata County 4-H to provide rural access to fresh food.  Ten participants in program.

2015:  Expanded drip irrigation to 1 acre.  Added hand washing stations to fields and upgraded potable water system for wash station. Developed Old Fort Market Garden logo and promotional materials and began a Summer and Fall CSA utilizing produce from incubators and the education gardens.  Major upgrades were made to root cellar space.  Seven participants in the program.

2016:  Expanded drip irrigation to 1.25 acres.  Summer CSA (40 shares), Fall CSA (20 shares), sales to Sodexo and four different farm stands utilized produce from farmers.  The 12 x 20 cold storage is converted to cooler space and additional upgrades made to root cellar.  Farmer in Training pilot project conducted for people who needed more experience before starting independent farming businesses.  Six incubator farmers and 3 Farmers in Training complete the program.

Meet our Current and Past Farmers

High Pine Produce ( Max Kirks): Established 2016

High Pine Produce believes in adding to a vibrant food system in the Four Corners while embracing local landscapes and heritages. It is our goal to provide consistently fresh leafy greens using appropriate technologies and organic farming practices. Experience the highest quality produce grown at high elevation with a touch of youthful spirit.

Long Table Farm (Morgan DiSanto and Kate Sopko): Established 2018

Long Table Farm is a small farm owned and operated by Kate and Morgan, best friends and first generation farmers. With fields at high altitude in Hesperus and Durango, CO, we strive to grow the highest quality chemical free produce.

The Long Table represents everyone having a seat at the table in access to healthy, fresh produce, grown by a farmer that they know. Through farming we strive to connect our community to their food, fostering a space for reflection and education.

We know that growing food greatly increases our own overall quality of life, bringing us immense joy and satisfaction; our goal is to share this with our community.  Pull up a chair!

Moonsong Farm ( Dani Morrisey and Pato Robles): Established 2019

Moonsong Farm is a diversified vegetable farm focused on soil health and biodiversity by using agroecological practices to raise fresh produce, microgreens, and gourmet mushrooms.Our focus is on improving our community’s access to healthy, nutrient-dense food that is free of pesticides, herbicides, and with a small environmental footprint.

We believe food security to be a basic human right and it is our mission to serve our community with fresh, high quality, and economically accessible produce for all!

Farmer in Training Program: Established 2016

Farmers-in-training (FIT) work 2-3 days per week, both in the Education Garden learning farming skills and co-managing a ¼ acre plot with other FITs. Crops in the ¼ acre plot may include onions, winter squash, zucchini, snap peas, green beans, potatoes, carrots, beets, kale and broccoli. FITs will also care for a small perennial plot, which may include raspberries, thyme, lavender, garlic, and flowers. Experience in the education garden and FIT plot will range from harvesting greens to fixing drip irrigation, from planting peppers to packing CSA bags. Once per month, informal classes will be offered during work hours, including pump maintenance, harvesting and food safety, direct seeding, and other topics with hands-on components. Learning farming skills that will support them in the future, FITs will be able to plan and run irrigation, select varieties, manage weeds, and harvest, process and market many different crops.

Program Graduates:

Mountain Roots Produce (2011-2013): Mike Nolan

Laughing Wolf Farm (2013):  Leeann Hill

Terra Nova Gardens (2013): Chris Brussat

Linger Flower Co (2013-2014):  Emily Lloyd and Audrey Preston

Axe Handle Farms (2014):  Betzi Sherman

Odd Bird Farms (2014):  Julia Hastings-Black

Unaccompanied Farmer (2014-2015): Brian Willemin

VanSickle Farms (2014-2015): Aaron VanSickle

Wild Soul Farms (2015): Danielle Duni

Fields to Plate Produce (2013-2016): Max Fields and James Plate

4-H Giving  Back Garden (2014-2016): LaPlata County 4-H -Greg Felsen

Alkali Gulch Farm (2016-2017): Candice and Josh Wood

Root Creek Produce (2017): Emily Haefner

White Dog Farm (2017):  Rick Crawford

Chooshi and Chizhii (C and C) (2017-2018): Brandon Francis

Pine Drop Produce (2018): Stella Acquisto

Nova Fields (2018):  Gracie Timmerman


 

Incubator Farmers
First Farmers in 2013
First Class of Incubator Farmers in 2013
Student in the field
Laughing Wolf Farm- 2013
Weeding in the spring
Fields to Plate- 2013