How-to Grow at Elevation

About high elevation growing

Small specialty crop producers on the Western slope face unique challenges related to short growing seasons, arid conditions, water scarcity, clay soils, cool nights, early frosts, and widely variable pest and weed pressure. However, they also have access to strong direct and wholesale markets, making it all worthwhile.

The High Elevation Growing Guides project will address the production risks of growing specialty crops in a high-elevation, arid, short-season environment. For new and beginning farmers, additional knowledge of growing seasons, soils, season extension, irrigation, weed control, pest control, indigenous foods, seed sources, and transplant guidelines will help to minimize failures and maximize success.

An illustration of a field and a mountain

Basic challenges

For every 1,000 feet in elevation gain, the temperature drops by an average of 3.5 degrees F. This means that spring frosts are later and fall frosts are earlier. The growing season can also vary with topography, soil types, and sun exposure. To be successful, the new farmer must pay careful attention to all these factors.

Land near cities, tourist spots, and places where many retirees live is getting more expensive, especially if there's good water. This means new farmers need to learn essential skills quickly to do well.

Growing guides

These printable downloads provide vital information about growing specific crops at elevation for beginning farmers.

Guías de cultivo

Obtenga información vital sobre el cultivo específico en altura para agricultores principiantes con estas descargas imprimibles. Hemos creado una guía específica para cada cultivo.

Let us know what we are missing

Contact us to share high-elevation resources you think should be included on this page.

The Old Fort

18683 CO-140
Hesperus, CO 81326

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Land Acknowledgement 

We acknowledge the land that the Old Fort is situated upon is the ancestral land and territory of the Nuuchiu (Ute) people who were forcibly removed by the United States Government. We also acknowledge that this land is connected to the communal and ceremonial spaces of the Jicarilla Abache (Apache), Pueblos of New Mexico, Hopi Sinom (Hopi), and Diné (Navajo) Nations.

The Old Fort and Fort Lewis College are committed to reconciling their history as a federal Indian Boarding School from 1892 to 1909.

Learn more about reconciliation

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The Old Fort is owned by the Colorado State Land Board and managed by Fort Lewis College.

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