Montezuma Land Conservancy has acquired an 80-acre farm northwest of Cortez that the group hopes can become a community resource, MLC Outreach and Education Coordinator Jay Loschert said April 12.
“We’re learning tons about the land and how to take care of it,” he said. “We see this as an opportunity to share this with the community.”
The farm is located on Great Sage Plain land just west of U.S. Highway 491 near Lewis. Montezuma Land Conservancy acquired the plot in October, Loschert said.
He hopes to work with community members to figure out how to use the land in the best way, he said. MLC staff members currently are putting together a team of local experts together to help them do that, he said.
On April 12, a small group of students from Southwest Open School was on the farm. They were digging a trench to collect soil samples and helping survey the land to determine how many seeds would need to be purchased.
SWOS teacher Matt Robinson said one of the school’s design principles involves stewardship of nature.
“We like to have some experiential education and this is a great place to do it,” Robinson said.
Last year, SWOS students worked with MLC in Weber Canyon, Robinson said. They helped plant willow trees on a ranch near Menefee Mountain to prevent erosion, he said.
The students will use their time on the farm to learn about the soil on the property, which is part of the Dove Creek loess that blew over from Utah, Robinson said.
SWOS history teacher Casey Simpson said his classes have studied the Dust Bowl this year. One area of the MLC farm plot got little irrigation water over the years and has become barren, which students have called the “dead zone.”
Simpson said it’s interesting for his students to see that area alongside a fertile, well-managed plot. Some of the poor management practices for which there is evidence on the MLC farm may have been similar to the bad dryland farming management that led to the Dust Bowl, he said.
Part of the plan for the farm will be to get the dead zone functional and fertile again, Loschert said. He plans to plant a cover crop on the soil to begin rehabilitating it.
One goal for the farm will be to reintroduce ecology to the agricultural process, Loschert said.
He’s not sure yet what they will grow on the farm. The future plans may include an orchard, he said.
“It’s turning out to be more involved than we anticipated,” Loschert said. “It’s a huge challenge, but it’s really exciting.”
For more information, email Loschert at email@example.com.