Three Palisade farms preserved through Mesa Land Trust |

Three Palisade farms preserved through Mesa Land Trust

Sharon Sullivan
Courtesy / Mesa Land Trust
Staff Photo |

Three Palisade-area fruit farms will never become shopping centers nor subdivisions thanks to conservation agreements between those farmers and the Mesa Land Trust.

James and Laura Sanders conserved their 13-acre peach farm, a move that will benefit both Palisade’s agricultural heritage and the Sanders’ own operation.

“We’d like to see Palisade stay agricultural for as long as possible,” James Sanders said.

“Also, as first generation farmers, the initial start-up is very expensive. The Mesa Land Trust made it possible for us to pay down part of our mortgage — that was an incentive also.”

By agreeing to give up future development rights of their parcel along Interstate 70 west of Palisade, the Sanders received a payment from the land trust that they’ll use to pay off some of their land.

The Mesa Land Trust acquired the three Palisade properties by raising more than $580,000 ­— $314,044 from lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado, $148,616 donated by the Natural Resources Conservation Services, and $119,252 from the Community Separator Partners (Mesa County, Fruita and Palisade).

Landowners also chipped in by donating more than $216,000 in property value.

The Fruitlands Forever Initiative grew out of the land trust’s longtime commitment to protecting Palisade’s orchards and vineyards.

Mesa Land Trust has conserved more than 50 family farms and 730 acres of prime fruit-growing land in the Palisade area. The land trust hopes to protect 1,000 acres of prime east valley farmland.

Mesa County is the top producer of Colorado’s peaches and grapes — peaches generating nearly $16 million of gross profit and wine and grapes bringing in $9.3 million, according to the Mesa Land Trust.

“Fruit and wine production annually brings tens of millions of dollars into our community and provides over 450 jobs,” land trust Executive Director Rob Bleiberg said. “It’s in the best interest of the community to invest in the future of this industry. It provides employment, it draws tourists, and it sets Mesa County apart from other destinations.”

This latest project adds 58 conserved acres to the more than 64,000 acres of private land in and around Mesa County that the land trust has preserved in perpetuity.

“The orchard and vineyard industry really defines the east end of the valley,” Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said in the news release. “Shoring up this major agricultural economy is important to our entire community.

Sanders said his neighbors seem to appreciate the conservation easement, for “the last thing they want to see is a subdivision next to a farm.”

“The majority of the larger farms have worked with the land trust in one form or another to keep agriculture here for future generations,” Sanders said.

The Sanders hope their 2-year-old daughter or perhaps a future sibling may want to continue farming some day.

In addition to the Sanders’ property, the Advant Farm preserved productive farmland, plus 15 acres of bottom land along the Colorado River — an area including ponds, unique river frontage, cottonwood galleries and habitat for various bird species.

A third farmer whose land was conserved wishes to remain anonymous.

For more information regarding conservation easements, Mesa Land Trust can be reached at 970-263-5443.

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