Rebecca Bullis, 908.329.0321, email@example.com
Don Thorn, 719.940.3321, firstname.lastname@example.org
Maggie Hanna, 720.557.8266, email@example.com
Rosemary Dempsey, 303.226.4530, firstname.lastname@example.org
Partners protect Lewis Heritage Farm in Larimer County, supporting next generation of farmers
DENVER – Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Colorado Future Farmers of America Foundation (Colorado FFA Foundation), the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT), and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) announce the permanent protection of a 226-acre farm and its water rights adjacent to the Little Thompson River near Berthoud. The property will continue operations as a working farm with an added focus on educational opportunities to support the next generation of farmers and ranchers.
The conservation easement is held by CCALT, while TPL bought and then conveyed the property to the Colorado FFA Foundation for long-term ownership and management. In addition, a future trail easement was conveyed to Larimer County as part of a planned regional trail system connecting communities throughout Larimer County.
The Colorado FFA will operate the site as an immersive agricultural experience for youth and the public along Colorado’s Front Range in collaboration with a variety of youth-serving organizations. These opportunities will illustrate the value of land and water conservation, and provide hands-on learning about agriculture.
“Our Foundation is extremely excited to be an integral part of this project and expand our mission to offer educational opportunities for people to learn hands-on about agriculture as they participate in immersive experiences. The beauty of this project is it is a full scale working farm and we plan to always honor that and do our educational programming with that in mind,” said Don Thorn, Executive Director of the Colorado FFA Foundation.
The Lewis Heritage Farm has been in the care of two families for nearly a century and is known to have some of the best soils and native water rights in the region. Upon completion of the conservation easement and transfer of the Lewis Heritage Farm to TPL, Scott and Oma Lewis explained, “We had three major goals at the beginning of this process: to protect the native water rights from being severed from the land, to preserve the farm as a working/educational farm, and to pass the ownership of the farm on to a tremendous, perpetual steward of the land and water. We believe we found that steward in the Colorado FFA Foundation.”
The project is also the culmination of years of effort in Colorado to conserve agricultural lands that contain important natural resources and are critical to food production. Colorado is one of the top agricultural states in the United States with 38,900 farms and ranches on nearly 32 million privately owned acres. Agriculture contributes $47 billion annually to Colorado’s economy, employs more than 195,000 people, and supports the export of about $2 billion in agricultural products.
“Colorado has a rich agricultural heritage and Trust for Public Land has worked closely for decades with local nonprofits, government agencies and private landowner to ensure that farmers and ranchers can look to conservation as an option to continue to own and work their land and conserve their water,” said Wade Shelton, Senior Project Manager for Trust for Public Land. “Our efforts have helped to keep traditional farms and ranches like Lewis Farm in production, but it’s also critical that Coloradoans from all walks of life be able to learn why those efforts are important to all of us not only for the food on our table, but for the outdoor experiences that everyone expects in Colorado. The Lewis Farm is the rare project that will do all of those things, and we are grateful for the support of our partners who will maintain and continue to grow this unique educational resource.”
"We at the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust are immensely proud to stand beside the FFA Foundation as we celebrate the completion of the Lewis Farm Heritage Project,” said CCALT Executive Director Erik L. Glenn. “This accomplishment is a testament to our shared commitment to promoting sustainable land stewardship and agricultural education. We are particularly enthusiastic about the opportunities this project presents for engaging Colorado’s younger generations in agriculture and resource stewardship. The FFA Foundation's bold vision casts light on the future of agriculture and land management and illuminates the way for future stewards of our working lands."
The Lewis Heritage Farm project was made possible by several funding partners. CCALT received a $2.6 million grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for the conservation easement. NRCS funds were matched with a substantial landowner donation partially incentivized by Colorado’s unique state income tax credits for conservation easement donations program. TPL and the Colorado FFA Foundation received a $1.5 million grant from the GOCO board to acquire the farm and its water rights in June 2022. The Town of Berthoud contributed $200,000. Larimer County contributed $100,000 for the future trail easement, in addition to being awarded a $75,000 transaction cost grant from the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. Funds were also matched by $50,000 from Gates Family Foundation and supported by a private fundraising effort led by the Colorado FFA Foundation in collaboration with TPL and CCALT.
“The Lewis Farm tops the list and is well above average when discussing productive working agricultural lands in Colorado,” said Clint Evans, NRCS state conservationist in Colorado. “It hosts prime soils and a substantial ability to irrigate, resulting in reliable and consistent food production–all in an area that experiences a high conversion rate of prime agricultural lands to non-agricultural use. Land values along the Front Range are higher than nearly all other rural areas in the Colorado. NRCS’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program will help prevent the Lewis Farm from being converted. The property and its agricultural significance will be preserved and will stay a productive farm.”
“The permanent protection of Lewis Heritage Farm marks a significant milestone in preserving our agricultural heritage and ensuring a sustainable future for Colorado’s food system,” said GOCO Executive Director Jackie Miller. “We’re proud to have supported this effort safeguarding our state’s precious land and water, while inspiring and preparing the next generation to take the lead. Congratulations to all partners for this incredible show of collaboration.”
Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors.To learn more, visit tpl.org.
Colorado Future Farmers of America Foundation (Colorado FFA Foundation) seeks resources – human, financial and in-kind – to support agricultural education in Colorado, including students (Colorado FFA Association, CSU Ag Education), adult agricultural education, agricultural education teachers (CVATA) and alumni (Colorado FFA Alumni).
Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) is a nonprofit land conservation organization whose mission is to conserve Colorado’s western heritage and working landscapes for the benefit of future generations.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,600 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service provides technical and financial assistance to help agricultural producers and others care for the land. The Agency prioritizes conservation planning and uses conservation programs in the Farm Bill to implement most of its efforts including the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which is designed to protect the agricultural viability, grazing uses and related conservation values of prime agricultural land by limiting nonagricultural uses of that land.
Larimer County Department of Natural Resources’ mission is to connect people, nature, and place. Our vision for the future rests on the belief that healthy landscapes support healthy people. Since 1954, Larimer County has acquired and conserved a vast network of public and private lands. The community's love of the outdoors has played a vital role in this growth. Today, Larimer County Natural Resources offers thirteen properties for recreational access and enjoyment and has conserved over 56,000 acres of land.