Montezuma Land Conservancy has acquired an 80-acre farm northwest of Cortez that it hopes will become a community resource.
“We’re learning tons about the land and how to take care of it,” Jay Loschert, the group’s outreach and education coordinator, said April 12. “We see this as an opportunity to share this with the community.”
The farm is just west of U.S. Highway 491 near Lewis. Montezuma Land Conservancy acquired the plot in October, Loschert said, and is forming a local team to figure out how to best use it.
On April 12, a few students from Southwest Open School helped dig a trench, collect soil samples, and survey the land to determine how many seeds would need to be purchased.
The experience suits SWOS’ design principles, which include stewardship of nature, said teacher Matt Robinson.
“We like to have some experiential education, and this is a great place to do it,” he said.
Students also will learn about the property’s soil, which is part of the Dove Creek loess that blew over from Utah, Robinson said.
An area of the MLC farm plot got little irrigation water over the years and has become barren, which students have called the “dead zone.”
SWOS history teacher Casey Simpson said it’s interesting for his students to compare barren and fertile plots. His students have studied the Dust Bowl this year, and they may see firsthand how poor management can devastate swaths of farmland, he said.
Last year, SWOS students worked with Montezuma Land Conservancy to plant willow trees on a ranch near Menefee Mountain to prevent erosion, Robinson said.
Part of the plan for the farm will be to revive the dead zone, Loschert said. He plans to plant a cover crop to begin rehabilitating the soil.
Workers also hope to reintroduce ecology to the agricultural process, Loschert said. He’s not sure yet what they’ll grow, but plans may include an orchard.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.