By Caitlin Switzer

HOTCHKISS-Anyone who has been to the old Colorado State University Research Station at Rogers Mesa, 17 miles east of Delta and three miles west of Hotchkiss on Hwy 92, knows that the location—like the local climate and growing conditions–is just about perfect.

CSU’s Rogers Mesa station, which was closed because of budget cuts in 2011, was one of 10 sites and eight statewide hubs of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station, established in 1888 as a provision of the Hatch Act to support agricultural research throughout the state, according to the CSU web site, which also notes that the 83-acre Rogers Mesa farm was known for its fruit-tree research and orchard-management practices, and prior to its closure had expanded its research of grape production, forage crops, and alternative crops.

When CSU put the Rogers Mesa Facility up for review for potential development and repurposing last spring, concerned local citizens immediately began to envision possible uses for the station, and CSU, Delta County and local residents entered into discussions. Now, Delta County has issued a Request for Proposals for a Feasibility Study to determine how best to use the facility.

“The Rogers Mesa task force is comprised of producers, officials from the Delta School District, Conservation District, Region 10, Delta County Economic Development, CSU, Delta County and the interested public,” Delta County Administrator Robbie LeValley said. “The RFP and the successful firm will provide the basis for which this group can evaluate the business model that will allow the Rogers Mesa site to be economically viable and a benefit to the entire area.”

The RFP notes that, aside from mineral extraction, agriculture has always been a key economic industry for Delta County, which has ideal climate, soil, and culture conditions. The County presently includes a wide variety of agricultural operations, and a growing agri-tourism industry. The feasibility study will   identify feasible options for the Rogers Mesa station within the year so that CSU officials can make a decision on the future of the property.

An annual report on CSU’s ag stations that was prepared in 2006 before the station was closed provides the following description of the property: Site elevation is approximately 5,800 feet, average annual precipitation is about 12 inches, and the average frost-free growing season is 150 days. The soil type is clay loam. High temperatures average 90° F in July and 38° F in January. Lows average 56° F in July and 17° F in January. Frost protection is provided by wind machines. Irrigation methods used include drip, micro-sprinklers, and furrow, all supplied from the Fire Mountain canal water. Facilities include an office-laboratory-conference room building, shop, residence, and greenhouse. Experimental orchards occupy approximately eight acres, approximately half of which is managed organically.