Growers give 35 acres to Mesa Land Trust

Joel Horn tills up dirt in the orchard. Horn’s property is one of three new easements in the Palisade area.

Decades of Palisade farming have instilled in John and Diane Cox a deep appreciation of the land’s beauty and value. To preserve what they love, the two have turned to the Mesa Land Trust.

The Cox family recently allowed the land trust to place a conservation easement on another chunk of their property. It is the third such slice of land the Coxes have protected from development through the land trust.

“We have been farming peaches here for 35 years and we feel like it is a very valuable enterprise, and that it is very important to keep good agricultural land with irrigation as agricultural land and not as subdivisions,” said John Cox, who with Diane Cox owns Rocky Mountain Peach Co.

“If we don’t work on saving our agricultural land now, by the time we really need it we are not going to have enough of it,” John Cox said.

On Wednesday, the Mesa Land Trust announced the completion of three conservation agreements — including the Cox property — which total 35 acres. The other two property owners are Joel Horn of Horn’s Orchards, a peach orchard in Palisade, and Poppy Woody, who owns a 15-acre vineyard on East Orchard Mesa.

Horn said he put all 12 acres of his orchard under the protection of the land trust.

“This is kind of a unique area with the orchards and vineyards and I think it is important to keep a little of that preserved,” Horn said. “We don’t need to have housing all over the valley.”

Both the Horn and Woody properties are within the Palisade buffer zone. The zone was established in 2000 to preserve an agricultural buffer between Grand Junction and Palisade.

The land trust obtains agreements with property owners for conservation easements. The easements allow the property owners to work or even sell the land, but lock it in as agricultural property.

The trust has acquired more than 1,150 acres in the Fruita and Palisade buffer zones. Outside the buffer zones the land trust has preserved an additional 1,240 acres. In sum the trust “holds a total of more than 53,000 acres through 149 conservation agreements within all of Mesa County,” according to a media release from the land trust.

Rob Bleiberg, director of the land trust, said the Colorado Conservation Partnership has recognized the importance of preserving the land by making the eastern quarter of the Grand Valley one of its “24 statewide conservation priorities,” according to the release.

“The produce grown in the east valley, in and around Palisade, is vitally important not only to our community, but to the entire Rocky Mountain West, and we are proud to be a part of preserving these farms forever,” Bleiberg said.


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