Lower Valley still oriented toward agriculture
A few years ago, large landowners in the Loma and Mack area might have been tempted to try growing houses instead of corn or alfalfa, but the housing bust and higher commodity prices have reversed that trend.
“My husband has gone back to farming,” said Priscilla Studt with Studt Realty. Studt’s husband, Jeep, is growing corn and alfalfa on leased acreage from Mack and Loma to the northwest area of Grand Junction. When real estate was booming, he developed Pritchard Mesa, Horseshoe Ridge, Appleton Estates and Red Ranch.
Studt isn’t the only one who’s looking for space in Loma and Mack.
“People are looking for more space and they want to farm,” said Studt. Farm land is expensive, however, so Studt said buyers are looking for good deals.
Some out-of-area buyers have discovered that increasing alfalfa hay prices are making farm ground look more appealing, regardless of the cost. Mandy Rush with RE/MAX Two Rivers recently worked with a rancher from the high country who purchased a 35-acre plot of farmland in Loma to grow alfalfa to feed his cattle.
“All of this ag land is a long-term investment,” said Rush, who sold six properties in the Loma and Mack area in 2012. Five of the six properties included agricultural land in commercial production.
Although inventory was low over the winter, Rush said additional properties in Loma and Mack are becoming available.
“Most of my listings have improvements, either horse barns or shops,” Rush said. “Most of these have adequate water rights for production. Some have alfalfa, some have winter wheat, others have corn.”
Although there is quite of bit of acreage in agricultural production in the area around Loma and Mack, or the lower valley, as the locals call it, there isn’t as much participation in land conservation as there is in the east end of the valley, where Mesa Land Trust (MLT) got its start preserving orchard land in and around Palisade in 1980.
“The economics of the lower valley are very different than the economics of the east valley,” said Ilana Moir, land protection specialist with MLT who coordinated an outreach meeting for landowners at the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Auction on April 4. Although attendance was low, Moir was encouraged by the amount of interest expressed by the people who came to learn about the process.
“The people who showed up were all interested in pursuing conservation easement,” Moir said. “People are seeing a lot of change in the lower valley, and some people want to see their farms stay whole and in production.”
The Loma and Mack area is also a great place for people who aren’t necessarily interested in farming, but who would like to have a few acres with privacy, great views and no burning desire for amenities like clothing boutiques or grocery stores. There are always a few small acreage parcels on the market in a variety of price ranges. Some properties have manufactured homes while others have $500,000+ dream homes.