Each growing season, the Old Fort welcomes 2-4 new incubator farmers. Applications are due in December, classes start in February, and field work days in late April.

The program’s mission is “To offer an alternative point of entry for beginning farmers in the Four Corners region, providing them with access to support services that enable them to develop the skills necessary to succeed.”

For those who are ready to take the next step toward your goal of operating a farm in Southwest Colorado, this program provides educational classes, access to land, water, infrastructure (irrigation, harvest sheds, cooler and root cellar), and marketing assistance. Incubator farmers work together on 6.5 acres, running independent businesses and sharing infrastructure and knowledge. New farmers start with 1/16 to 1/8 acre plots.

Duties & Responsibilities: 

The Old Fort at Hesperus is a growing and multi-faceted answer to farmer training in the Four Corners region. Welcoming everyone from college interns for brief summer experiences to incubator farmers ready to start a business, the Old Fort offers good (and challenging) growing conditions, supportive and knowledgeable staff, a lively farming community, and rich resources for high elevation market farming.

Colorado Farm Incubator Information – What we provide ($) = additional fee:
– Access to land and water
– Access to hand tools and weed eaters
– Basic land preparation in Spring including bed shaping, Fall Tilling and planting of cover crop.
– Basic irrigation infrastructure (2.0 acres drip with ability to overhead as well)
– Two electric pumps located on North end of field
– Entire drip irrigation system will be provided for 1/8 of an acre for first year incubators
– All materials after the pressure regulator will become property of farmer
– Materials for subsequent acreage and years will be responsibility of farmer ($)
– Educational classes
– Curriculum and specialty topic books

Incubators will begin meeting in late January (9/10 classes that are 3 hours each).
Topics will include:
– Business Planning; Crop Culture; Crop Planning; Introduction to Soils, Soil Fertility and Cover Crops; Transplant Production and Irrigation basics; Recordkeeping, Vegetable Post-Harvest Handling and Food Safety; Marketing options; Weed and Pest Management; Vegetable Diseases;
– Hands-on training at incubator site (end of April and second week of May)
– Irrigation Systems, Season Extension, Equipment for Small Farms, In-Field training for irrigation system
– Assistance with developing Business Plan will be available during Winter Training
– On-farm mentorship during growing season
– Assistance and monitoring of recordkeeping system during growing season
– Basic harvest/processing facility
– Access to cooler space ($) and root cellar space ($)

Colorado Farm Incubator Application Instructions: Go to our website to download application, program information and site guidelines. https://www.fortlewis.edu/oldfort/SustainableAgriculturePrograms/MarketG…
 
The Old Fort Address: 18683 Hwy 140, HesperusCO 81326
 
More opportunities and information about finding land to farm can be found at: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/finding-land-to-farm/