OLT's historic Everson Ranch, located at the western edge of OLT's holdings, is a 150-year old ranch that is currently being renovated within its historical facades to create an educational and living agricultural facility showcasing sustainable agricultural processes.
OLT's Everson Ranch connects the past to the present; a symbol and example of a historic way of life in the San Luis Valley. It has been a working ranch since it was homesteaded in 1872, passed down from generation to generation. The vast ranch extended for miles and included the hot springs and its year-round water supply.
Everson Ranch was added to the Orient Land Trust in 2004. After being subdivided into residential lots in 2001, OLT took on the Ranch as its first capital campaign. Given its considerable development potential and the fact that the ranch bordered protected and public lands, the 760 acres was now valued at $850,000. Nonetheless by 2010, OLT members had raised the necessary donations to secure the land, reservoir, and several additional parcels. Their generous contributions saved the unspoiled views, wildlife corridor, dark skies, waters, and wetlands. Since that time hundreds more acres have been added, and more are planned. The Ranch is bordered on the north and south by Federal and State lands, parts of which are also stewarded by OLT.
Today, OLT is transforming the Everson Ranch into an Agriculture and Education Center in order to model sustainable agricultural and innovative energy production methods. If the Northern San Luis Valley is to be saved from further development, and thus open space preserved, the historic ranches of the valley need to be saved.
OLT is presently developing a natural resource management plan to guide land stewardship activities on the historic ranch, providing direction for the natural, cultural, agricultural and recreational resources there. Projects include holistic grazing, permaculture principles, riparian corridor and pasture restoration, innovative funding models for agricultural property owners, conservation educational programs for adults and youth, science research and camps, and wildlife habitat enhancement. Educational facilities will soon allow us to share the remarkable experience and bounty these lands offer us.
The northern San Luis Valley is in the throes of a historic drought. Water table levels are 40 feet below where they were ten years ago. While this is largely due to historic level drought, center pivot agriculture driven by subsurface pumping, as well as a governmental program to remove water from the San Luis Creek basin to pay for the Rio Grande Compact water debts, the reality is that this situation is likely to be permanent and future models of successful agriculture need to encompass that reality.
The Everson Ranch sustainable agricultural plan includes holistic grazing methods (www.savoryinstitute.com) and permaculture methods (www.hialtpc.org). We are developing and modeling economic viability models such as work vacations, low-water food production methods (greenhouses, drought resistant plants and animals, etc.), alternative energy production.