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Center History

This Center was established in 1888 as the Bent Agricultural Experiment Station and is the oldest continuously operated agricultural experiment station, outside of Fort Collins, in Colorado. Subsequently, when the original Bent County was subdivided into several counties the name was changed in 1889 to the Arkansas Valley Agricultural Experiment Station. Later it became the Arkansas Valley Branch Station and the present name has been used since the mid-sixties.

Local agricultural interests obtained 200 acres of state land and supplied it with the necessary water rights to initiate the operation in 1888. In 1901, due to financial considerations, 160 acres and associated water rights were returned to original owners and the Center operated with 40 acres until 1959 when an additional 60 acres were leased from an adjacent farm. In 1984 the Colorado State Legislature appropriated the necessary funds to purchase 57 acres of the leased farm, including buildings and grounds. The sale was completed in 1985 and we continued to lease 7 acres of land. The present operation includes 104 acres of which about 90 acres are tillable.

The facilities at the Center include an office-utility building, diagnostic laboratory, greenhouse, two adobe storage buildings, pole barn, pesticide storage and residence. It is situated two miles east of Rocky Ford on Highway 50 at an altitude of 4178′. Average annual precipitation (1901-1997) is 11.69 inches and the average frost free period is 158 days. The nearly level alluvial land has a silky clay loam soil, about 7.8 pH and 1.8% organic matter. Irrigation water is diverted from the Arkansas River through the Rocky Ford Ditch and distributed on the farm using furrow or flood methods.

The Center was established to serve the research needs of the irrigated farming area of southeast Colorado known as the Arkansas Valley, extending from Pueblo County on the west to the Kansas border. It also includes irrigated areas associated with the tributaries to the Arkansas River in El Paso, Huerfano and Las Animas counties. Agricultural production includes livestock and field and vegetable crops. Alfalfa, corn, dry beans, small grains, soybeans, sorghum, onions, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and peppers are representative of crops grown under irrigation.

An Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory is housed at the Center and administered by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and serves Southern Colorado.


The following men have supervised the operation of the Arkansas Valley Research Center at Rocky Ford since the initial date of September 17, 1888.

1888-1892 Frank L. Watrous
1892-1895 Fred A. Huntley
1895-1897 Philo K. Blinn
1897-1898 W. Frank Crowley
1898-1903 Harvey H. Griffin
1903-1927 Philo K. Blinn
1927-1928 Justus C. Ward*
1932-1958 Herman Fauber
1958-1980 Jerre F. Swink
1980-2003 Frank Schweissing*
2004- Mike Bartolo

Three of these men, P.K. Blinn, Herman Fauber and Jerre Swink, provided the leadership for almost 75 years of the Center’s existence. This had the positive effect of providing stability and continuity of research for this Colorado Experiment Station facility.

*Justus Ward was hired in 1922 as a chemist and Frank Schweissing was hired in 1961 as entomologist. Robert Gardner, an agronomist based in Fort Collins, supervised an on-site employee to maintain Center operations from 1928 to 1932.

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