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Lower Arkansas Valley Family Farm Conserved

In 1905, Christopher Hanagan emigrated from Illinois to Colorado and established the original Hanagan Family Farm on 160 acres in Otero County. In 2020, one hundred and fifteen years later, the Hanagans have grown to be one of the most respected families in the region. Today they continue the family legacy in the lower Arkansas Valley on over 1,000 acres of irrigated farmland, growing a variety of vegetables for retail and whole distribution. In 2006, the original 160-acre property was designated a 'Colorado Centennial Farm' to recognize the important role it has played in our state's history as remaining in the same family and in continual production for over 100 years.  

On any given day, three generations of Hanagans can be found working on the farm greeting customers, stewarding the land, or making deliveries. Customers who visit their farm stand in Swink can get to know the Hanagans while shopping for produce. For those who'd like to venture out to the field, customers can even pick their own vegetables. And for those who prefer a weekly box of farm-fresh vegetables selected for them, CSA shares (community supported agriculture) are available to enjoy throughout the growing season.

Farming in the Face of Adversity 

Over the years, the Hanagans have experienced many of the same challenges and pressures that most agricultural producers face– harsh and unforgiving weather patterns, rising land prices, agricultural commodities uncertainty, and sharp declines in profit margins. In short, farming and ranching - and the healthy local food it provides communities - is threatened. According to the American Farmland Trust, across the U.S. farmland is lost to development at a rate of more than 1.5 million acres per year. Likewise, less than 2% of the current population claims farming as their occupation. The lower Arkansas Valley has been no exception, and in the last 30-years, it has seen a significant conversion of farmland due to "buy and dry" activities – when water rights are transferred from a farm to a municipality to meet the demands of population growth.

The Backbone of Our Local Food Supply

Farming and ranching families (and irrigated agriculture) are the backbone of our local food supply. They are essential to the economic and social well-being of all who call southern Colorado home. With that in mind, in 2013, as part of its Lower Arkansas Valley Conservation Plan, Palmer opened an office in Rocky Ford to begin conversations with the community about the future of agriculture in the region and also to provide practical conservation solutions to some of the challenges they were facing. In 2019, the Hanagan family approached Palmer Land Trust with an opportunity they had identified: to purchase back 260-acres of prime farmland and the associated senior water rights. While the family sold the property in the early 1990s, they have continued to farm it through a unique lease agreement and an option to buy. To generate the financial capital to purchase the property, the Hanagans chose to partner with Palmer Land Trust and place a conservation easement on the land, guaranteeing it will remain undeveloped and in agriculture production forever. It is a win-win-win scenario: a win for the family, a win for the community, and an unequivocal win for the land.

It's the pioneering spirit and vision of the individuals and families like the Hanagans, as well as the critical support of long-time funders and partners, that empowers the work of conservation. We want to offer a special thank you to the Hanagan family for their trust and partnership. Our staff and our board feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with them; as they indeed are the backbone of our local food supply. 

Photo courtesy of Hanagan Farms

A Courageous Act

We encourage you to visit Hanagan Farms and the other local farms with market stands in the lower Arkansas Valley. Palmer’s local food resource guide is a great place to start to get to know your local farmers and ranchers. Every opportunity to purchase locally grown food is a courageous act toward protecting our local food supply.

"Looking back there might have been some more opportune times to purchase additional farm ground than in the middle of the 2020 Covid Pandemic and at a time when agricultural commodity prices are at a 40-year low, but sometimes it’s not what you choose but what chooses you.  The owners had been very good in working with us in setting up a purchase agreement but without the help of Palmer Land Trust, we would not have been successful in this next step for Hanagan Farms." 

Chuck Hanagan, Hanagan Farms

(Click here to read the full thank you letter.)