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
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
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.
Frank L. Watrous
Fred A. Huntley
Philo K. Blinn
W. Frank Crowley
Harvey H. Griffin
Philo K. Blinn
Justus C. Ward*
Jerre F. Swink
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.