Protecting the Lifeblood of the West

Back to blog feed

Just 45 minutes from Colorado Springs, a vibrant farming community east of downtown Pueblo stretches the length of the Bessemer Irrigation Ditch, one of Colorado’s most important waterways. 

Over the last decade, we've worked with many farmers in southern Colorado who put food on our tables—from Pueblo chiles, corn, Rocky Ford melons, onions, and pinto beans, just to name a few varieties. The farmers are driven by a strong work ethic, passion for local food, and commitment to their families’ heritage. 

For over a century, the Hanagan Farm has been a beacon of tradition and resilience in southern Colorado. Established in 1905, this family-owned operation spans 1,000 acres, offering farm markets, "pick your own" chilies and tomatoes, and a wholesale outlet. Today, brothers Chuck and Eric manage the farm and cherish their connection to the land and community. With a vision to ensure that their farm would always be able to produce food for the community, the family chose to partner with Palmer Land Conservancy to permanently conserve 260 acres of prime farmland with senior water rights.

Farmers, like the Hanagans, know water is the lifeblood of our lives in the West and one of the most pressing issues of our time

Nationally and locally, our water resources are being used faster than nature can replenish them, even in years not plagued by drought and record temperatures. Coupled with this, the United States is losing 4.3 acres of farmland per minute. Farmers understand all too well that across the country, and especially regionally, the daily loss of productive farmlands to urbanization, infrastructure development, and deforestation compounds the challenges facing this and future generations of farmers as they fight to feed their families and our country.

These are real conservation issues with irreversible consequences for agriculture communities, local economies, and the environment as a whole. A loss of local food production in Colorado will lead to increased dependency on imported goods, higher prices for consumers, and potential food insecurity issues within the state.

Fortunately, there is hope. And you’re part of it. 

Community-supported organizations like Palmer Land Conservancy, fueled by members like you, are addressing national challenges at a local level, offering scalable solutions like the Bessemer Farmland Conservation Project. Palmer is helping local communities deploy innovative water management techniques to preserve vital agricultural land amidst increasing water scarcity, ensuring sustainable farming practices for the future. 

Conservation is a critical and sustainable strategy for creating balance in land and water use as Colorado’s population continues to grow. Since 1977, it has been Palmer Land Conservancy’s honor and mission to champion the practice, understanding, and prioritization of protecting southern Colorado’s land and water for the benefit of all people.

Palmer has protected over 200 square miles in southern Colorado, including 20 beloved parks and open spaces, like Red Rock Canyon Open Space, the Pineries Open Space, Paint Mines Interpretive Park, and iconic viewscapes like the backdrop of Garden of the Gods and the views of Pikes Peak between Woodland Park and Divide along Highway 24. 

Today, we are focused on inspiring and mobilizing more people and communities to shift how they understand, relate, and ultimately act on behalf of our land and water. That’s why Palmer spent a year partnering with acclaimed filmmaker Ben Knight and farming families in Pueblo County to create MIRASOL, Looking at the Sun, a film about water, land, and a way of life. 

MIRASOL, Looking at the Sun, invites us into the lives of multi-generational families in a rural Colorado farming community—from a 92-year-old farmer to the grandchildren hoping to steward the land for another generation and preserve their family’s agricultural heritage. Through their voices, the film explores their fight to safeguard a way of life that hangs in a delicate balance in the face of population growth.

As the families and community confront the pressing realities of land loss and water scarcity, they offer poignant insight into the profound stakes involved.

“We must protect the land as though it’s our only child…We should be protecting it with everything we have.” -  Mike Bartolo, PhD

Mike Bartolo, a local retired Colorado State University research scientist, developer of the Mosco Pueblo Chile, and farmer living and working in the Arkansas Valley, captured it succinctly. While MIRASOL shines a spotlight on Pueblo, it’s Colorado’s story, and these same land and water issues are facing all communities across our state.

We must protect Colorado’s farmlands and the water that nourishes them while there’s still time. 

As a community, and as a nation, we have important choices to make that will define our future. Because to love a place is merely the beginning. It will take courage, collective will, and action to protect it.

Join Palmer Land Conservancy by making a gift at the highest level that makes sense for you, your family, and your priorities. Be involved in protecting what makes southern Colorado a proud place to call home. 

For 47 years, people like you have chosen to partner with Palmer to protect local farms and ranches, like the Hannagan Farm, that provide the healthy food on our dinner plates. 

Thanks to member support, Palmer has developed the expertise, relationships, and community trust to drive conservation efforts forward in Colorado. We have built a robust toolbox of voluntary conservation, technical planning, and legal solutions informed by landowners, water experts, and community partners to continue advancing the scale, pace, and importance of protecting land and water in Colorado.

But we can’t do it without members like you.

In the film Mike Bartolo says, “we can either grow houses or crops.” We believe we can do both in balance, but not without your help. 

Your actions matter. Please join us by giving to Palmer Land Conservancy.

Together, we can continue protecting a way of life rooted in the land and nourished by the water that runs through it. 

P.S. - Join us for a screening of MIRASOL, Looking at the Sun. Visit to see when and where you can see the film and connect with others who, like you, are committed to conservation as a win-win strategy for thriving communities.