NMSU expanding campus with Heritage Farm project


Heritage Farm Sketch, courtesy of NMSU university architect, Heather Watenpaugh.

 A project is in the works at New Mexico State University that will expand the west side of campus and display the university’s agricultural roots and current research, while also providing an educational area for students, faculty, visitors and locals.

The Heritage Farm project involves about 10 acres of land and has been in the planning stages for over five years. It officially commenced last spring with the planting of a donated 50-tree pecan orchard along College Drive, known as the Heritage Farm Mark Salopek Pecan Gateway Orchard.

Heather Watenpaugh, university architect and campus planning officer at NMSU said the first part of the Heritage Farm Interpretive Trail, beginning on College Drive, has also been completed.

“The objective for it is that it would be a multiuse, bike, walking, learning, educational trail that would run with the irrigation ditch, with the acequia,” Watenpaugh said. “And it would run from University Avenue, south.” Tours will eventually be available for K-12 students to learn about the importance of water in the New Mexico area, as well as the crops grown and research being conducted at the university.

Scott Eschenbrenner, president of Aggie Development Inc., said a large part of the Heritage Farm plans include the Courtyard Marriott, which is under construction next to the Las Cruces Convention Center. Once the hotel is completed in March 2019, the next phase of the Interpretive Trail will be constructed, as well as demonstration gardens and a pop-up winery and brewery.

“We’re talking about trying to do a concept like that down there where it’s a brewery and maybe even bring a winery, and so it’s a destination area for people to come,” Eschenbrenner said.

Watenpaugh said the hotel will play a large part in bringing people to the west side of campus, and visitors will benefit from the activities and settings of Heritage Farm.

She explained that funding for Heritage Farm is generated from outside donations and grants, which means there is no set completion date for the project.

Other features that will be completed as funding becomes available include construction of green houses, various research facilities and displaying various crops such as cotton, grapes and onions. There are also plans to restore the Seed House.

“It’s the oldest building on campus,” Watenpaugh said. “It literally came with the 100-acre farm that is now NMSU, and we’d like to adaptively reuse it and turn it into the Chile Pepper Institute.” The institute is currently housed in Gerald Thomas Hall, and if moved, would replace a nematology lab.

Watenpaugh said former Chancellor Garrey Caruthers played a role in developing the idea of Heritage Farm. Chancellor Dan Arvizu’s office said at this time the new Chancellor does not have any proposed changes to the current Heritage Farm plan as things seem to be continuing satisfactorily.

Heritage Farm will ultimately serve as a gateway entrance to NMSU from its western end.

“The creation of a Heritage Farm seeks to address educational and outreach goals while also contributing to the local economy,” Watenpaugh said. “Maintaining an agricultural presence that is deep rooted in New Mexico tradition is also essential to the vitality of the farming and ranch industries.”

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