Proposed statehouse bill could benefit Silt greenhouse

A Colorado state legislator plans to introduce a bill that would expand the definition of a farm and agricultural products to the benefit of a new greenhouse facility in Silt.

Sponsored by Rep. Dyan Roberts, the bill that is currently in draft form would include a “controlled environment agricultural facility,” or CEAF, in the definition of a farm, allowing these facilities to be taxed at a lower rate than they would be if they were classified as commercial.

That’s good news for entrepreneur Charles Barr, who is constructing a 113,400-square-foot, mostly automated greenhouse — which he has dubbed Spring Born — along the Colorado River to grow leafy salad greens. This is the first foray into agriculture for the San Francisco-based businessman. He bought the 254-acre parcel in October 2019 for $1.5 million.

Most of that land is leased to a local rancher and remains in traditional agricultural production growing hay and raising cows. The greenhouse and accompanying warehouse/processing buildings cover 3.5 acres of the parcel. Barr originally had planned to build the greenhouse, in conjunction with a geothermal power plant, in Gunnison County. When that location fell through, he moved the greenhouse, minus the geothermal project, to Silt.

The plan is to grow lettuce in a sustainable, efficient, pesticide-free way year-round, all while using less water than traditional outdoor agriculture. Once water enters the greenhouse, it’s nearly 100% consumptive, meaning the plants will use it all. The lettuce would be packaged and shipped for sale in grocery stores.

The greenhouse will create about 20 jobs and plans to partner with Colorado Mountain College for a work-training program. Schwartz added that Spring Born could soon take advantage of a rural Jump Start tax-credit program, which is expected to soon be approved in Garfield County. It would allow businesses to apply for a four-year personal property tax exemption from the county.

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