Commissioners OK another cannabis cultivator
July 8, 2015
EAGLE — Eagle County is home to another marijuana farm, this one to be run by a professional farmer.
Edward Tuft's High Country Farms LLC will grow marijuana on 4 or 5 acres on his farm located 18 miles north of Wolcott.
Tuft said he has been a Vail regular since 1962 and an organic farmer in Delta County for 40 years, where he and his family grow fruit on more than 500 acres in Delta County.
The new grow operation will remain true to its roots, he said.
"It's an agricultural enterprise and a business enterprise," Tuft said during Tuesday's hearing.
The land has been used for ranching and hay for decades. It's still agricultural, said Scott Hunn, the county planner who handled the file.
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"It's just a different crop," Hunn said.
"I think it's the right project at the right scale," Hunn said. "It continues the property's agricultural tradition and use of agricultural water."
The county staff said it meets the uses around the area, as well as the county's land use regulations.
The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve it.
'The real deal'
Tom Backhus is one of the partners who owns the property. When Coloradans legalized marijuana, they had several offers to buy it from speculators looking for grow sites. Backhus said they went with Tuft because he's a professional farmer and a successful businessman.
"He's the real deal," Backhus said.
The marijuana will be grown on a shelf about 100 feet above the road and out of sight.
"It's legal and it's the perfect location to grow that product," Backhus said.
About the only snafu is that part of their driveway crosses BLM land, which presents a problem since marijuana is still illegal on federal land.
For the time being, they'll reroute the driveway to go around the feds and stay on private land.
Because it's outside, it won't be the massive energy drain that indoor grow facilities tend to be, said Chris Green, a planner working with Tuft.
They'll have 24-hour security, not an electronic system. Another outdoor grow operation in the area has an electronic system that's constantly being tripped by animals, sending alarms to the Sheriff's Office.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vail daily.com.