Gypsum-area grow operation gets green light
EAGLE — The Eagle River Valley’s first marijuana growing operation got the green light, but chances are you’ll never see it.
The TNT Ranch is 11 miles south of Gypsum and the operation will be tucked away near the top of the property, hidden away. That’s one of the points, said Rob Trotter, who runs the ranch and will run the growing operation.
“It’s an agricultural operation and as legalization unfolded, I realized I have the perfect combination of resources,” Trotter said.
“Lots of grow operations claim to be organic, but are they really?” Trotter asks. They’re inside huge warehouses in industrial areas, trying to purify treated city water by extracting the chlorine, fluoride and other chemicals from it.
Large indoor growing facilities also create a large carbon footprint with the energy they consume from lights and heat, Trotter said.
Trotter calls his operation “agricology.”
Not only do they own plenty of water rights, as well as irrigation and storage water, their water comes straight out of mountain springs on the property. It’s not drawn from an irrigation ditch that crosses someone else’s property.
The TNT Ranch is 11 miles south of Gypsum and is off the grid. They generate their own hydroelectric power.
They’ll pull soil from beaver holes for the freshest dirt.
They raise Scottish Highland cattle, and still will, so they have organic bovine byproduct to continue to compost. Those cattle are fed alfalfa from the ranch’s certified weed-free fields.
“I’m not bringing anything from the outside. I can count on what I have here,” Trotter said.
For being good stewards of their land, last year TNT won Large Ranch Conservationist of the Year from the soil conservation district. They won the award 10 years ago, too.
“It’s an ultra-sustainable model, a low cost model and the highest quality model,” Trotter said. “No one has done this at 8,000 feet. I’m anticipating creating a model for sustainable outdoor growing.”
He wants to run some of the other plants on the ranch through the oil extraction process and see what else he finds that might be beneficial. Most pharmaceuticals begin with some sort of plant, he said.
Trotter and his wife, Linda, have three children.
“I’m totally against kids using it. When you turn 21 you can make those decisions. As with everything else in life, moderation, discretion and responsibility are important. Our laws don’t teach that. Families need to teach that,” he said.
The growing operation is yet another step for the historical ranch.
The ranch property was patented in 1890. The Trotter family started resurrecting it in 1992 when they bought it.
The pastures were overrun with sagebrush and weeds, and had to be reclaimed. The ranch house and roof floor had caved in and the logs at the bottom of the walls were rotting.
Some of the neighbors aren’t completely thrilled.
Richard and Barbara Wenninger live a few miles up the road and oppose it.
“The applicant states that the site is remote, therefore implying that it is secure. We fear just the opposite is true,” the Wenningers said in a letter. “Since we are remote, there is very little police patrolling. The existence of a marijuana growing facility will attract the curious, as well as those who seek to procure that product by illegal means.”
The Wenningers said they already have problems with drinking and drug use at the remote campsites along Gypsum Creek, involving firearms, screaming late at night, littering and driving under the influence.
“Our concern is that the existence of a marijuana growing facility will attract more of this behavior without adequate police protection,” they said.
Still, Coloradans have spoken clearly and repeatedly. On Jan. 1, 2014, it became legal to grow marijuana in parts of unincorporated Eagle County. The county’s planning staff recommended approving the Trotters’ project, saying marijuana cultivation in rural agricultural areas can generally be viewed as appropriate.
Eagle County senior planner Scott Hunn made the initial visit last April when Trotter first applied, and the county commissioners gave it their final approval Tuesday.
Chris Green did the planning and presentation, as he did for two operations in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The plan is for up to six greenhouses, each between 1,200-2,000 square feet. They’ll also use a 1,500-square-foot barn for propagation, storage, drying, curing and packaging. In addition, they want to use two acres for outdoor cultivation.
The ranch is 384 acres in a remote area 11 miles south of Gypsum.
“Now the rest of the work starts. I still have to build the thing,” Trotter said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.