Terra is the second of three buildings to open on the new CSU Spur campus at the National Western Center in north Denver. Its programs are related to food and agriculture. Opening events are June 8-11. Photo: Kevin Samuelson / CSU System

The science of food is sprouting in Terra – the second of three buildings to open at the new CSU Spur campus in Denver – and the public can get a taste of new programming at the unique, urban setting starting in early June.

The Colorado State University System, which is developing CSU Spur, will celebrate Terra’s opening June 8-11 with a variety of special activities for stakeholders, kids, and community members.

CSU Spur is built for public education, research, community outreach, and collaboration with business and industry. It’s a destination for everyone – from K to gray.

Year-round campus programs center on food, water, and animal and human health, with the aim of shaping the future, in part by exciting K-12 students about college and careers in these vital fields. They are topics the CSU System and its campuses excel at studying and teaching – and are matters central to the globe’s most urgent challenges.

“Food, water, and health arguably encompass the greatest challenges facing our planet and will demand the focus, imagination, and commitment of future generations, which we hope to spark through visits to Spur,” said Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System. “Our goal is that Spur will become a hub that ‘spurs’ collaboration and innovation. The children who visit are the Coloradans who soon will be grappling with the challenges of sustaining, feeding, and healing our planet. We hope Spur will be part of the future they build.”

Space on multiple floors of Terra will be used for agricultural discovery exhibits, teaching visitors about sustainable food systems, from farm to plate. Photo: Kevin Samuelson / CSU System

Terra is a 60,000-square-foot building dedicated to food and agriculture. Visitors will find features including food research and development labs; an expansive test kitchen that doubles as a site for community cooking classes; a rooftop greenhouse and green roof gardens; learning labs for K-12 students; and high-tech chambers that produce vegetable crops indoors.

Many offerings in Terra are led by CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences, based on the flagship campus in Fort Collins.

“Terra has a critical role because it connects us to our food and the science of its production,” said Jocelyn Hittle, the CSU System’s assistant vice chancellor for CSU Spur. “Terra’s programs are designed to develop agricultural innovations, link visitors to the people who dedicate their lives to growing our food, and ensure sustainable food production. Terra provides a chance for visitors to connect with the scientists and businesses touching every step in the food system, from growing food to developing, testing, and marketing new food products.”

Rooftop garden with plants and a view of a water tower in the background.

Planting was recently in progress at the top-floor green roof plot at Terra. Photo: Kevin Samuelson / CSU System

Even more, Terra will help connect urban and rural communities around food and agriculture, with the goal of encouraging people from all backgrounds – and with a variety of perspectives – to work together to feed the world.

Program leaders hope CSU Spur will enable Colorado State University and the CSU System to better serve a diverse community of stakeholders. They expect the campus to become a convening place, where academia, government, and industry come together to co-create solutions for grand challenges.

“Spur is going to provide new ways for us to fulfill our land-grant promise, both in research and in educational access,” said Jim Bradeen, Colorado State University’s associate vice president for CSU Spur strategy. “Terra, in particular, underscores the importance of agriculture and food in Colorado – and our long history with agriculture in the state.”

Person in construction gear on a lift adds plants to a vertical wall.
Metal sunflower sculptures in a row.

1. More than 1,600 plants make up the living wall that greets visitors at Terra. 2. These sunflowers are part of an exhibit that shares information about Indigenous food sources. Photos: Kevin Samuelson / CSU System

Terra’s inauguration follows that of Vida, a building featuring programs related to animal and human health, which opened in January. Its launch precedes the opening of Hydro, which is dedicated to water and is the third building to rise at CSU Spur; Hydro’s debut is set next January, just before the 2023 National Western Stock Show.

The Colorado General Assembly allocated $250 million to the CSU System to develop Spur and related programs. Planning and construction have been underway for nearly a decade.

CSU Spur serves as the educational anchor at the National Western Center, which is a redevelopment of the historic grounds of the National Western Stock Show in north Denver into a site for year-round entertainment, education, and innovation.

The CSU System is a founding partner in the National Western Center. It joins the city and county of Denver, the Western Stock Show Association, History Colorado, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Together, the organizations are carrying the site into the future with new, forward-looking programming.

Involvement of the CSU System is notable in part because its flagship campus in Fort Collins has partnered with the National Western Stock Show to advance education and innovations in food and agriculture since the stock show debuted in 1906. That year, hundreds of college students rode the train from Fort Collins to the Denver stockyards to evaluate animals and to exhibit livestock from the college herd. A 1,150-pound Shorthorn from the college, named Yampa, was the stock show’s first grand champion steer.

In the past four decades, more than 1,000 CSU students studying agriculture and veterinary medicine have earned scholarships from the National Western Scholarship Trust. And many alumni and faculty leaders also have held leadership roles with the stock show.

“The opening of the CSU Spur campus marks a new era for the partnership between the university and the stock show,” said James Pritchett, dean of CSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences. “Our programs in the Terra building will elevate CSU as the premier steward of agricultural literacy and innovation. This is an exciting step because we’ll be able to connect with entirely new audiences around food and agriculture to foster agricultural education, sustainable food systems, and climate resiliency.”

Jennifer Bousselot, an assistant professor of horticulture at CSU, is leading green roof studies at Terra. Photo: Jen Smith / CSU System

Terra will house the following programs and resources: 

  • Indoor farming: A demonstration lab will grow leafy greens, showing how light technology may be used for large-scale crop production indoors. Researchers also will test temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide variables to maximize crop yields inside growth chambers. The systems are known as controlled-environment horticulture.
  • Food science: In state-of-the-art food labs, outside companies and entrepreneurs can work alongside CSU scientists to develop value-added meat, dairy, and fruit and vegetable products. Think sausage, yogurt, salsa, and many other items that involve new ways of safely processing and packaging raw ingredients.
  • What’s cooking?: A teaching and culinary kitchen will offer space for community cooking classes and for preparing and perfecting new products developed in nearby food labs. After hours, it will serve as a commercial kitchen for local small businesses and their development.
  • Taste test: A sensory lab will invite visitors to sample food products to assess flavor, texture, aroma, and other attributes as part of product development.
  • In focus: Successful product launch often relies on market research. Here, rooms will be available for focus groups that provide input about new food products – and whether they appeal to the tastes, health interests, and busy lifestyles of consumers.
  • Testing, testing: The Agricultural Diagnostic and Analytical Services labs will offer a one-stop shop for soil, water, and plant analysis. Homeowners, farmers, and researchers may drop off or mail in samples. The labs will diagnose plant disease, identify plant pathogens and pests, and evaluate issues such as soil fertility, water quality, and plant nutrient levels.
  • Global impact: Where in the world are students, faculty, and alumni? An interactive digital map will show the CSU System’s global reach, highlighting teaching, research, and service at scores of sites worldwide. The exhibit is called CSU Impact and is part of a broader effort to promote international agriculture.
  • Green-up: Atop Terra, green roof systems and an expansive greenhouse will show how urban spaces may be used for plant and food production.
  • Research hub: The Metropolitan Agricultural Research Center will collaborate with outside partners to study urban farming, community food systems, and innovative farming technologies. It’s the newest branch of the Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station and is unique in researching both urban and rural concerns.
  • Learning lab: CAM’s Ag Academy will immerse middle-school and high-school students in complex problems and potential solutions in food and agriculture. Working in small teams, students will explore timely topics, then describe how they’d tackle the issues.
  • Garden party: A Community Food Justice Garden will blossom in raised beds outside Terra. The garden will provide fresh produce for neighborhood residents and is a collaboration involving CSU Extension, GrowHaus, and Denver Urban Gardens.
  • Discovery zone: A series of agricultural discovery exhibits will span multiple floors in Terra, teaching visitors about sustainable food systems – from farm to plate. Visitors will explore where food comes from and their role in keeping systems sustainable.
  • New degree: Students seeking advanced learning in food innovation and entrepreneurship may enroll in a new CSU master’s degree program, which will hold classes in person at CSU Spur. The 18-month program is called Master of Agribusiness and Food Innovation Management. Classes start in August.
  • Economic lens: Three CSU programs will help develop economic opportunities in Colorado by delivering data analysis, policy insights, and agricultural education. They are: the Regional Economic Development Institute, the Food Systems Institute, and Colorado Building Farmers.
  • Family therapy: The Family Resilience Center will offer assessments, therapy services, and professional training to promote healing, growth, and strength in families whose members have experienced traumatic life events. It’s a program of the CSU Department of Human Development and Family Studies. The center is not related to food and agriculture, but it makes good use of Terra space in a convenient Denver location.

Photos: Kevin Samuelson / CSU System

For more information about Terra and CSU Spur, contact Tiana Kennedy, assistant vice chancellor for external relations with the CSU System, tiana.kennedy@colostate.edu; or Jim Bradeen, Colorado State University’s associate vice president for CSU Spur strategy, jim.bradeen@colostate.edu. For general information, go to csuspur.org. To read feature stories about CSU Spur programs, visit magazine.csusystem.edu.


11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 8: Grand opening, including ribbon cutting and remarks from CSU Spur leaders. With lunch from local food trucks, live music, and building tours.

9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Friday, June 10: Kids day at Terra, including food taste-testing, the CSU Bug Zoo, and more.

10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday, June 11: Open house for community members, families, and friends. Visitors may experience all that Terra has to offer.

All activities are free and open to the public, and will be hosted at the Terra building at CSU Spur: 4780 National Western Dr., Denver, CO 80216. Learn more about Terra.