Many of the first visitors to the newly-opened Terra building on the Colorado State University Spur campus left with their own soil, garden plants and ready-to-bake bread dough – but most importantly, with newfound knowledge about the science behind the food they eat every day. 

“If this building and the programming inside of it doesn’t make a difference for ag literacy, I don’t know what will,” said CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 8.

With a name derived from the Latin word for Earth, Terra is the second of three buildings to open on the new CSU Spur campus, which will serve as the educational anchor for the year-round National Western Center near downtown Denver.

Spur ribbon-cutting ceremony

CSU System Chancellor Tony Frank and other leaders took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Terra building on June 8, 2022 (Photo: Joe Mendoza / CSU Photography)

Endless possibilities for education

At 60,000-square-feet, Terra has everything from a test kitchen to rooftop greenhouses and gardens to interactive learning labs. It’s dedicated to food and agriculture, and aims to educate Coloradans of all ages. 

“It feels like the possibilities are endless,” said Jean Glowacki, the director of 4-H Youth Development for CSU Extension. 

Glowacki said 4-H is planning to host kids from around the country at the Spur campus, as well as to use it as an anchor during the important events surrounding the National Western Stock Show. Its location in the heart of an urban area also offers opportunities to engage with a new audience. 

“It furthers the achievement of our goal to improve access, equity and opportunity for kids in urban settings to participate in 4-H Youth Development programs,” Glowacki said.

A little girl in the small kitchen at Terra
Spur growth facility

From tiny kitchens to cutting-edge urban grow spaces, the Terra building will be home to learning and innovation. (Photos: Joe Mendoza / CSU Photography)

Since Spur and especially the Terra building are so new, the CSU community has a chance to play an integral role in shaping what that will become. 

Jim Bradeen, the CSU associate vice president for Spur Strategy, says this, like many things, all starts with a good idea. 

“We really want to hear all kinds of angles for what learning opportunities at Terra look like, from art to interactive exhibits,” he said. “There’s room for literally everyone in Fort Collins and beyond to be part of this. Most importantly, we’re looking for projects that build on our land-grant mission.” 

“We’re thrilled to be where we are,” added Jocelyn Hittle, the CSU System’s assistant vice chancellor for CSU Spur. “We’re hoping that this will become an interdisciplinary learning destination.”

The CSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Agricultural Experiment Station will use the campus to collaborate with a diverse group of partners across the state of Colorado. Read more about the work and upcoming programming here:

CSU Spur building lobby

More than 1,600 plants make up the living wall that greets visitors at Terra. Photo: Joe Mendoza / CSU Photography

Teaching in action

Educational opportunities will abound at the CSU Spur campus at the National Western Center near downtown Denver. (Photos: Joe Mendoza/ CSU Photography and  Kevin Samuelson / CSU System) 

As soon as Terra’s opening day, students and faculty from across multiple disciplines had the opportunity to showcase their expertise. 

Evan Spanner, a senior watershed science major, manned a titration station on the third floor of the building, and offered demonstrations of the process behind calculating the pH of the water that’s used in agriculture. 

“Water’s the biggest part of life, and it’s important to educate people about it,” Spanner said. 

In the greenhouse on the top level of Terra, Anthony Percival, a doctoral student in horticulture, helped visitors pot basil and lettuce plants to take home and put in their own gardens. 

“It’s always nice to see the smiles, and do my part to really connect people with their food,” Percival said. 

Oliver Fulton with the vertical aeroponic garden
Oliver Fulton poses with a vertical aeroponic garden that showcases a unique way to take advantage of urban agriculture at the CSU Spur campus.

Nearby, incoming master’s student Oliver Fulton showed off a vertical aeroponic garden that can grow multiple heads of lettuce in an urban setting, maximizing available space and minimizing water usage. Just outside of this greenhouse sits a rooftop salsa garden with a view overlooking the downtown Denver skyline.

“I’m very interested in finding new ways to feed people in a sustainable way,” Fulton said.

Downstairs, in the Morgridge Learning Lab – which is home to CAM’s Ag Academy and other educational programs – Agricultural and Resource Economics Associate Professor Kellie Enns worked with her students to showcase a real-life demonstration about the different layers in soil. 

Kids (and adults) had the opportunity to build their own soil profiles and plant a seed inside that they were able to take home. 

“Our job is to get everyone excited about agriculture,” Enns said. 

And in the test kitchen on the very first floor of Terra, visitors got the opportunity to use plastic bags to knead their own bread dough, teaching them an easy way to make their own healthy food out of simple ingredients. 

All of the opening day learning opportunities marked a new beginning for a building that will hopefully inspire the next generation to solve the problems that will define the coming years. 

“I think in agriculture … we’re always looking at the opportunity that comes before us,” CSU College of Agriculture Dean James Pritchett said. “You’ll scan the horizon today – and every day – in the Terra building, and see countless opportunities for the future.”

What’s next for CSU Spur? 

Terra’s opening follows that of Vida, a building featuring programs involving animal and human health, in January. Hydro, the last of the three facilities, will open in January 2023 – just before the National Western Stock Show.

Hydro, which is Greek for water, is near the restored South Platte River, and will feature a backyard space designed to represent the major watersheds of Colorado. It will also have laboratory and learning space, a farm-to-table cafe, artist studios, and space for indoor and outdoor events.

The Colorado General Assembly has allocated $250 million to the CSU System for Spur’s development, a process that has been underway for nearly a decade. The campus will serve as one of the cornerstones of the National Western Center, 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.

CSU Spur is free and open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

Photos from the June 8, 2022, grand opening of the Terra building on the CSU Spur campus. The event included speeches from University and state leaders, as well as food trucks and live music.