“We just spoke with one of our peach orchard providers in the Grand Junction area today, and they indicated they lost about 95% of their crop,” said Dick Barkey, owner of the Four Seasons Farmers and Artisans Market in Wheat Ridge.
It’s all because of an April 13 hard freeze that hit Colorado’s Western Slope. Some of the coldest temperatures were measured the following morning, 14 when Grand Junction fell to 19 degrees, a new record for the date.
At C&R Farms in Palisade, once beautiful, blooming trees are now bare for the first time in 20 years.
“Oh it’s going to be a big hit,” said Claire Talbott, co-owner. “I mean, you aren’t going to get the income you normally can, but we’ve got a wonderful banker that we’re working with.”
Talbott, estimates 90% of her crop is gone, including apples, cherries, pears, and apricots. She’s since sent home all of her seasonal staff, since there’s little work to do.
“That was sad for us because these guys we’ve known for a while,” She said. “They’re our crew, they’re loyal to us, so that was hard because they also depend on that income.”
For Talbott, the loss is part of the gamble of farming, but for the economy on the Western Slope, it’s a huge hit.
Every year, The region produces 17,000 tons of fruit and brings in nearly $40 million to the local economy. Peaches account for 75% of the fruit production in Colorado.
“It doesn’t just affect us. it affects a lot of people that we’re involved with,” Talbott said.
That also applies to businesses on the Front Range, such as Four Seasons in Wheat Ridge.
“For about a period of three months, they’ll represent about a third of the business we do,” said Barkey.
Without the seasonal specialty, Barkey, who prefers to only sell Colorado-grown products, will look for other produce to fill the void.
“We’ll get some other things. We’ll probably get some early apples, and there will be pears and plums and other products,” he said.
On Friday, the Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg officially requested a USDA Disaster Declaration for Colorado’s Western Slope following the freeze. Disaster money would help producers access critical programs and assistance to help ease the crop losses and harvest reduction.
“Colorado’s iconic and delicious Palisade peaches could be devastated by this early freeze and fruit producers on the Western Slope need support. Coloradans always look forward to getting Palisade peaches that help support our economy, growers and small businesses,” Polis said. “We urge the federal government to assist Colorado’s agriculture community during this challenging time.”