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"Colorado has an enviable position in the peach market"

Colorado is now more than half way through its peach season. The warmer spring initiated the season earlier than normal and since then it's been a hot and unusually dry summer. Fortunately, this year has been an exception and many growers have adequate irrigation, meaning fruit quality has not been affected.

"Our season typically starts on July 1 and goes through until September 15, with the peak at the end of July through most of August," said Bruce Talbott of Talbott Farms in Palisade. "I'd say we are 70 percent done now. The start of the season was the same as last year, which was ten days early due to the warm spring. Since then, it has been a hot and very dry summer. We set a record for the most consecutive days with temperatures above 90 degrees."

"We've also had a lot less rain than usual with only three inches falling the whole year, including half an inch last night," he continued. "Our irrigation is very good though and we have good water rights which is important in the West. If there were two dry years back to back, this would present more of a problem."



Excellent crop and market
It's been pretty much a perfect year in Colorado with all regions performing well in terms of crop volume and quality. "It's been as close to a perfect crop as you can get," Talbott observed. "There has been very little fruit lost in Colorado, with close to 100 percent yield. Sizes have been decent and overall quality has been very high."

The market has been very good too, despite a slight softening at the start of August when every region was in production. An interesting fact is that although Colorado growers raise dozens of different peach varieties, they don't market them separately. As Talbott explained, "We pack between 35 - 40 different peach varieties but we don't promote any individual varieties. During the short season many of the varieties overlap such that we are packing 6 to 10 varieties at any given time. Furthermore, they go through the system very quickly and are sold as mature near soft fruit to optimize their eating qualities."

He added by stating that Colorado's peach crop is well respected and established, particularly in the central states. Prices are always good for growers and all they have to do is deliver the fruit. "California is obviously dominant in the West and therefore we stay away from that market. However, we sell a lot to the central regions and in these areas we have a well established market. Much of our fruit is pre-sold and we get a good price for it. As a result, Colorado has an enviable position in the peach market. Our challenge is to ship the fruit according to volume and timing that matches with the ads."



Labor challenges need to be addressed 
As is the case in most other fresh produce industries, the Colorado peach industry is suffering under the challenge of labor shortages. Many of the older generation have retired, with no one to replace them. The only current solution is temporary migrant labor under H2A, a program Talbott said is good, but expensive.

"Labor is always a challenge," he said. "We participate in H2A and the workers we get are great people. However, it is expensive and difficult to go through, and therefore we always hope for a better guest worker program to make things easier."

One of the ways Talbott Farms has attracted a younger workforce is by diversifying and producing value-added products like cider. The cider arm of the company is seeing tremendous growth, with Talbott Farms adding a hard cider product three years ago. "We've been producing sweet cider since 1983 and three years ago we started shipping hard cider," Talbott shared. "It has experienced excellent growth each year and has also attracted young local workers back to the industry. It's a project for the next generation."

For more information:
Bruce Talbott
Talbott Farms
Tel: +1 (970) 464-5656

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