Andy Nelson, Markets Editor
Andy Nelson, Markets Editor

Drought? Colorado?

Flying into Denver a couple of weeks ago, the mountains above 10,000 feet looked like January. I had to check the calendar on my watch.

A few days later, driving up the Big Thompson Canyon to Estes Park, it was raining, the river was raging and close to its banks, and I foresaw a repeat of last fall, when canyon residents had to scamper up the rocks to safety.

I pictured my family and me having to do this, and wondered if my wife (who had questioned the wisdom of heading up the canyon in the first place) would push me into the torrent mid-climb.

One tourist’s subjective experience. But in talking to Colorado onion growers on the phone shortly after I got back, I was happy to hear that all that snow and water will indeed make a difference for Centennial State shippers this year.

I made the calls based on a tip that some onion growers in the Greeley area were having some troubles.

Just what Colorado produce grower-shippers need, I thought, after drought, the Jensens and, of course, all that acreage transitioning over to “grass” — and I don’t mean asparagus.

(Sorry, after a week listening to a 12-year-old make one lame marijuana-legalization joke after another, it unfortunately seems to have rubbed off on me.)

It therefore made me happy to hear that, with the exception of some isolated hail, the Colorado onion crop is looking great this year, and one of the reasons is growers aren’t stressing out as much over water.

The key phrase there, unfortunately, may be “as much” — they’re still stressing.

“The water situation is better, but it’s still critical if we don’t have the storage,” Randy Knutson of Greeley-based Martin Produce told me.

Bob Sakata, owner of Brighton, Colo.-based Sakata Farms, said the early hail shouldn’t have a negative affect on the 2014 crop, coming as early as it did.

“When bad weather hits this early, the crop can come back. Our onion crop north of Denver is one of the better crops we’ve seen.”

As for the water situation?

“There’s no drought problem,” Sakata said. “In fact, in northern Colorado they’re worried about flooding.”

Tell me about it, though I have to admit that, once our car and my marriage survived that harrowing trip up the Big Thompson, the experience of hiking in shorts and a tee shirt on top of several feet of hard-packed snow was not terrible.

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