Locally grown trend boosts Colorado fruits

08/01/2011 09:30:00 AM
Tara Schupner

Demand for Colorado-grown fruit continues to be high, thanks in large part to the continued popularity of the locally grown trend.

“It’s certainly increasing,” said Richard Kinser, manager of organic grower-shipper Rogers Mesa Fruit Co. Inc., Hotchkiss, Colo. “It’s been very brisk. This year every commodity has benefited.”

Charlie Talbott, president of Talbott Farms Inc., Palisade, Colo., said his company has increased its peach acreage five-fold in a little over a decade.

Much of that increase has come from phasing out less-profitable apple orchards and replacing them with peaches, Talbott said. This season marks the first year in which Talbott Farms won’t be shipping apples.

“It’s been a real gradual decision beginning in the late ‘90s,” Talbott said. “It’s purely economic. Peaches are profitable, and apples have been pretty disappointing.”

Counterbalancing the strong demand for Colorado fruit, however, is ever-higher input costs.

“Labor by itself is a killer, and the costs of cultural practices are more,” Kinser said. “The return to the grower is not that significant.”

Kinser said he has faith in the agriculture industry to balance the good years with the bad. In lean years, growers may have to charge a little bit more to make ends meet. Then, during years when there are bumper crops and input costs aren’t such a break, growers and shippers can pass along the savings to customers.

After record low temperatures in late April wiped out fruit in some blocks, Talbott Farms expects to ship about 75% of a full peach crop this season. But an additional 10% of peach acreage this year will help compensate for those losses.

Talbott said he expected peach prices to be just “modestly” higher than last year.

Talbott Farms could also make up for acreage lost with fruit size, Talbott said.

Excellent growing weather since the April freezes should yield great quality, and fruit could be one or two sizes bigger on average, he said.

The same cold snap in April took out about half of Talbott’s pear crop and totally wiped out its small apricot drop, Talbott said.

Kinser said that by the week of July 18, Rogers Mesa had wrapped up its cherry and apricot deals and was setting its sights on peaches, pears and apples.

Rogers Mesa’s cherry deal kicked off on July 1 and lasted for about a week, Kinser said. Apricots started about July 8 and also shipped for about a week.


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