By Jamie Leary

PALISADE, Colo. (CBS4) – Rows of blossoming peach trees are a promising sight for one of Colorado’s biggest peach producers. It was one year ago when Talbott Farms suffered a major loss. On top of the pandemic, a late frost crushed the crops.

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“In 2020, we had 15% of a crop. That is the worst crop loss since 1999,” said Bruce Talbott, Farm Manager at Talbotts Mountain Gold.

With another cold few days anticipated this week, it’s hard not to think about a repeat of last season. The operation has been in the Talbott family since the early 1900s, and they know with farming comes the occasional crop loss.

“You run the gauntlet every year, and the further down the gauntlet you get, the more sensitive the trees are, but the more benign the weather becomes,” said Talbott.

This season, the farm is confident it can weather the storm.

“There are always challenges, but I’m not overly concerned. We have pretty benign weather patterns, and we could still get hurt, but at this point I think it’s fairly unlikely we would see significant crop loss this year,” he said.

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CBS4 had the opportunity to visit the farm Tuesday where the seasonal workforce was back in action, clearing the blooms. The more room the peaches have to grow, the bigger they get.

Ideally, each tree will produce about 100 peaches, with more than 30 varieties.

“A tree wants to produce seeds. We want big juicy peaches,” said a beaming Talbott, as he cleared a few blooms from a branch.

The seasonal workforce is the backbone of the operation. It’s something the farm lost partly due to the pandemic, but mostly due to the early freeze in April of 2020.

“It’s hard for us to build these crews. It takes time to get guys who know our orchards, know what we do and when we don’t have a crop, they’ve got to go somewhere else. Many times, you won’t get them back.”

In addition to the workforce, the local economy relies on the success of Talbott farms.

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“Retail receivers want dependable suppliers,” he continued. “All of the different businesses in town that have anything to do with the fruit, we don’t have the tourists coming in when there’s not a crop. You still have some wine, and I mean there’s some people, but maybe half the tourists. The entire area is impacted when we lose a peach crop.”

Crop insurance, while it won’t help the farm recoup its 2020 losses, has helped the operation to get up and running this season.

“We are at a disadvantage [this season], however Colorado peaches have a reputation that is strong enough … and we have a product that’s good enough that I think we’re going to get welcomed back. I’m not too awfully worried here,” said Talbott.

Jamie Leary