Late season harvest comes early
Farmers have to adjust their planning
It's been an unpredictable year for farmers who have dealt with varying weather conditions. Many have been faced with an earlier-than-normal harvest and say that it has complicated normal planning.
"We're kind of wrapping up our season," said Melvin Rettig of Rettig Farms in Orchard Mesa. "We've got sweet corn to go for a couple weeks yet. Tomatoes are still going, a few green beans, actually, a lot of peppers."
Rettig has enjoyed an average year as far as production is concerned, but it hasn't been without complication.
"We're running probably ten days to two weeks ahead on our apple varieties. We're starting picking varieties today that we would normally be the tenth or fifteenth."
And it's not just apples. The area's biggest crops: stone fruit (peaches, apricots, etc.), corn and even grapes have come early this year.
"Normally we would harvest in the middle of October into the first of November. This year I think by the end of this week, we will have everything off," said Bruce Talbott, Farm Manager for Talbott's Mountain Gold.
Many vineyards in the Grand Valley have actually already completed their harvest.
Talbott says the early harvest has caused difficulties in planning and staffing and that for the fruit, it comes with pros and cons.
"Harvesting early is good for the plants in that it gives them more time post-harvest to build up reserves for next year. However, we do select varieties for our average climate and some of them might not have quite the quality in a hot year and an early year that they would have in a normal year," he said.
Now, farmers are hoping for a couple more weeks of mild and dry weather so they can complete the harvest.
"As long as we can keep the good, warm weather going for several weeks we'll have some more crops," Rettig said.
Whether the effects have been good or bad, it has been a wild weather year on the Western Slope and it has had many farmers rethinking their strategies.
While farmers in the irrigated valleys did average to above average this summer, that wasn't the case for ranchers in the High Country. Drought conditions caused many to sell off livestock because of the high price of feed like hay.
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