Guest Post: New fracking plan could threaten the Colorado peach

Peaches grow in the orchards of Ela Family Farms ― a fourth-generation orchard in Hotchkiss, CO. (Photo courtesy of Ela Family Farms)
Peaches grow in the orchards of Ela Family Farms ― a fourth-generation orchard in Hotchkiss, CO. (Photo courtesy of Ela Family Farms)

Nothing says summer in Colorado like the treasured Western Slope peach, and we’ve had a spectacular season.

Thousands of pounds of the succulent fruit have been heading from North Fork Valley orchards to Front Range farm-to-table restaurants and kitchens, inspiring area chefs to give the peach treatment to everything from salsas to roasted pork to pastries.

But our iconic Colorado peaches could be at risk, along with the rest of the organic produce, wines and cheeses lovingly produced on family farms in the fertile North Fork Valley.

Fracking threatens this hub of organic agriculture. A new federal land management plan that was just released could spell trouble for the Western Slope peach and damage Colorado’s emerging reputation as a culinary destination.

Proposals from the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management could turn tens of thousands of acres in the North Fork and beyond into industrial wastelands. Drilling rigs and well pads could be built on public lands next to farms, ranches and schools, and in the middle of three watersheds that provide irrigation and drinking water.

We proudly grow and serve organic produce as partners in Colorado’s burgeoning local food movement. Along with dozens of other organic farmers and restaurateurs, we’re urging Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Gov. Jared Polis to stop this reckless plan to frack the North Fork Valley.

Yes, we’ve been here before. We’ve stopped a barrage of drilling proposals over the years.

Meanwhile, the North Fork Valley continued its stunning transformation from the old boom-and-bust coal mining of its past to the clean, sustainable agricultural and tourism economy of the future.

Fruits, vegetables, grains, poultry, beef, cheese, herbs, flowers and wine grapes flourish in this idyllic microclimate that’s been compared to Napa or Sonoma or Provence ― only better.

Visitors come from across the country and around the world to tour the farms, taste the wines, hike and bike, and take in the incredible views.

More than 1,000 farms in Delta County now generate $55 million a year in direct sales; wineries bring in another $10 million. Outdoor recreation and agritourism are booming, too, with $36 million in direct sales that contribute nearly one-fifth of Delta County’s sales tax revenue.

Of course, you’ll hear oil industry representatives and elected officials make claims about the jobs fracking will bring.

Well, we’re business owners, too. The organic farms and ranches and the restaurants they serve across Colorado’s Front Range employ thousands.

Just between Ela Family Farms ― a fourth-generation orchard in Hotchkiss ―and the Denver-area restaurants Coperta and Beast & Bottle, the two of us employ more than 100 people.

These are good, stable jobs that aren’t going anywhere. These folks are putting down roots and raising kids and paying taxes. They’re invested in the future of our communities.

We’re concerned about the Bureau of Land Management’s plan, which will govern 675,000 acres of public lands and nearly 1 million acres of oil, gas and coal along Colorado’s Western Slope for the next 20 years.

There is no sound economic reason to support unlimited fracking on public lands in the North Fork Valley. Air pollution, spills, groundwater depletion and contamination, and truck traffic would jeopardize our ability to produce clean, healthy food.

There’s widespread community support for a land management plan that protects mountain springs, air and water quality, and the North Fork’s breathtaking vistas. Any plan failing to do so puts the heart of Colorado’s growing organic agriculture hub at risk, and threatens our farm-to-table Colorado cuisine along with it.

Visitors to our farm and restaurants were asking all summer when we’d have peaches. Now we’re serving up the North Fork Valley’s delicious bounty.

Here’s hoping we’ll be enjoying Colorado peaches for many years to come.


The Colorado Independent occasionally runs guest posts from government officials, local experts and concerned citizens on a variety of topics. These posts are meant to provide diverse perspectives and do not represent the views of The Independent. To pitch a guest post, please contact or visit our submission page.

Paul Reilly is a chef and restaurant owner in Denver.
Steve Ela is a fourth-generation farmer at Ela Family Farms in Hotchkiss.


  1. The authors make correct and important points. Every Valley resident needs to make his/her individual choice – do you want to live in the past or in the future?

  2. Very concerned over fracking in the North Fork Valley. Governor Polis, Senators Bennet and Gardner should be very concerned and ask BLM to close to these lands to fracking.

  3. there is no longer a question of WHO is corrupt…Senator Corrupt Gardner…a subsidiary of Koch Industries, who are at the forefront of the extraction and pollution of our State…BLM has always been friendly to the extraction industries, and we have seen the end results of their “mandate”…even ex-Governor Frackenlooper played a large role in relieving the industry of regulations…the North Fork Valley has been my home for over forty five years, and I have seen quite a lot of the lying and corruption by the corporations, in order to get those permits…I have had death threats, and I have been black listed, and I have not backed off one iota…Delta County commissioners are trumpers, who are doing their best to bring in these corporations, by removing regulations that have protected our air and water for many years..Senator Corrupt Gardner is the enemy of our state…he has to be voted out of office, as he is just as complicit in the crimes of the president by his unwavering support of the crimes being committed as we watch…

  4. I have lived in Colorado for 73 years. My mother would drive to Palisade every year to buy a crate of peaches, bring them home for us to eat and my grandma to make the best peach cobbler I’ve ever eaten. Colorado peaches and the agricultural community that grows & nurtures them is a treasure that merits our hardy endorsement and protection.

  5. What you said in this article were some of of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling incoherent blog post were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone is now dumber having read it. I award you no points.

  6. My great-grandfather probably traded coal for the fruit your family grew. My grandmother and her siblings got to eat fresh fruit and your ancestors got to stay warm.

  7. This is nothing but propaganda.. You may just flat hate the oil and gas industry, but the article is pure propaganda. The oil and gas industry takes GREAT STRIDES to make sure that the environment is protected. I promise you that the industry is not out to destroy the farms. Please research the personal and environmental safety regulations that they have to follow. At the end of the day, you as adults can have a hopefully honest conversation about this topic after you research it thoroughly and
    unbiased from both sides.

  8. This article is fear based politics at best. Oil and gas production and hydraulic fracturing is a known safe methods of energy independence. Please visit and make your own independent decision. There will be no harmful impact to our beloved peaches. Thank you.

  9. This entire article is nothing but hyperbole. How has Palisade survived apocalyptic doom with 10,000+ wells directly upstream?

  10. They inject chemicals like benzene,tuelene and other chemicals that are ‘ kept secret ‘ because of patents right into groundwater. Do some research yourself, read an MSDS. ( material safety data sheet) on these chemicals. Organic certification for the North Fork will definitely be lost.

  11. Can someone point to an area where this has happened already, where there are “vast wastelands” where there was once fertile farmland? I always hate the fear mongering. What data do we have to support this doom-and-gloom perspective? Is there a chance to perhaps be realistic about what could happen, instead of pushing an obvious agenda? Is there no room for a balanced viewpoint anymore?

  12. Can you imagine if the mouthpieces for the horse and buggy industry had somehow managed to talk some rube/corrupt politicians into permanently damaging our lands to prop up a dying business model?

    You think history will look at the folks still supporting aggressive oil and gas extraction any differently?

    Doesn’t make a lot of sense when you say it out loud like that does it…

  13. Come to weld county. We have an air alert almost daily. We also are the largest fracking county in Colorado. The park near my house has benzene levels of 150 at times and that is where our kids play. The oil industry doesn’t have to burn off gas if the pressure is too high they just release it into the air. They are fracking near our house so sitting on our patio that faces the river isn’t something that we can enjoy. They have destroyed the bike trail in Windsor. It looks like an oil field. The oil industry has so much money and influence it is impossible to make changes to their pollution issues. Our environmental protection agency is so underfunded that they only have 2 air monitoring trucks so couldn’t get one to Windsor after the explosion because one wasn’t operational. Windsor is considering monitoring our air ourselves instead of relying on the oil industry. But all they will be able to do is give the people of Windsor an air warning. We feel helpless against the industry propaganda and influence. Best of luck to the western slope. We have enjoyed Mountain biking, the wine fest and your wonderful fruit and have visited often. I hope you are more successful than we have been here in Weld county.

  14. Fracturing shale, “Fracking” is only part of a process that takes place at about 5,000 feet below the surface after horizontal drilling takes place.
    Just the opposite of your uninformed rant, there is only minimal and temporary surface disruption. The horizontal drilling rigs can drill out radially, like spokes on a wheel, and are much more efficient and much less disruptive than the older types of drilling that needed to be located closely together. I would be willing to bet that the Oil and Gas drilling is much more regulated than are your restaurants and farms. No spills are allowed onto the ground or into water and no gasses are allowed to escape. Weld County has several thousand oil and gas wells and our air quality exceeds all EPA requirements. We have no ground or ground water pollution from drilling activity.

    Your post is simply an anti petroleum/fossil fuel uninformed, hysterical rant.

  15. Kathy, if you are letting your kids play at a park where the benzene levels are 150, then you should be questioning your mental health and parenting skills. 90% of weld county residents support the industry and are happy to live here. If you have such a huge problem, you can always move… problem solved.

  16. Is that a narrow minded, mean spirited completely irresponsible response on your part? Why should there be any benzene levels in the air for any human being to breathe at a park or anywhere. What is clearly revealed by your words here is a lack of health (mental) and a selfish narrow minded quick fix greed.

  17. Has anyone explored the situation near Trinidad CO? Many residents have experienced an increase in earthquake activity, well and other water contamination, some property value decrease as well as other environmental changes of concern.

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