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.
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