A year ago, record-low temperatures destroyed more than half of the produce within the Grand Valley region on Colorado’s Western Slope.

National Weather Service meteorologist Megan Stackhouse said the temperature dropped to 19 degrees in Grand Junction on April 14, 2020 — the lowest since 1933.

Many of the crops in the region — such as peaches, apples, cherries, pears and plums — can be ruined by temperatures falling below 27 degrees.

Despite the recent cool down across the state, temperatures in the Grand Valley region have not reached critical lows and the crops appear to have emerged unscathed. But the possibility of frost damage still exists, and that’s cause for concern, said Clare Talbott, owner of C&R Farms in Palisade.

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For Palisade family, home is where the peach is“You just have to go with whatever’s going to happen, and we don’t have control over it,” Talbott said. “That’s part of farming. It’s a big gamble, and it’s worse than going to Las Vegas.”

C&R Farms has been run by the Talbott family for two generations and has about 120 acres dedicated to peaches. The operation produces about 65,000 boxes each year.

However, because of the cold spell last year, the family was only able to save around 3,250 peaches, or 5% of its normal crop. The devastation has made this year’s crop that much more important.

Palisade peaches

As it starts to rain, the crew works quickly to harvest Palisade peaches at Clark Family Orchards last summer. Eugerio Lopez hands off a box of freshly picked peaches to Chris Schmalz, background. Schmalz is married to Mackenzie Clark and will be part of the next generation to run the orchards. This year’s Palisade Peach Festival is Aug. 15-18.

“We’re just praying that the weather will stay good until we have picked every last one of our crops,” Talbott said.

Dennis Clark, owner of Clark Family Orchards in Palisade, said last year’s damage has left many farmers in the area pretty worried.

“Every grower in this valley is probably been getting a little grayer recently,” he said. “Everyone’s hoping to have a nice fruit crop to alleviate the loss last year. It takes too long to recover from these situations, so everybody will probably be a little on edge until the end of the season.”

Although Clark’s crop was impacted by the cold temperatures last year, he said he was one of the few farmers who did not lose everything.

“Twenty-five to 30% of my crop last year survived, and while it’s not very good, it’s still better than a lot of other people in the valley,” Clark said.

Overnight temperatures are not expected to drop below freezing in the coming days, eventually warming closer to normal, Stackhouse said.

But until the final peach is in the box this year, many farmers will continue to worry, Talbott said.

“You have to wait until you get them all picked and gone,” she said. “So anything can happen between now and the middle of September, but as of right now, the region’s crops are looking great.”

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