Colorado is a major producer of many fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tim Larsen, senior international marketing specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture Markets Division, Lakewood, said most people probably don’t think of the state as an agriculture state. However, fresh produce was a $466 million industry in Colorado in 2008, placing it fifth among industries in cash receipts, he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the state ranks among the top eight producers for many commodities, including peaches, onions, sweet corn, potatoes and cantaloupes.


Peaches

Colorado’s peach harvest typically begins in mid-July and lasts through September, with peak production from early August through mid-September.

Cool spring weather slowed many of Colorado’s crops, though.

Mike Gibson, sales manager for United Marketing Exchange, Delta, Colo., said growers would begin harvesting peaches in late July and continue until early to mid-September. United Marketing’s volume is expected to be comparable to last year’s.

Charlie Talbott, president of Talbott Farms Inc., Palisade, Colo., said he expects a strong crop of peaches this season. The trees had a good bloom set and weather was good for pollinating.

Lower-than-normal winter temperatures thinned some buds, so Talbott said he expected volume to be about 80% of the crop potential.

Winter temperatures in the growing area got as low as 15 degrees below zero, he said.

Talbott said he expects to pack about 5 million pounds of peaches this season.

In late June, the crop was running 10 days to two weeks later than its 10-year average. Harvest was expected to begin about Aug. 1, with peak volume expected mid-August through mid-September.


Onions

A cool, wet spring put this year’s crop about 10 to 14 days behind schedule, said Alan Kinoshita, sales manager for grower-shipper Fagerberg Produce Co., Eaton, Colo.

In previous seasons, when cool weather slowed growth, the crops caught up in late June or in July, so Fagerberg anticipated beginning harvest during the week of July 26, Kinoshita said. About 10% of Fagerberg’s growers’ 1,100 acres were lost to hail damage in May. The acreage was replanted with other crops.

The loss and the crop’s thinner stands could mean up to 20% less volume than last year. The weather was better for growing on Colorado’s Western Slope near Olathe, Colo.

Don Ed Holmes, owner of The Onion House LLC, Weslaco, Texas, sells onions from Buffalo Packing, Olathe.

The company expects to begin harvest in mid-August of an intermediate variety of white onions that is ready about a month earlier than standard long-day onions, Holmes said.

The Onion House expects to ship about 450,000 bags of Colorado-grown onions this season, about 150,000 more than last year.

Holmes said in mid-June that onion prices were $20 for 50-pound sacks of jumbos from Uvalde, Texas.

Sweet corn

Joshua Johnson, president, Ringer & Son Brokerage Co. Inc., Commerce City, Colo., said his company grows nearly 700 acres of sweet corn near Delta, Colo.

In mid-June, the crop looked good, with only slight hail and freeze damage from early spring.
The crop was about five to eight days behind schedule because of the cool weather.

He said he expects to market about the same volume of corn he had last year. He also said he hopes to be able to keep prices at about the same level as last year, but box costs are higher and corn prices could go up.

All the company’s corn sells under the Mountain Fresh label. Sweet corn is Ringer & Son’s largest volume crop and the only one it grows.

Sweet corn is Colorado’s second largest fresh vegetable crop in production and value.


Potatoes

Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Monte Vista, Colo., said the potato crops are looking fine, sparked by good weather and low pest numbers.

Acreage was expected to be about 54,000 this year, which is about 2% less than last year.

Preliminary data reported by the USDA’s Economic Research Service show that almost 1,600 thousand cwt. of summer potatoes and more than 22,000 thousand cwt. of winter potatoes were produced in Colorado in 2009.

Summer potatoes typically are harvested in July or August, and winter potatoes are usually harvested in September and October.


Cantaloupes

For cantaloupe lovers, Colorado’s Rocky Ford melons are legendary for their sweetness.

Gary Shane Farms, La Junta, Colo., grows and ships its Famous Rocky Ford-brand cantaloupes to retail and wholesale buyers in Denver as well as Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma, said co-owner Gary Shane.

The company hopes to ship about 250,000 boxes of Rocky Ford cantaloupes this season, Shane said. Last year, the company shipped about 150,000 boxes, but production was lower than normal because of hail damage. Shane Farms has been growing cantaloupes since 1992.

Shane Farms cantaloupes will harvest through Sept. 15, with peak production from Aug. 15 to Sept. 1, said Jeff Stedman, quality control and packing shed operations manager.

The melon crops were slow to start because temperatures were lower than normal in the spring, but a hot and abrupt beginning to summer helped the crop catch up to about where it normally would be. Although the area had some severe weather, including hail, most of it occurred before pollination, so there was only leaf damage.