Tony Bruguiere
Ft. Collins, Colo.

Back to: Home
October 18, 2011
Follow Home

Harvest reaches its peak in Colorado's San Luis Valley


San Luis Valley farmers are rushing to complete the harvest before the first frosts come to this high, inter-mountain valley. The fertile San Luis Valley is the highest in elevation and the largest commercial agricultural valley in the world. At 7,600 feet, the San Luis Valley is large, flat, and varies from 20 to 50 miles in width, and is about 100 miles from north to south. The valley has a land area of close to 8,200 square miles, and is larger than the land mass of Rhode Island, Del., and Connecticut combined. It sits between the Sangre de Christo and San Juan mountain ranges in southern Colorado.

Receiving less than 8-inches of precipitation a year, the San Luis Valley is technically a desert and all crops are grown with irrigation water. Irrigation for the crops is provided by underground water and river water furnished by the Rio Grande, and other rivers. Fed by the abundant snow in the surrounding mountains, it is estimated that the second largest aquifer on the U.S. continent lies below the valley floor. Modern center-point irrigation is the primary method of irrigation and the reason that farmers refer to their crops in full or half circles rather than in acres.

The principal crops grown in the valley are potatoes, alfalfa, native hay, barley, wheat, and vegetables like lettuce, spinach and carrots. The barley grown in the San Luis Valley is the primary source of barley for Coors Beer.

The state of Colorado is the second largest producer of potatoes in the country and the San Luis Valley accounts for 92 percent of the potatoes grown in Colorado. The fertile soil of the Valley is loose-packed loam, which is perfect for growing potatoes, and the warm days and cool nights help to control insects, so less pesticides are required.

Colorado grows over 100 varieties of potatoes, but the majority are Russets, Reds and Yellows. More Russets are grown than any other variety and they are used for baking, frying, and mashing. Small, round Reds are the familiar "new potatoes" and the Yellow, Yukon Gold is becoming an American favorite for its creamy texture. Specialty potatoes include the Purple Majesty, which is deep purple inside and out, and doesn't lose its color when cooking.

Prior to harvesting, the irrigated circles of potato vines are green with white, blue, pink, red, or purple flowers. To make the harvesting easier, the vines are allowed to die before harvesting. A digger or windrower digs four rows at a time and potatoes, dirt, rocks, and vines are sent to a rotating cage where the majority of the debris falls out and the potatoes are deposited into an un-dug row to wait for the harvester.

These potatoes are picked up by the harvester, plus the harvester also digs four additional rows and moves all the potatoes along a conveyer into a truck that is driving alongside. The process never stops, and as soon as one truck is full, there is one following behind to take its place. The trucks take their loads to a central location where the sorting, sizing and additional cleaning takes place.

The storage facilities will probably be cooperative warehouses, which are basically giant versions of the individual potato cellars that you see on farms around Colorado. About 22 major potato warehouses pack and ship potatoes in the San Luis Valley. Storage facilities need to be carefully designed to keep the potatoes alive and slow the natural process of decomposition. It is crucial that the storage area is dark, well ventilated, and, for long-term storage, maintained at temperatures near 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Under optimum conditions which are possible in commercial warehouses, potatoes can be stored for up to 10 to 12 months.

Colorado has always had a rich agricultural history, and while the crops have changed over the years, agriculture in still the number two industry in Colorado. And judging by the varied and plentiful harvest in the San Luis Valley, it will probably stay that way for a long time.

San Luis Valley farmers are rushing to complete the harvest before the first frosts come to this high, inter-mountain valley. The fertile San Luis Valley is the highest in elevation and the largest commercial agricultural valley in the world. At 7,600 feet, the San Luis Valley is large, flat, and varies from 20 to 50 miles in width, and is about 100 miles from north to south. The valley has a land area of close to 8,200 square miles, and is larger than the land mass of Rhode Island, Del., and Connecticut combined. It sits between the Sangre de Christo and San Juan mountain ranges in southern Colorado.

Receiving less than 8-inches of precipitation a year, the San Luis Valley is technically a desert and all crops are grown with irrigation water. Irrigation for the crops is provided by underground water and river water furnished by the Rio Grande, and other rivers. Fed by the abundant snow in the surrounding mountains, it is estimated that the second largest aquifer on the U.S. continent lies below the valley floor. Modern center-point irrigation is the primary method of irrigation and the reason that farmers refer to their crops in full or half circles rather than in acres.

The principal crops grown in the valley are potatoes, alfalfa, native hay, barley, wheat, and vegetables like lettuce, spinach and carrots. The barley grown in the San Luis Valley is the primary source of barley for Coors Beer.

The state of Colorado is the second largest producer of potatoes in the country and the San Luis Valley accounts for 92 percent of the potatoes grown in Colorado. The fertile soil of the Valley is loose-packed loam, which is perfect for growing potatoes, and the warm days and cool nights help to control insects, so less pesticides are required.

Colorado grows over 100 varieties of potatoes, but the majority are Russets, Reds and Yellows. More Russets are grown than any other variety and they are used for baking, frying, and mashing. Small, round Reds are the familiar "new potatoes" and the Yellow, Yukon Gold is becoming an American favorite for its creamy texture. Specialty potatoes include the Purple Majesty, which is deep purple inside and out, and doesn't lose its color when cooking.

Prior to harvesting, the irrigated circles of potato vines are green with white, blue, pink, red, or purple flowers. To make the harvesting easier, the vines are allowed to die before harvesting. A digger or windrower digs four rows at a time and potatoes, dirt, rocks, and vines are sent to a rotating cage where the majority of the debris falls out and the potatoes are deposited into an un-dug row to wait for the harvester.

These potatoes are picked up by the harvester, plus the harvester also digs four additional rows and moves all the potatoes along a conveyer into a truck that is driving alongside. The process never stops, and as soon as one truck is full, there is one following behind to take its place. The trucks take their loads to a central location where the sorting, sizing and additional cleaning takes place.

The storage facilities will probably be cooperative warehouses, which are basically giant versions of the individual potato cellars that you see on farms around Colorado. About 22 major potato warehouses pack and ship potatoes in the San Luis Valley. Storage facilities need to be carefully designed to keep the potatoes alive and slow the natural process of decomposition. It is crucial that the storage area is dark, well ventilated, and, for long-term storage, maintained at temperatures near 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Under optimum conditions which are possible in commercial warehouses, potatoes can be stored for up to 10 to 12 months.

Colorado has always had a rich agricultural history, and while the crops have changed over the years, agriculture in still the number two industry in Colorado. And judging by the varied and plentiful harvest in the San Luis Valley, it will probably stay that way for a long time.

San Luis Valley farmers are rushing to complete the harvest before the first frosts come to this high, inter-mountain valley. The fertile San Luis Valley is the highest in elevation and the largest commercial agricultural valley in the world. At 7,600 feet, the San Luis Valley is large, flat, and varies from 20 to 50 miles in width, and is about 100 miles from north to south. The valley has a land area of close to 8,200 square miles, and is larger than the land mass of Rhode Island, Del., and Connecticut combined. It sits between the Sangre de Christo and San Juan mountain ranges in southern Colorado.

Receiving less than 8-inches of precipitation a year, the San Luis Valley is technically a desert and all crops are grown with irrigation water. Irrigation for the crops is provided by underground water and river water furnished by the Rio Grande, and other rivers. Fed by the abundant snow in the surrounding mountains, it is estimated that the second largest aquifer on the U.S. continent lies below the valley floor. Modern center-point irrigation is the primary method of irrigation and the reason that farmers refer to their crops in full or half circles rather than in acres.

The principal crops grown in the valley are potatoes, alfalfa, native hay, barley, wheat, and vegetables like lettuce, spinach and carrots. The barley grown in the San Luis Valley is the primary source of barley for Coors Beer.

The state of Colorado is the second largest producer of potatoes in the country and the San Luis Valley accounts for 92 percent of the potatoes grown in Colorado. The fertile soil of the Valley is loose-packed loam, which is perfect for growing potatoes, and the warm days and cool nights help to control insects, so less pesticides are required.

Colorado grows over 100 varieties of potatoes, but the majority are Russets, Reds and Yellows. More Russets are grown than any other variety and they are used for baking, frying, and mashing. Small, round Reds are the familiar "new potatoes" and the Yellow, Yukon Gold is becoming an American favorite for its creamy texture. Specialty potatoes include the Purple Majesty, which is deep purple inside and out, and doesn't lose its color when cooking.

Prior to harvesting, the irrigated circles of potato vines are green with white, blue, pink, red, or purple flowers. To make the harvesting easier, the vines are allowed to die before harvesting. A digger or windrower digs four rows at a time and potatoes, dirt, rocks, and vines are sent to a rotating cage where the majority of the debris falls out and the potatoes are deposited into an un-dug row to wait for the harvester.

These potatoes are picked up by the harvester, plus the harvester also digs four additional rows and moves all the potatoes along a conveyer into a truck that is driving alongside. The process never stops, and as soon as one truck is full, there is one following behind to take its place. The trucks take their loads to a central location where the sorting, sizing and additional cleaning takes place.

The storage facilities will probably be cooperative warehouses, which are basically giant versions of the individual potato cellars that you see on farms around Colorado. About 22 major potato warehouses pack and ship potatoes in the San Luis Valley. Storage facilities need to be carefully designed to keep the potatoes alive and slow the natural process of decomposition. It is crucial that the storage area is dark, well ventilated, and, for long-term storage, maintained at temperatures near 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Under optimum conditions which are possible in commercial warehouses, potatoes can be stored for up to 10 to 12 months.

Colorado has always had a rich agricultural history, and while the crops have changed over the years, agriculture in still the number two industry in Colorado. And judging by the varied and plentiful harvest in the San Luis Valley, it will probably stay that way for a long time.

San Luis Valley farmers are rushing to complete the harvest before the first frosts come to this high, inter-mountain valley. The fertile San Luis Valley is the highest in elevation and the largest commercial agricultural valley in the world. At 7,600 feet, the San Luis Valley is large, flat, and varies from 20 to 50 miles in width, and is about 100 miles from north to south. The valley has a land area of close to 8,200 square miles, and is larger than the land mass of Rhode Island, Del., and Connecticut combined. It sits between the Sangre de Christo and San Juan mountain ranges in southern Colorado.

Receiving less than 8-inches of precipitation a year, the San Luis Valley is technically a desert and all crops are grown with irrigation water. Irrigation for the crops is provided by underground water and river water furnished by the Rio Grande, and other rivers. Fed by the abundant snow in the surrounding mountains, it is estimated that the second largest aquifer on the U.S. continent lies below the valley floor. Modern center-point irrigation is the primary method of irrigation and the reason that farmers refer to their crops in full or half circles rather than in acres.

The principal crops grown in the valley are potatoes, alfalfa, native hay, barley, wheat, and vegetables like lettuce, spinach and carrots. The barley grown in the San Luis Valley is the primary source of barley for Coors Beer.

The state of Colorado is the second largest producer of potatoes in the country and the San Luis Valley accounts for 92 percent of the potatoes grown in Colorado. The fertile soil of the Valley is loose-packed loam, which is perfect for growing potatoes, and the warm days and cool nights help to control insects, so less pesticides are required.

Colorado grows over 100 varieties of potatoes, but the majority are Russets, Reds and Yellows. More Russets are grown than any other variety and they are used for baking, frying, and mashing. Small, round Reds are the familiar "new potatoes" and the Yellow, Yukon Gold is becoming an American favorite for its creamy texture. Specialty potatoes include the Purple Majesty, which is deep purple inside and out, and doesn't lose its color when cooking.

Prior to harvesting, the irrigated circles of potato vines are green with white, blue, pink, red, or purple flowers. To make the harvesting easier, the vines are allowed to die before harvesting. A digger or windrower digs four rows at a time and potatoes, dirt, rocks, and vines are sent to a rotating cage where the majority of the debris falls out and the potatoes are deposited into an un-dug row to wait for the harvester.

These potatoes are picked up by the harvester, plus the harvester also digs four additional rows and moves all the potatoes along a conveyer into a truck that is driving alongside. The process never stops, and as soon as one truck is full, there is one following behind to take its place. The trucks take their loads to a central location where the sorting, sizing and additional cleaning takes place.

The storage facilities will probably be cooperative warehouses, which are basically giant versions of the individual potato cellars that you see on farms around Colorado. About 22 major potato warehouses pack and ship potatoes in the San Luis Valley. Storage facilities need to be carefully designed to keep the potatoes alive and slow the natural process of decomposition. It is crucial that the storage area is dark, well ventilated, and, for long-term storage, maintained at temperatures near 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Under optimum conditions which are possible in commercial warehouses, potatoes can be stored for up to 10 to 12 months.

Colorado has always had a rich agricultural history, and while the crops have changed over the years, agriculture in still the number two industry in Colorado. And judging by the varied and plentiful harvest in the San Luis Valley, it will probably stay that way for a long time.




Stories you may be interested in

The Fence Post Updated Aug 14, 2012 04:58PM Published Oct 18, 2011 12:23PM Copyright 2011 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.