A peach of a Year

The Talbott name has been synonymous with Palisade fruit since 1907. Gone are the days of making a living on 10 acres, but the fruit business is a sweet one, and one you can raise a glass to.

Palisade sits in the Grand Valley at the base of the Book Cliffs with Mount Garfield to the west and Mount Lincoln to the east in Colorado’s wine and fruit country. Mild days and cool nights are part of the key to success for the orchards and wineries that draw tourists year-round. Peaches, wine grapes, cherries and plums are handpicked and make their way to the packing shed, to the cooler, and to grocery stores and Bruce Talbott of Talbott Farms said this year will be counted a success.

Mount Garfield towers behind a peach orchard. Photo by Rachel Gabel

“We’re a week later than we have been on average, quality has been better, we’ve had better packouts than usual,” he said. “Markets have generally been really stable, so it’s been a good year. The industry as a whole is going to come out of it saying, yeah this was a successful year. And you always come out of it saying and here’s what I’ll do differently next year.”

A picker gently unloads peaches into bins that will be hauled from the orchard to the packing shed. Photo by Rachel Gabel

Talbott said the economy of the fruit industry has changed significantly since his family began growing fruit and it varies greatly depending upon the region.

“Land splits are problematic, but the other thing is the economy of the industry,” he said. “Five to 20 acres is what anyone had during WWII, anyone with over 200 acres was a huge grower and they just didn’t really exist or were pretty rare, but you could make a living on 10 acres, especially if you had a spouse with a part-time or even a full-time job, 10 acres was a comfortable living and you could do fine, Today, I look at the families that make a living out of fruit growing and it’s 60-100 acres per family. At this point, if you’re doing that somewhere with a lot of parcels, you’ve got to farm a checkerboard of parcels. If you’re doing that in the Columbia Basin or Washington State or something, you’re looking at potato ground and wheat ground and transitioning some of that over to perennial crops, you have sections to work with and you don’t deal with these small parcels. As an old district, we’re a small parcel district. There’s no way around it.”

Bruce Talbott said the year will be counted as a good one. Photo by Rachel Gabel


Labor has long been top of mind for fruit growers. Talbott said they utilize local labor in the packing shed, and they did have enough employees this year, a refreshing change from the two previous years.

“The previous two years we really really struggled to get the people we needed so it’s a little better,” he said. “H-2A is what we do in the field and that is a prescribed program and we don’t have labor problems of significance when we’re using that program because we have a huge area to pull from and we have a group of people who are very incentivized to keep us happy, and of course, we’re incentivized to keep them happy. It’s a stable, very good quality work force.”

Peaches in bins in the packing shed. Photo by Rachel Gabel

Talbott said immigration was top of mind even back in 1986 to begin the conversation for agriculture but loose ends remain today.

“We went and redid the immigration in 1986 and then again in 1992 or 93,” he said. “Everytime it came up, it was a mess because it was we have a lot of people here — they’re pseudo locals — and we need to address their status to acknowledge the reality of the situation we’ve gotten ourselves into through unlimited illegal immigration, but we’re going to give you a program so it doesn’t happen again. It never happened.”

He said the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Replacement Act in the 1990s was put in place, several rounds of amnesty were granted to workers and the government continued to promise a workable program would be crafted.

Pickers unloading peaches into bins. Talbott said the harvest was about a week later than average but the pack outs have been better than years previous. Photo by Rachel Gabel

“Well, that was 30 years ago and there’s never been a program that has come up and by in large, most of Congress agrees there needs to be a program and an improvement for ag,” he said. “The challenge has been all kinds of interest groups want to attach their interests and their social programs to a farm worker program… different things that involve people who have absolutely nothing to do with agriculture on an immigration bill. Nobody’s been willing to pay the piper and we’re not willing to add that much (unrelated content) in a farm worker bill. So, we still have no bill. I guess no one’s gone hungry yet.”

Talbott said the peach picking season is winding down but with leaf peeping season right around the corner, the agritourism in the area isn’t slowing down a bit.

Transitioning into hard ciders and wines, as well as the addition of a taproom has allowed the family tradition to continue and grow.

The next generation of Talbotts run the tap room and brewing side of the business. Photo by Rachel Gabel

“We took over for my grandpa in 1985, he was mostly apples up in that period,” he said. “It’s transitioned now to 65% peach, 30% grape, and 5% cherry and plum. At this point, I am the farm person, my brother, Charlie is the business person, my brother Nathan is the pack and process person, and David, the fourth brother, is a silent partner. But that’s who runs the business. The alcohol and retail side is all the next generation and my wife.”


As for the miles of grapevines in the area, Bruce said it’s prime time to be a wine lover.

Miles of grapevines stretch through Palisade’s orchards. Photo by Rachel Gabel

“As for the wine grapes, about 85% of our crop this year was Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Petite Sirah are the three that are really dragging their feet on production,” he said. “The local thing is kind of in balance, we’re doing pretty well, there’s always some odds and ends that end up without a home but I’m fairly enthusiastic about the year. National and international wine is overproduced at the moment. When you’ve got people excited about wine, they buy more wine, even at the grocery store.”

Though harvest is winding down, agritourism season for wine lovers and leaf peepers is gaining speed. Photo by Rachel Gabel

Talbott said industry experts are writing that the reason for the oversupply of wine now is a decrease in wine consumption.

“Drink more wine, drink more craft beer,” he said.

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