TENACITY: Women in Conservation
Join us on March 13
Farmers and ranchers are always at the whim of nature’s caprice, and 2020 has been no exception. With the introduction of COVID-19 and the issues it has presented including the breakdown of our food supply chain, producers have been forced to deal with much more stress than normal this spring. It has been an unusual year for farming, to say the least, but farmers are a tenacious bunch, and like nature, they will endure. Below are a few updates from the lower Arkansas Valley.
As farmers, we’re always watching the snowpack and regularly following SNOTEL updates. While SNOTEL data reported last week that the Arkansas River basin was over 80%, our unusually warm and dry weather has reduced our snowpack to about 72% of average. The lower Arkansas Valley hasn’t seen much precipitation in the last few weeks, causing dry conditions and a reduction in water supplies that are impacting early-season planting.
Most of the vegetable growers we have spoken with are staying the course. H2A visa workers have begun arriving in the lower Arkansas Valley from Mexico. This is good news. These folks are very skilled workers who help plant, steward, and harvest the vegetables throughout the valley. We are proud and happy to say that, yes, there will be Pueblo chiles and Rocky Ford melons this year!
As many of you have probably read, large industrial beef plants across the country have shut down operations due to COVID-19 outbreaks. This is causing a number of problems in the lower Arkansas Valley including an increase in the supply of animals at feedlots with nowhere to take them. Ranchers are unable to market the livestock that they have been counting on to sell. In an effort to help meet the demand for quality beef, some ranchers have changed their business model and are selling directly to consumers and are finding great success. Additionally, much of the region's rangeland is drying up and is in desperate need of rain.
Our hearts go out to our farming neighbors on the Western Slope who experienced a devastating freeze on April 14 that decimated nearly 90% of their crops including our favorite Palisade peaches, cherries, and more. What a year it has been for them as well.
Despite these unprecedented and unrelenting challenges, farmers across Colorado are rising to meet them with great courage and fortitude. Farmers and ranchers are no strangers to difficulty. It’s probably why only about 2% of our current population claims to farm as an occupation. Nevertheless, like the families who came before us, we will continue to do everything we can to provide wholesome and nutritious food to our communities.
Visiting local farms with market stands in the lower Arkansas Valley is a great way to help. Not only will you enjoy healthy, fresh food and support family-owned farms, but it’s also a great way to build relationships with your local farmers and ranchers too. Every opportunity to purchase locally grown food is a courageous act toward protecting our local food supply.
Please be sure to check out Palmer’s Local Food Resource Guide to learn about the farmers and ranchers throughout southern Colorado who are available to sell their products directly to you.
Owner, Heimerich Farms
Lower Arkansas Valley Conservation Director, Palmer Land Trust