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It’s been a crazy spring all over the world, but Colorado’s Western Slope got hit with something else: a late season frost the likes of which haven’t been seen in over 20 years. In Hotchkiss and Paonia, temperatures got down to 14 degrees. Palisade got down to the low 20’s but their fruit was almost entirely in bloom, a recipe for disaster. We headed to the areas last week to check in with our growers and see how they were managing.

Bird Kite

Our first stop was the first grower we ever bought fruit from back in 2014. A bird-deterring hawk was flapping in the wind. It seemed to have minimal effect as our grower told us all he was doing that day was trying to keep the birds out of his field. “I think I’ve got just about every bird in Colorado here on my cherries this morning,” he said.

Bird Speakers
Another tactic they used was a speaker system. These speakers make digital distress calls and predator sounds to keep the birds away. The unique random modes create the illusion of several birds in distress throughout the protected area. With most growers in the areas with less than normal fruit, birds seemed to be a bigger nuisance than normal to growers who had fruit.
Cherry Variety Discussion

We spoke about how this grower seemed to survive most of the late season frost and had a decent cherry crop. We saw some of our favorite variates like Benton growing thick.

Cherry Varieties on Trees

They also had some varieties we’ve never tried before, so we’re excited about that. We even have some processing ideas how we can get more, deeper flavors out of the fruit. Getting to try my first Colorado fruit of the season almost brought a tear to my eye.

This grower even had some peaches, nectarines and plums make it through as well. Paonia and Hotchkiss are a couple weeks behind Palisade when it comes to bloom.
Walking in orchard

We then headed to Palisade to check in with a few growers there. Things got depressing fast. A grower that we got over 20,000 pounds of fruit from last year got completely wiped out. Not just of apricots and cherries. But everything. Every peach, plum and nectarine. We brought them beer that used their fruit.

We finished with a grower who has some peaches and pluots, so that at least brings us some hope for the 2020 fruit season. Cheers!

-Troy Casey