PAONIA CRAWFORD REAL ESTATE ORGANIC FOOD PAGE
COLORADO’S NORTH FORK VALLEY: A HOTSPOT FOR ORGANIC FARMS, ORGANIC GROWERS, AND ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCTION
ORGANIC FARMS, ORCHARDS, AND VINEYARDS FOR SALE
HOTCHKISS PAONIA CRAWFORD COLORADO
By Ranch Real Estate Broker Gary Hubbell © 2009 All Rights Reserved
“Locally grown biodynamic organic produce” is one of the most sought-after goals for families seeking to live a sustainable “green” lifestyle with a low carbon footprint, highly nutritious food, and lots of satisfaction. As a Colorado farm and ranch broker, I routinely get calls from people who are looking to purchase small farms and orchards so that they can live their dream of growing their own organic produce and also supply the markets with top-quality organic fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, cheese, and even grains and beef.
THE BEST LOCATION IN COLORADO FOR ORGANIC FOOD PRODUCTION
The North Fork Valley in western Colorado is one of the best locations to grow organic produce, not only in Colorado, but in the western United States. The combination of fertile soils, ample irrigation water, cool nights, lots of sunshine, a long growing season, and the right elevation make the North Fork Valley a cornucopia of abundance. The North Fork has gained renown for its outstanding fruit and wine grapes, but there are many more organic products coming from innovative growers in the North Fork Valley. Organic growers are producing honey, herbs, flowers, goat cheese, nursery plants, grains, cider, jellies and jams, melons, carrots, potatoes, basil, celery, tomatoes, garlic, pork, grass-fed beef, grass hay, oats, onions, chiles, lamb, duck, chickens, and turkeys and organic grappas, vodka, and other spirits. Wow! Makes you hungry reading about it, doesn’t it?
WHERE IS THE NORTH FORK VALLEY?
The North Fork Valley (named for the North Fork of the Gunnison River) is located about two hours to the west of both Aspen and Crested Butte. It is bounded by the West Elks mountain range to the east, the Uncompaghre Plateau to the west, the Grand Mesa to the north, and the Black Canyon to the south. Grand Junction is approximately 60 miles to the northwest and Montrose is about 60 miles to the southwest. Delta is 30 miles straight west of Hotchkiss.
At the east end of the valley, the town of Paonia is known for its beautiful fruit—cherries, peaches, apples, plums, pears, apricots, and in recent years, wine grapes. Twelve miles downriver to the west, Hotchkiss has plenty of orchards and vineyards, as well as ranches involved in raising cattle and sheep. In Crawford, to the south of Paonia and Hotchkiss, most of the agricultural production consists of cattle ranching, but there are several small produce farms and organic hay farms as well. Further downvalley in Delta and Olathe, farmers grow the world-renowned Olathe sweet corn, potatoes, a large crop of pinto beans, onions, hay and alfalfa, and truck farm vegetables, including squash, tomatoes, and pumpkins.
In years past, orchards in particular were known for using powerful pesticides to keep worms from burrowing into apples, for example. In recent years, however, growers have developed organic applications to prevent fruit damage, and many orchardists in the North Fork Valley have gone completely organic. Now, as organic produce has become ever more popular, even hay growers are getting requests for organic horse hay from horse owners who want the best for their animals.
The Valley Organic Growers Association is the largest organic farmers’ group in Colorado, and many of the members have been growing organic produce since the early 1990’s or even prior to that. At the time of this writing, there are 63 members, and you can research what they grow at www.vogaco.org.
Most of the farmers in the North Fork work on small acreages and have other sources of income. However, some of the growers work their farms full-time and that’s all they do. It’s not an easy way to make a living, but there’s a lot of support for their mission, and a great deal of satisfaction.
MARKETING COLORADO ORGANIC PRODUCE
Given the parameters of “locally grown organic produce”, the ski area markets of Telluride, Aspen, and Crested Butte are a natural venue for North Fork Valley produce. Many growers attend the local farm markets, while others have their own distribution networks set up. I can tell you this—if you’re eating at a high-end four- or five-star restaurant in Aspen or Telluride, chances are that North Fork organic produce will be mentioned at least once on the menu, whether it’s the squash in the butternut soup, the meat in the Colorado rack of lamb, the peaches in the home-made ice cream, or the heirloom potatoes. In fact, the head chef at the Little Nell Hotel in Aspen purchased an organic farm in Crawford, and runs a school for chef trainees, who intern on the farm. You can see them in the rows of squash, city kids on their hands and knees, weeding and fertilizing the plants, learning where food comes from first-hand.
Other growers work out private party deals with their customers, such as selling half a beef or a lamb to families from all over the Western Slope. Smaller, more easily shipped crops such as garlic or dried herbs, are shipped to clients all over the country.
I know one grower who packs up a refrigerated truck with beautiful vegetables and heads to the farmer’s market in Aspen on summer Saturdays. Whenever produce is not sold, he has ready buyers at several restaurants. It’s a rare occasion when the truck comes home with any saleable produce.
LOCAL RESIDENTS GET FIRST CHOICE
The beautiful people staying in $1,000-a-night luxury hotels in Aspen have access to our organic produce at premium prices in five-star restaurants; the ski-town farmers’ markets are pricey, too. However, if you live in the North Fork Valley, you can drop by your local organic farmer and order your vegetables, fruit, meat, milk, eggs, honey, jam, and wine at down-home prices. Several local farmers are involved in Community Supported Agriculture ventures, whereby people can pick up a big box of vegetables every few days.
ORGANIC FARM PROPERTIES FOR SALE
If you think organic farming is in your future—raising cattle, sheep, hay, grapes, fruit, vegetables, grain, or even something more exotic—the North Fork Valley is the place to look for property. There are many possibilities, ranging from five-acre irrigated plots to raise a nice garden, orchard, and a couple of sheep, to large ranches of several hundred acres. As you can tell, I’m big into organics, and I’ll be happy to help you in your search. Give me a call with your wish list for the ideal property, and I’ll send you several possibilities.