Glenwood Canyon closure impacts business for Western slope farmers

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — While King Soopers tells FOX31 Interstate 70 closures are not prompting price increases, the Glenwood Canyon closure is having a big impact on Colorado farmers during peach season. 

FOX31’S Nicole Fierro went to the South Pearl Street farmers market Sunday to learn the battle these farmers are going through to get their products to metro farmers markets.

At the Ela Family Farms tent, Japanese Shiro plum samples sucked customers in. However, the fourth-generation organic farmers sharing the fruit’s ancient tale, have an untold story themselves. 

“This year for us has probably been one of our toughest years since the early 90s,” Ela Family Farms’ Steve Ela said. “We live in Hotchkiss which is about 60 miles southeast of Grand Junction.”

With the Glenwood Canyon I-70 closures, Ela’s loses its main route to get to South Pearl Street famers market. 

“Now we have to go south and go over Monarch Pass and Salida and into Denver that way and that adds an hour and a half to two hours for us,” Ela said. “It’s already a six hour drive, so that makes its seven plus.” 

Customers learning about this setback tell FOX31 they are more thankful than ever for their local farmers.

“Just having them make the extra effort makes it important to keep supporting them,” customer James Ord said. 

This closure is just the latest setback for Ela’s. It took the farm a full year to get their apple sauce jars at three times the price due to the pandemic. Then, Mother Nature’s surprise freeze in October killed acres of their cherry and peach trees.

“Our peach crop this year is probably about 5% of normal,” Ela said. 

Ela is determined to navigate through anything to keep his family tradition alive. 

“My grandad used to bring fruit over to Denver in the 1930s from that side of the hills, so we’ve done this a long time and we want to keep doing it,” Ela said. 

Customers are helping support Ela’s by adopting trees on their website.

Boulder County Farmers Market Executive Director Brian Coppom says the closure is impacting every producer they work with on the Western slope.

“We work with six different fruit growers from the Western slope,” Coppom said. “In addition to them, there are another dozen orchards and there are going to be hundreds of small farms diversified vegetable farms, ranchers.” 

Coppom says the farmers are now forced to detour their fruit-filled trucks on narrow, two lane roads, making the process even more stressful. Farmers working with the market tell him their route is now four to 10 hours longer. 

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