a year of western colorado ag

This portfolio chronicles agriculture throughout Colorado's Western Slope in 2021.

The presentation is in chronological order beginning in January.

January snow in Gunnison County adds upon mountain snowpack that will eventually help hydrate Western Slope farms.

Winter snow blankets a peach orchard in the North Fork Valley in February 2021.

A man burns a hay field in March to help jump start grass growth. These prescribed burns are a common sight in Western Colorado around the start of spring.

Under the bright lights of the tractor, a farmer works at night to turn soil for the first time in the 2021 ag season in March outside Olathe Colorado.

The Spring Freeze


96-year-old Shirley Ela inspects peach trees at Ela Family Farms near Hotchkiss Colorado.

Ela Family Farms is a multi-generational, 114-year-old fruit operation on Rogers Mesa in Delta County Colorado. 

A string of unusually warm days followed by a nearly 70-degree overnight plunge to 3 degrees killed or seriously damaged most of the trees in Ela’s organic orchards.

The freezing temps forced the family to prepare new ground and plant new trees, abandoning the peach crop for the year.

Tractors work corn fields to prepare the soil for planting in early May in Montrose Colorado.

The first cut of hay, June.

Migrant workers weed an onion field.

In some fields, a lack of water leads to the crop being abandoned for the season.

Early feed corn plants begin to grow.

Winemaker Ricke LaNoue works with various strains of grape plants in a large vineyard of the LaNoue Dubois winery south of Montrose in June.

Dairy cows gather for feeding under the hot July sun.

A tractor works a corn field.

Migrant workers with the Tuxedo Corn Company of Olathe use hoes to weed an onion field in remote Pea Green Colorado in July.

The Colorado Legislature passed a new law guaranteeing overtime pay, a minimum wage, and sets the lengths of breaks and meals while mandating how much clean water and shade each worker must have while on the job. 

The law also prohibits the use of short-handled hoes, so-called “stoop labor” tools that have already been outlawed in Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

A scarecrow sits in a squash patch near Olathe Colorado.


A migrant worker with the Tuxedo Corn Company of Olathe tosses some of the first ears of the 2021 Olathe Sweet Sweet Corn crop from a field west of Olathe in the Pea Green.

Tuxedo Corn Company farmer and founder John Harold of Olathe checks his crop in a field west of Olathe.

A worker traverses an onion field as July monsoonal thunderstorms roll through the country.

Monsoonal thunderstorm bring the threat of wildfires along with little moisture to the Western Slope.

Kerry Mattics of Mattics Orchards stands in a row of peach trees in July.

Wildfire smoke blankets most of the entire Western Slope in August.

Wildfire smoke lingers over customers shopping at a farmers market.


Bartender of the land

Nickolas Paullus forages various plants, herbs, and other ingredients from the Western Colorado landscape to distill tinctures and build signature drinks.

Workers Kevin Andrews, and Audrey Gehlhausen use machetes to cut down vines of hops at the Billy Goat Hop Farm south of Montrose in August.

Workers with Honey Acre Farms harvest mirai sweet corn in August.

Beef cows graze in a grassy meadow in August.

Loma Colorado rancher Bryon Bernal irrigates a field for a late season crop in September.

Ears of feed corn grown by the Bernal family.

Winemaker Brandt Thibodeaux smells handfuls of fermenting grapes while mixing the skins and juice by hand in a traditional winemaking process at Aquila Cellars near Paonia Colo., in October.

Grass-fed beef is separated by age of the animal at a ranch on the Western Slope in October.

A mixture of white and yellow onions sit discarded in a field near Delta Colorado in November.

Dried feed corn ready for harvest, December.