I am writing to encourage support for the North Fork Alternative Plan that has been submitted to the Bureau of Land Management as part of their Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision for our area. I am a fourth generation western Colorado fruit grower.
We have grown fruit in the North Fork Valley for 26 years and have been 100% certified organic for 13 years. As tree fruit growers, we have invested heavily in the long-term sustainability and viability of our farm. This includes planting new trees, upgrading irrigation systems, installing frost protection equipment and investing in market development. These are all investments that are long term and take years to pay off. These are all investments that support the economy of our valley — we have paid millions of dollars in payroll and brought millions of dollars into the local economy from fruit sales. Our neighbors have done the same. This only works if we are able to guarantee to our customers the quality and integrity of our fruit and the way in which we grow that fruit. Our customers from the Front Range visit our farm. They see what it takes to produce their fruit and they spend money in our local economy. They see for themselves the quality of our natural resources and the integrity that brings to our growing of their fruit.
I support the alternative plan since it recognizes that protecting the areas directly around our valley is important to the viability of our communities, agriculture and tourism economies. It creates protections for our water supplies, our air quality and our land. It does not preclude energy development — it just directs that development to appropriate areas. Energy development is already occurring on the slopes of the Grand Mesa and on the mesas surrounding us. The plan does not affect that development. The plan does help to protect the investments I have made in our farm and in our community. It does help me make long-term decisions about the riskiness of investments in more trees, more marketing and more infrastructure.
I realize everyone has different opinions about the oil and gas industry and fracking. While many claim that there are no issues with fracking, there are numerous documented instances of spills, leaks and contamination. For my business, it only takes one problem to jeopardize everything we have invested in and worked for. As a certified organic grower, we have to document that our water supplies are clean and that there are no other sources of contamination to our fruit. In addition, the new food safety rules that will soon take effect increase the oversight and documentation required to show that we are providing a safe and clean product. We have to document the source and safety of our irrigation water and we have to mitigate any potential contamination from air or water. The protections in the alternative plan help me to have confidence that the testing and practices written into our organic certification and food safety plans are protecting the quality of our fruit and ensuring the safety of our food supply.
The bottom line is that we are investing in our economy and our community for the long term. I would hope the community would return that support by helping to protect the resources that allow us to grow some of the best fruit in the nation. Please support the alternative plan and the protections it gives to our local communities and our local farms. Agriculture is here for the long term and will always be a mainstay of this area. Why would we want to take any chances with this important contributor to the vitality of our area?
Ela Family Farms