San Luis Valley farmers hit with record breaking snow

Photo by Rebecca Copley

SAN LUIS VALLEY - After a blazing hot Labor Day weekend it was quite a shock for many around the Valley when a huge snowstorm hit on Sept. 8 and 9 piling up close to 14 inches of snow in some places. According to information found on the National Weather Service’s website the last time the San Luis Valley received such a heavy snow in September was in 1936. At that time some places in the Valley received around 10 inches of snow.

Many people had to harvest their gardens in a mad dash to save produce. Others had to cover still maturing plants in blankets and straw and hoped for the best.

For many farmers this early snow did not come at a good time. One local farmer who has been growing potatoes for 31 years had this to say, “A week ago I was kind of worried that it was a little too hot. You dig them and if they go into storage hot you can’t take the heat out of them fast enough. That was my concern a week ago now it’s can we get them dug before they freeze.” This same farmer later adding, “You get what God gives you. You get what you get, and you don’t pitch a fit.”

The snow made things very wet for potato growers and there have been concerns that potatoes may rot. Potato farmers have had to wait until after the snow cleared to start harvesting the spuds so that the fields could dry out enough for them to begin.

Darrin Mitchell who grows potatoes had already started his harvest before the snow hit. Mitchell told Valley Publishing, “I’ve been lucky enough to start earlier. I usually start pretty early so I’m about 45 percent done. But the crop looks really beautiful it’s nice size and quality looks good. The snow I think made an insulation of sorts so some of the potatoes that were closer to the surface I think were protected. I think we may be lucked out on that end of it.”

When asked if he felt there was a strong sense of urgency among farmers with freezing concerns Mitchell answered saying, “It’s always an urgency to get your crop out because you put so much money and time in it all summer. Quite an investment out there in the ground so everyone tends to have some anxiety this time of year. Especially when the weather turns that way, but I say for the most part, we’re on schedule and if the weather holds out, we should have a really pretty crop this year.”

Thankfully for many wheat, and barely, growers in the Valley they had already finished their harvest operations. For hemp growers however it was a different story. Jason Mitchell who grows hemp in the Valley said, “For the hemp it was devasting, because it broke the plants over. Broke them in half.” Mitchell later adding, “We needed 2 or 3 more weeks for it to fully produce the buds and so I’m afraid that this frost and the snow stopped that.”

Mitchell shared that before the snow it was looking really good. His crop was averaging about 8 feet tall. “It looked really nice I just needed some more time,” said Mitchell. 



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