It’s a crisp September morning and a harvest crew is sweeping through the Talbott family’s orchards, collecting some of the last bushels of this season’s prized Palisade peaches.

“Our story, as is the story with many of our peers across the nation in farming, is that we’re real people doing real things with Mother Nature in a manner that has to be sustainable,” said Charlie Talbott, president of Talbott Farms and an American AgCredit board member. “We’re the first on the chopping block if it’s not.”

Charlie’s family has been growing peaches, apples and other fresh fruit on the western slope of Colorado since the early 1900s. More than a century later, Talbott Farms is going strong under the direction of fourth-generation farmers Charlie, Bruce and Nathan. The brothers carry on the legacy of their father, Harry Talbott, a towering figure in the Colorado fruit industry who passed away in March.

“I enjoy working in a family business where each person has a complementary role,” said Charlie Talbott. “My passion is figuring out how we navigate through the situation that is today, the situation that is tomorrow, and be ready to survive and thrive in that environment.”

Ask Charlie and he will tell you the family’s success comes from a combination of hard work, good fortune, cooperation and an ability to embrace change. One such change has been the family’s entry into the hard cider business.

Charlie’s nephew, Charles Talbott, began brewing beer in the Marine Corps, and later with his cousin launched Talbott’s Cider Company. The craft cider company uses fresh fruit with no artificial flavors and low sugar content to produce a dry, refreshing beverage. The cider attracts visitors to the family’s store and tasting room, where they can sample a cold glass of apple, pear or peach hard cider.

“I think my military experience has brought a different level of management to the organization, and has helped us run more efficiently,” said Charles. “With the ciders we make, we want to show what American crops can produce in a beverage that gives you an entirely different experience than what you’re used to.”

Talbott Farms Cider Talbott Family members in orchard

A family legacy in growing fruit
Make no mistake – growing peaches, pears and wine grapes in this mountain microclimate is not an easy task. The cold mountain air can quickly freeze peaches and spoil an entire year’s crop, as happened in a historic freeze event in 1989 and again in 1991.

“There are many pitfalls to raising a good crop,” said Bruce Talbott, co-owner and farm manager at Talbott’s Mountain Gold. “We have weather we deal with, we have markets we deal with, we have shifting regulations. If you focus on the big picture, you’re more likely to sustain and win in this game.”

Peach from Talbott Farms Orchard

Bruce has found success recruiting and retaining a highly skilled, reliable labor force. He points to the farm’s low turnover rate and employee satisfaction, which keeps workers coming back for the eight-and-a-half week harvest each year.

Once the peaches, pears and grapes are harvested, Nathan Talbott leads the operation to sort, pack and prepare the fruit for shipment to grocery stores in Colorado and beyond.

“What I enjoy most is that we as a family have put a lot of effort into this business,” said Nathan. “To see ideas come to fruition, to build a lot of this infrastructure that’s working, that’s always been something I’ve enjoyed and will continue to do for the foreseeable future.”

Trusted partners in agriculture
Talbott Farm’s packing operation now includes an automated optical scanner, which takes high-resolution images to analyze and determine the quality of each piece of fruit, knocking aside the lower quality fruit. The family worked with American AgCredit to secure financing for the new equipment, as well as to purchase a nearby orchard property.

“I’ll never forget the relief when we found a lender devoted to agriculture that was comfortable with what we do, the seasonality of what we do and the unpredictability of the outcome,” said Charlie. “I had a secure funding source that was confident and going to be there for me. That was a big win.”

The family has worked closely with Tyler Hawkins, Vice President – Lending Manager, to finance new equipment and land purchases. Tyler grew up near the Talbott’s store in Palisade, and has over the years developed a close relationship with the family.

“I benefit from working with them, and seeing the family’s thoughtful process in a business sense but also in thinking about the family transition,” said Tyler. “Thinking about how they can get the next generation involved, and do it in the right way for the business and the family.”

Hannah and Joe Talbott are part of the next generation stepping into leadership roles within the family business, serving as retail manager and director of sales for the Talbott’s hard cider and wine operations, respectively.

“I think it’s important to know where your food comes from and how it’s produced,” said Hannah. “The customers and the people in our industry are honest, good and genuine people who understand they have to adapt and overcome new challenges. We’re keen on keeping our family’s values and keeping our land in agriculture. I love that mindset and motivation to keep this industry going.”

Talbott Farms Orchard
Harvest in Talbott Farms Orchard
Apples from Talbott Farms
Worker in Talbott Farms
Peach Tree in Orchard
Talbott Farms Apple Cider


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