The agriculture industry plays a significant economic role in the Pueblo area, home to successful farms, thriving farmers markets, including the Pueblo Farmers Market and the Kaiser Permanente Riverwalk Farmers Market, and a growing population focused on consuming fresh, locally grown foods.
“Pueblo County’s mineral-rich soil, the excellent quality of the water from the Pueblo Reservoir and the area’s climate – hot days, cool nights and cold winters that kill insects – lead to high-quality crops,” says Dan Hobbs, owner and operator of Hobbs Family Farm in nearby Avondale. “Being in an agricultural community that has a long history and tradition in farming is really important, too. Plus, we have great access to market because we’re near Interstate 25, and we have access to the whole Front Range of Colorado.”
Pueblo’s Agricultural Landscape
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s most recent data, from 2012, Pueblo County comprises nearly 900 farms comprising more than 895,000 acres. While many of the farms produce Pueblo’s famous green chile peppers, area farmers also grow pumpkins, winter squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, alfalfa, corn and dried beans.
“Water availability from the Pueblo Reservoir and irrigation systems has helped our crop production tremendously,” says Tom Laca, agriculture and natural resources agent for the Colorado State University (CSU) Extension in Pueblo County.
In addition to its acres of fertile farmland, Pueblo is home to successful youth agriculture programs that are preparing the area’s next generation of farmers. The county includes the CSU Extension 4-H in Pueblo County, which is open to kids in grades K-12, as well as two FFA chapters – one at Pueblo County High School and one at Rye High School.
“We have several clubs in Pueblo County, but our biggest project area that involves agriculture is livestock projects,” says Devin Engle, 4-H youth development agent for the CSU Extension in Pueblo County. “Within that, we have cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry and rabbit projects, and kids can show their livestock at the county fair and other events.”
Niche Crop Production in Pueblo
Although it isn’t as well known as other Pueblo crops, garlic grows well in the area. Located on 30 irrigated acres, the Hobbs Family Farm is one of the county’s top garlic producers, growing between nine and 11 varieties of certified organic garlic annually on four to five acres. The farm produces both culinary and seed hardneck and softneck garlic.
“Through trial and error, we’ve selected the garlic varieties that do best with our farming conditions here in Pueblo County,” Hobbs says.
The Hobbs Family Farm also grows carrots, cucumbers, lettuce and potatoes, as well as open-pollinated vegetable seeds such as arugula, eggplant, okra and fennel for market growers and home gardeners.
The greenhouse horticulture industry also is on the rise in Pueblo, with Dutch greenhouse company KUBO laying the groundwork for a large operation. Ultimately, KUBO will lease its sustainable, closed greenhouses to companies that grow tomatoes, and those tomatoes will be sold to end users with which KUBO has contracted.