SCROLL DOWN TO SEE TIMELINES
We grow over 55 varieties of organic tree fruits—cherries, peaches, pears, apples, plums, plus organic grapes and multiple varieties of organic heirloom tomatoes.
Our pride and delight is letting the fruit ripen in the field, so the fruits we bring to you are notably juicy, complex, and richly flavorful.
Our business is built on flavor, environmental stewardship, quality, local food we can all believe in, and building relationships.
Today, we are a 4TH generation, certified organic family farm. The land has been conserved in perpetuity and will remain agricultural, open green space.
We only sell what we grow—from fresh fruit to artisanal organic jams, jellies, fruit butters, sauces, dried fruits, and cider.
Steve is very involved in organics, in research, and in promoting the Colorado fruit industry.
Currently serving on the National Organic Standards Board, Steve brings his experiential and soil science background to represent organics as a family farmer, helping set organic policy for our nation. He is on the board and past president of the Valley Organic Growers Association. In the past he also served as President of the Western Colorado Horticultural Society, served on the Colorado Agriculture Commission, served on the board and was President of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, was on the Advisory Boards of the Western Integrated Pest Management Center and the Colorado Specialty Crops Program, was Chair of the Orchard and Pest Disease Management Conference, and serves on numerous local boards and organizations. Steve is active in organic tree fruit research and has helped to organize two major national organic tree fruit research symposiums. Additionally, Colorado State University has conducted numerous organic research and insect research projects on our farm. His two children, Will and Adair, are growing up on the farm and can be found helping at farmers markets, in the packing shed, with gift packs, and other farm jobs.
Jen grew up in a small town in Iowa surrounded by cornfields and small family farms. She earned a Biology degree from theUniversity of Colorado Boulder and lived out her dream of being a market farmer in Paonia, CO where she met the Ela family. Her dream of working in environmental business is fulfilled working for Ela Family Farms. Her work feeds her passion for preserving the small family farm, sustainable agriculture, plant life and business. With over 18 years of retail management experience, her position with Ela is an organic fit.
The son of a banker who grew up in the town of Grand Junction, Bill spent some of his early working years with fruit in Palisade. He did both orchard work (some even on stilts) and packing shed labor. During World War II he served as a navigator in the Navy, thus his love of stargazing on those clear, dark nights on the farm. After graduating from Harvard with his law degree, Bill returned to Grand Junction to practice. Every modern farm seems to need some family member making an outside income. Bill filled that role through his law work and then by serving as a Colorado District Court Judge. After retirement, he worked as a professional arbitrator and mediator. Bill believed in working to better the community and was instrumental in helping establish community corrections programs and in developing river front trails along the Colorado River through Grand Junction. At home, he volunteers as a helping hand and has helped dig, plant, pack and pick fruit. He knew all too well which end of a shovel is up and could be seen practicing that art any time of year. Bill passed away on September 1, 2016.
By the 1930’s Nelson and his brother-in-law Earl were making weekly trips to Denver to market their fruit. They would work with their crew picking fruit all day, load up the truck and drive to Denver during the night. They would drop off their load, turn around and get home in time to pick more fruit and make more deliveries.
The trip to Denver was not easy. There was no road between the Vail area and Frisco, nor was Loveland Pass a main road. There were two choices when driving to Denver; one was to take Tennessee Pass to Leadville and Fairplay and then drive over Kenosha Pass into Denver. The second choice was to drive to Kremling and take Berthoud Pass and Clear Creek Canyon into Denver. Either choice meant gravel roads and slow going. Nelson’s daughter Shirley (my mother), who accompanied her dad on these trips, remembers waking up to have breakfast in Fairplay. She also remembers the men throwing rocks behind the wheel of the truck on steep grades to make sure it didn’t roll back down the hill!
Until 1936, much of the labor of fruit growing was done with a team of horses. This included spraying with hand hoses and digging irrigation furrows. The team was trained to obey voice commands, so the person spraying could vocally tell the team to move forward, turn or stop without having to stop spraying. My mother remembers a very sad day when her dad’s team had to be sold to help pay bills.
Worms were a constant battle in the fruit. Apples were often sorted as clean, one worm and two worm apples. Nelson used to guarantee his fruit – he would jokingly tell people that if they bought a one worm apple and it didn’t have a worm to bring it back and he would exchange it for an apple with a worm. Arsenate of lead was the only spray available to help control the worms. This was applied with a hand held hose and the growers, equipment and horses would be covered with it. While only marginally effective, it was the only choice at that time. Ironically, the spray would stick to the fruit so much that at harvest, the apples would have to be run through a sulfuric acid bath to get the arsenate of lead off before they were washed and packed.
There were difficult years and good years in the fruit business. Nelson survived near bankruptcy by working off the farm as well as selling his fruit in many venues. He mined uranium for many years to help pay off debts. Uranium from the area he mined eventually made its way into the Manhattan Project. Nelson and Lois had four children and through his hard work, Nelson was able to support his family and provide enough for Lois to live on long after his death in 1964. His love of kids and close-knit family led their two surviving children to move near them.
While the trees bore well, spring seasons of cold temperatures and frost were a concern. One particularly bad year saw fruit crops in the whole valley wiped out–including my great grandparents. To make ends meet, Frank worked hauling gravel and lumber with his horse and team.
During good fruit years, not a piece of fruit went to waste. Fruit left unsold was dried on the roof of the house for winter use. Each year, my great grandfather’s mother would come from Iowa, staying two to three months to help with harvest and to dry fruit. After harvest, she would return to Iowa by train accompanied by a large trunk containing cotton sacks of dried fruit.
A Burns daughter, Lois, grew up in the fruit business and married Nelson Newton Phillips. Nelson's family, the Phillipses, were from Boulder Colorado and had also grown fruit there. While my great grandfather was the one who first planted fruit trees in western Colorado, it was Lois and Nelson Phillips who ushered in fruit growing as our family knows it today. These first generations also started the family tradition of working together in business which continues today. Their first business was called Triangle Fruit.
You must be logged in to post a comment.