Lawmaker sees value of Palisade peach as official state fruit

State Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said he plans to be a co-sponsor of legislation that would make the peach, a staple of Grand Valley agriculture, the official state fruit. Above, Robert Helmer displays a 1.5-pound peach that was picked at Noland Farms near Palisade.

DENVER — Colorado already has several state symbols, from the aquamarine as its gemstone to Colorado blue spruce as the state tree.

The state also has the Yule Marble as its state rock and the Columbine as the state flower.

And soon the Colorado Legislature is expected to approve the Claret Cup, also known as the Kingcup, as the official state cactus.

But that won’t be all.

Soon, Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, and a Denver Democrat plan to team up to introduce a bill to create the official state fruit.

The Palisade peach.

King said he realizes considering such legislation might not seem to be a serious thing for state lawmakers, but there are benefits to such things.

“Hey, if they want to make Olathe sweet corn the official vegetable, I’m all there,” King said. “The more Western Slope products and recognition that we get the better, because we have a lot of things to be able to point to.

“Yeah, to some degree it’s a little bit silly, but on the other hand you’re educating kids about the system, and as far as Palisade and the Western Slope, I question why we didn’t think of this sooner.”

The bill is to be introduced by Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver, who said the idea wasn’t hers.

Two years ago, Williams ran a bill to name the Western tiger salamander the state amphibian. Like the Yule Marble and the Claret Cup, it is the brainchild of children.

“What’s so beautiful about this story is the students that came to me from Steck Elementary in my district, the youngest one was named Nick,” Williams said. “He didn’t get a lot of play in that because he was kind of young. Nick is older now and came back to me and said, ‘OK, I’m taking the lead on this.’ “

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that peaches account for about 75 percent of all fruit production in the state, and about 75 percent of those peaches are grown in Palisade.

Additionally, peach cultivation in Colorado is a $25 million-a-year business with about 17,000 tons of the fruit produced each year, placing the state sixth in the nation in peach exports, according to the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service of 2013 Colorado ag production.

The bill points out that the annual Palisade Peach Festival has been a growing event each year, attracting more than 14,000 people in 2013.

The bill naming the Palisade prunus persica batsch the official fruit has not yet been introduced, but is expected to be in the next couple of weeks, Williams and King said.


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