Farmers scale back on planting Pueblo chiles

Farmers scale back on planting Pueblo chile

PUEBLO, Colo. - Farmers are beginning to plant Pueblo chiles, but they say they're going to have to sacrifice other crops to make sure the water they do have is enough to grow the famous chile.

Shane Milberger, owner of Milberger Farms, grows 50 types of vegetables. None, he says, is more important than Pueblo chile.

"Just look around, I mean everything has to do with Pueblo and Pueblo chile. It's like Rocky Ford and cantaloupe. They go hand in hand," Milberger said.

Milberger is making do with 60 percent less water than what he had last year. After the state pulled water from his wells, his only source is the Bessemer irrigation ditch. "We've been in the droughts before but this in my opinion, this is the worst one I've seen," he said.

Growing season is just getting started but restaurants, like Sunset Inn, are already preparing for prices to go up. Bill Chavez, a cook at Sunset Inn, says the owner orders more than 90 bushels of chiles every year.

"Last year it went up $2 a bushel and since the drought was kinda bad last year and it's worst this year," Chavez added, "I'm sure it's gotta go up."

If restaurants do have to raise their prices, that won't stop customers, like John Walker, from paying more. "It's so good," he said.

"If all of us farmers out here could raise a good crop and maybe get a bumper crop, I would think that the price would be the same as last year," Milberger said. "If we get any bad weather on any one farmer out here, then expect for the prices to possibly go up."

As a result of the drought, Milberger is growing 30 acres of chiles this year, compared to the 50 acres he grew last year.

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