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Penrose apple farmers turned winemakers to survive

Fewer apple orchards are left in Penrose, as growing the crop becomes harder due to the climate
Many former orchard owners gave up when apple trees continued dying off
Posted at 7:17 PM, Oct 19, 2021

PENROSE — Penrose recently celebrated its 87th annual Apple Day, but Jenkins Farms says the amount of apples on the orchard's trees this year was nothing to celebrate.

“Our fruit picking season lasted a total of four weekends, which is nice, but it doesn’t help the rest of the year when all the bills are coming in,” said Justin Jenkins, owner and operator of the family-run business.

Jenkins previously stated he is one of the few apple farmers left "crazy" enough to continue trying every year, as more and more apple trees die off.

“When I was a kid there were orchards everywhere. There was always little small orchards kind of spread out through town."

Jenkins says with dryer conditions over the last several years and an occasional dramatic cold-snap early into fall, the unstable conditions can be too much on the trees.

"Drought conditions mean dry air, dry air heats quickly and it cools quickly, so if we’re warming, we can get these hotter temperatures followed by really cold temperatures at night, depending on the weather pattern, which is not great for farmer's crops,” explained Meteorologist Sam Schreier.

To help make a more sustainable revenue, Jenkins says he and roughly eight other nearby orchards have turned to making apple wine.

“Our biggest push for this is just sustainable agriculture,” said Jenkins.

He reached out to Jeff Stultz, the Winemaker at the Winery at Holy Cross Abbey in Canon City, for help learning how to make wine.

“I was so stoked cause he really didn’t know anything about making wine and he was like - This is what I want to do, will you help me do it?... And I immediately said 'Yes',” said Stultz.

Instead of competing among one another, Stultz says he wants to do everything he can to ensure the small, farm-run orchards nearby are successful.

“We want this area to grow, we want for it to become a wine destination,” said Stultz.

Jenkins Farms now has a tasting room on-site and hope to keep it open year round.

The encourage everyone to explore all of the new wineries Penrose and Fremont County have to offer.