Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Visits Palisade - Announces Awards for Farms (The Daily Sentinel)

Nathan Deal
June 15, 2024
Representative of Rancho Durazno
Photos Curtesy of The Daily Sentinel

PALISADE — When Thomas Cameron began farming as a seasonal peach picker in Palisade, he worked alongside crews primarily composed of Spanish-speaking migrants from Mexico and Central America. That’s why, when he started his own farm, he named it Rancho Durazno, which is Spanish for “peach farm.”

“(Spanish-speaking migrants) continue today to do the majority of that hard labor to produce the peaches here in our valley and across the United States,” said Rancho Durazno co-owner Gwen Cameron, Thomas’ daughter.

Rancho Durazno on Friday hosted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who spoke about U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) efforts and programs to improve the working conditions and treatment of migrant farm workers across the nation.

Vilsack announced that the USDA was awarding $50 million to 141 farms in 40 states and Puerto Rico through the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program (FLSP Program), which aims to improve the country’s food supply chain by addressing agricultural labor challenges and instability, strengthening protection for farm workers and expanding legal pathways for labor migration.

“I think I can make the case that this is a day in celebration of nutrition security because of the fruits and vegetables that are being produced and other farm products that are being produced through the hard work of farm workers and farmers across the country,” Vilsack said. “I think this is a day that acknowledges the important role of the USDA working in partnership with farmers to address the challenges of climate change and to ensure there is ample fruit and vegetable production in this country. I think it’s a day where we acknowledge the equity that’s at stake here.”

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack

The USDA and Rancho Durazno share the same mission, as Rancho Durazno last summer became the first Colorado farm to join the Fair Food Program, a human rights movement that emphasizes accountability and cooperation to raise the bar for the treatment of farm workers who drive the nation’s fruit, vegetable and dairy production.

Rancho Durazno received $100,000 from the USDA on Friday for its participation in the FLSP Program, which will only further encourage the farm to pay close attention to the needs of its workers. Multiple Spanish-speaking farm workers with the ranch provided their own testimonies before Vilsack spoke.


In addition to Rancho Durazno, 10 other Colorado farms and farmers, including a small handful on the Western Slope, were awarded:

The Western Colorado Producers Association in Olathe received $1.2 million;

Bookcliff Farms in Palisade received $100,000;

Colorado Vineyard Specialists in Palisade received $200,000;

Topp Fruits in Hotchkiss received $100,000.;

Aspen Moon Farm in Longmont received $400,000;

Black Cat Farm in Longmont received $400,000;

Fitch Ranch in Parshall received $200,000;

Jace Ficken in Kirk received $200,000;

KB Custom Ag Services in Ault received $720,000;

Red Wagon Organic Farm in Longmont received $100,000.

USDA awards to Colorado farms totaled $3.72 million, with just over 32% of those awards going to the Western Colorado Producers Association. These dollars will help fund the worker-driven Social Responsibility Enhancement Project, which will improve working conditions and worker protections, increase resources for more than 200 farm workers, and secure local food production with “a strong and consistent labor force”, per a USDA release.

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