Sun August 19, 2012

Rocky Ford Melon Growers Rebound

Nearly a year after tainted cantaloupes from southeast Colorado sickened hundreds and caused a nationwide melon scare, farmers in Rocky Ford say they're having a strong season.

This year's crop is smaller, with less than half the acreage in cantaloupes compared to last year. Farmers only planted about 30% of their usual crop unsure of how consumers would respond to this year’s melons. Growers say melon prices are up significantly, likely due to the smaller crop.

Many farmers recently banded together to brand the Rocky Ford cantaloupes and established the Rocky Ford Growers' Association. That group has spent nearly $1 million in safety upgrades and the farmers say their efforts have paid off and they can't keep melons on shelves.

Colorado’s cantaloupe industry typically brings in $8 million a year.

Last fall’s deadly Listeria outbreak killed 30. The outbreak was traced to Jensen Farms, a processing facility the later filed for bankruptcy, located 90 miles east of Rocky Ford.

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