It’s hard to believe we’re already at the end of another Rocky Ford growing season. The last of the crops are coming in daily from the fields, mostly big, cheery orange pumpkins. The up-before-dawn days of summer planting and harvest are giving way to cooler weather and a slower pace as the kids head back to school and fall settles in, bringing another successful season to a close.
This year, the member farms of the Rocky Ford Growers Association were blessed with almost perfect melon-growing weather: hot, dry, and very few hailstorms- our biggest enemy. Farming is always a challenge, and we worked hard this year to manage an especially difficult drought year.
We use fresh mountain snowmelt from the Arkansas River to water our crops, but not in the way you might think. In the spring when runoff is the highest, we pump our allotment of water into underground aquifers: storage for later in the summer when the river is low and the sun is at its hottest.
When we do irrigate, we manage every drop of water carefully. Buried drip lines put water directly under the plants’ roots so we don’t waste a drop. Each row is also covered by a layer of mulch that reduces evaporation and protects the roots of the plants from the intense heat.
Sometimes, we use 3rd party consultants to inspect our crops, giving an outside opinion on what the fields need: protection from pests? a bit of fertilizer? nothing but time in the Colorado sun? As farmers, we know that every drop of unnecessary water or application of unneeded fertilizer wastes money. It’s not good for our crops and it’s not good stewardship of our resources.
This season, the great growing weather helped us bring in about two million Rocky Ford Cantaloupe, almost a million watermelons, and about 150,000 honeydew. All of our member farms grow other crops in addition to melons, from chiles to pinto beans, squash to corn, onions to cucumbers. This year’s hot weather and perfect growing conditions led to some of the sweetest, most incredible melons in recent memory.
As we close out the successful 2018 season, we take a moment to reflect on our gratitude for our friends and neighbors throughout Colorado who make our family farms possible. It is our pleasure and life’s work to grow the Rocky Ford Cantaloupe, Watermelon
Until next season- the family farmers of the Rocky Ford Growers Association