The Standard Since 1887
Our history began in the 1880s, when early pioneer G. W. Swink came to the Rocky Ford Crossing along the Arkansas river to build a trading post. When the railroad came Swink moved his trading post to the present Rocky Ford site. He experimented with growing watermelons and by 1891 he was growing and shipping as much as 300 tons per year.
When word was out that the melons were coming from Rocky Ford (by this time the Rocky Ford area had been opened for homesteading), more and more farmers started coming to Rocky Ford to take up a homestead. They plowed the dry prairie sod and used water from the Arkansas River to irrigate farms.
Before 1885 Swink had been growing a type of muskmelon, this melon was larger than a cantaloupe of those days. The Netted Gem Cantaloupe was introduced in about 1887. These cantaloupes were sold to miners in Leadville, Colorado and were packed in previously used wooden shipping barrels and used shipping crates. This was the beginning of shipping Rocky Ford Cantaloupes to distant local markets.
In 1895 the first train car load was shipped to St Louis as an experiment. The following year 1896 several train car loads were shipped out East, marking the beginning of the shipping Rocky Ford Cantaloupes to out of state markets. Within a short time Rocky Ford Cantaloupes were being shipped as far a New York and started appearing on menus of New York’s finest restaurants. They soon became known around the world as the World FamousRocky Ford Cantaloupe.
Always the Best…For Generations
Our growers have been farming the Arkansas Valley for generations. For some of us, that’s five or six generations.
In 2011, we formed the Rocky Ford Growers Association to strengthen and protect the reputation of these world famous melons. Rocky Ford Cantaloupe™ has officially been trademarked to ensure the best, and safest quality.
For our growers to label their melons as Rocky Ford Cantaloupe they must be a member of our association and produce melons within the boundaries of the Rocky Ford growing region. This growing region has now been defined as Otero County and Crowley County South of the Colorado Canal.
“This is what we do. It’s not a job or career, it’s our livelihood. We are farmers doing the best we can to provide a good, safe product that you and your customers can count on to be the best”
– Michael Hirakata, President, Rocky Ford Growers Association