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Jul 14, 2012 5:52 PM by Lacey Steele

Rocky Ford Growers excited for melon season

Rocky Ford melons hit grocery store shelves Friday and were quickly selling out.

It's a sigh of relief for growers who were hit hard last year by a listeria outbreak linked to Jenson Farms in Holly.

In all, 30 people died and nearly 150 others were sickened in 28 states.

Growers have adopted new measures they say will keep people safe.

The hot and dry weather means cantaloupes are early this year.

"We all got a head start on getting our stuff in the field," said Gail Knapp, co-owner of Knapps Farm Market.

A listeria scare last year did not come from Rocky Ford, but it did cause sales to drop.

This year, things are different.

"We're trying to be proactive," said Knapp.

Several produce farmers are now part of the Rocky Ford Growers Association, which only allows those in who follow the by-laws and trademark their melons.

"So it was decided that all of the growers would commit to being trained in GAP, which is Good Agricultural Practices," said Knapp.

Plus, they have to submit to an audit during each growing season.

"To make sure that they were doing things properly, and if there were any problems, to get them addressed before their product went to market," said Knapp.

The scare still worried some.

"There were a lot of questions, but people seem to be getting past that," said Knapp. "Now they're just grabbing as quickly as they can, especially today, the response has been tremendous."

Now at the market, not including their commercial sale, they go through six to 12 bins a day.

Many shoppers at the market say they're excited to buy the sweet melons, and they aren't nervous about the purchase at all.

Apparently a lot of others agree.

Rocky Ford melons went on sale in grocery stores on Friday, and they're quickly selling out.

"We were very concerned about the safety issue, and we wanted the public to have confidence in our melons and know that we're doing everything we can to produce a safe and quality product," said Knapp.

Aside from Knapps Farm Market, you can find Rocky Ford Melons at King Soopers and City Market, and in about a week they will be shipped to Safeway, Walmart, and Whole Foods.

 

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