About 95 acres of cantaloupes from Colorado’s Rocky Ford region were destroyed in a hailstorm July 16.
That’s a significant chunk of the roughly 600 acres planted this year, said Michael Hirakata, sales director for Hirakata Farms and chairman of the Rocky Ford Growers Association.
“We planted extra this year to expand our markets, but that’s gone now,” Hirakata said. “Volume will be about what it was last year, which is decent.”
The July 16 storm also destroyed about 15 acres each of watermelons and honeydews, Hirakata said.
Rocky Ford growers began harvesting cantaloupes July 21. Fruit size should be average or slightly larger than average, flavor excellent and overall quality good this year, Hirakata said.
Rocky Ford growers continue to fight to regain market share lost after the deadly 2011 listeria outbreak traced to Holly, Colo.-based Jensen Farms, Hirakata said.
“Demand in-state is great. We still have some work to do out-of-state.”
Growers are working on plant upgrades, establishing best practices and taking other steps to restore consumers’ faith in Rocky Ford melons, Hirakata said.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us.”