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Great year for Rocky Ford cantaloupes

ROCKY FORD — It’s been hot and dry across the Lower Arkansas Valley this summer.

That’s perfect weather for the world-famous Rocky Ford cantaloupe. And this year, growers are serving up the sweetest treat in years.

“Our harvest is going well this season. The quality is really good — real sweet cantaloupe,” said Gail Knapp of Knapp Farm Market just west of this city famous for its melons.

“The watermelon is sweet also.”

Knapp said plenty of locals mixed with out-of-state motorists to purchase melons at the family fruit stand.

The Knapps opened their market July 7.

“We couldn’t ask for better as far as the traffic we are getting here,” Knapp said.

Eric Hanagan, whose family has been growing the precious commodity for more than 100 years, also said his crop is the best he’s had for several years.

“The weather conditions have been great. We haven’t been getting rain, so it improved our quality. The hot and dry weather increase our sugar content,” said Hanagan, a Swink farmer.

“The consumers seem to be pleased with the flavor and the quality of the cantaloupe and they are always excited for the first of the season.”

The melon season usually stretches from the latter part of July through September.

Glen Hirakata of Hirakata Farms southeast of Rocky Ford, said he got a little bit of a later start with his melon crop this season.

“There was a cooler spring, but harvest started about 10 days ago,” Hirakata said.

“But the quality is excellent. We’ve been fortunate to not have too much bad weather.”

Hirakata’s melons are available at King Soopers stores across Colorado. Plenty of people were buying them Saturday at the store on Pueblo’s South Side.

“They are very sweet and perfect for a picnic, one customer said.

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