Ark Valley Farmers say they are better prepared than ever for this years melons
Large, white signs sit next to the entrance to Lusk Farms. A red “stop” sign warns visitors they “must report to office.”
“So we know exactly who is coming on the farm,” said co-owner Paul Casper.
A log book has a list of rules like “no pets” and “must be wearing shoes and shirts” above where a visitor signs. It’s a farm not a restaurant, right?
“This is a good record for us to make sure you are abiding by our food safety rules,” Casper said. “We have no room for error anymore.”
Food safety is a top priority for the farm. All workers go through food safety training. Their hands even must be washed before picking the melons from the field.
“I truly feel we are on the cutting edge in terms of food safety and the way we take care of things,” Casper said.
A group of farmers in the Arkansas Valley formed the Rocky Ford Growers Association after a Listeria outbreak two years ago that came from a farm in Holly, Colorado…90 miles away from Rocky Ford, which hurt the reputation of the brand.
“You had people before that could buy a cantaloupe from Arizona and bring it up here and call it a Rocky Ford,” Casper said.
The group not only has focused on safe growing practices, but also protecting their brand. They have trademarked Rocky Ford Cantaloupes.
“We can make sure that people, when they go to the grocery store and they pick up a Rocky Ford cantaloupe they go yeah, this is safe, I can eat this product and it’s an excellent product to begin with,” Casper said.
With a lack of water due to the drought, farmers have put their eggs into the cantaloupe cornucopia, trying to remove everything they think can go wrong with one exception.
“We’re still out here in Mother Nature and she still is the boss,” Casper said.
Another side to the hot, dry weather, farmers say the cantaloupe will be extremely tasty as they begin to be harvested in the next few days.
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