A long stretch of rainy days in the middle of harvest season for Rocky Ford cantaloupe is forcing farmers in southeast Colorado to bring in their famous crop at irregular hours.
Each day, Rocky Ford Growers Association President Michael Hirakata says he is having to wait for the ground to be dry enough for his tractors.
“It rains a little every evening and early morning, so we have to wait until the fields dry,” Hirakata said. “We are just working really funny hours. It's not normal. Nothing is consistent, so we're kind of harvesting off the cuff so to speak."
And all the extra rainwater is not good for the fruit itself.
"The crop is staying greener longer because it's not getting enough heat units to stay ripe,” Hirakata said. “So we're not harvesting as much as we should."
Rocky Ford cantaloupe farmers typically have a two-to-three month period between mid-July and early September to harvest the melons.
Hirakata says to have this much rain this time of year is very unusual.
"We've been growing these as long as I can remember, and like I said, I'm 47. My dad, he grew them. We've been farming in this area since 1915. You know, in all the years I've been farming, I've never seen it do this," Hirakata said. "We have already lost some of our yield. We're not at too big of a loss yet, but if it keeps raining, that number will grow each day."
Although this year’s crop may be smaller, the price should remain stable.
Hirakata says the price for Rocky Ford cantaloupe is typically set at the beginning of the season.
The melons are usually still available in grocery stores through August and into early September.