Last year was a tough year for Rocky Ford Melons. An outbreak of Listeria was linked to an eastern Colorado grower, and the implications proved to be deadly. When the dust settled, 146 people from 28 states had been infected with Listeriosis. The CDC reported that 30 consumers succumbed to the infection. The tragedy undoubtedly muddled the sterling reputation of the delicious Rocky Ford Melon, the Lower Arkansas Valley where the melons are grown, and disgraced the good name of the cantaloupe.
The regions farmers knew that a measured reaction was in order to prevent the Rocky Ford Melon from becoming extinct. On Friday, April 20th, The Pueblo Chieftain reported that proposed changes for the 2012 season include a melon farmer support network/trade association called The Rocky Ford Growers Association. Conditions for admission into this organization include a certification in good agriculture practices, (which includes various training courses on health and safety regulations,) and agreeing to a 3rd party audit from the US Department of Agriculture. The growers association has registered the trade name Rocky Ford Melon, no one outside of this organization will be able to grow, or market melons by using the Rocky Ford brand.
The Rocky Ford Growers Association has also committed to emboss a QR code on every melon it slates for retail sale. This QR code will tell consumers where the melon was grown, harvested, and prepared. The accountability ensured by this QR code is a big step, and not just a big step for the newly minted growers association, but a big step for agriculture, food sourcing, and accountability amongst business owners. The changes made by the growers association were proactive, and are prime examples of the ethical principles advocated by the BBB.
I’m just pleased that I will be able to enjoy cantaloupe from the Lower Arkansas Valley this summer. While there is no doubt that the regions farmers cannot earn back the trust of consumers overnight , the QR code and the support network show that these farmers stand by their product. Will you be enjoying a Rocky Ford Melon this summer? Share your thoughts on Facebook.