History about the Rocky Ford melon begins in the 1880s. When early pioneer G. W. Swink arrived at the Rocky Ford Crossing on the Arkansas River to build a trading post.
When the railroad came, Swink moved his trading post to the present Rocky Ford townsite. He experimented with growing watermelons, and by 1891, he was growing and shipping as much as 300 tons per year.
The Rocky Ford area opened for homesteading, and word got out about the area’s perfect climate for growing incredible watermelons. More and more farmers arrived to try their hand at growing melons and building a homestead, plowing the dry prairie sod and using water from the Arkansas River to irrigate their farms.
Swink began experimenting with growing a muskmelon. A bit larger cousin to the cantaloupe that was originally grown in parts of the Middle East. The cantaloupe we know today, called the Netted Gem – was introduced in about 1887. These cantaloupes were sold to miners in Leadville, Colorado, packed in previously-used wooden shipping barrels and shipping crates. This was the beginning of shipping Rocky Ford Cantaloupes throughout Colorado.
In 1895, the first train carload of Rocky Ford Cantaloupe was sent to St. Louis in a successful experiment with out-of-state shipping. The following year, several loads were shipped to the East Coast. Within a short time, Rocky Ford Cantaloupes were being shipped as far away as New York and started appearing on menus of the city’s finest restaurants. They soon became known as World Famous Rocky Ford Cantaloupe.
In 2011, History The Rocky Ford Growers Association™ was formed to protect Rocky Ford Cantaloupe farmers. And the consumers who love the sweet and juicy melons they grow. Rocky Ford Growers Association™ member farms must produce melons. Within the boundaries of the Rocky Ford growing region: Otero County and Crowley County south of the Colorado Canal.
When you see the Rocky Ford Growers Association™ sticker on a melon. You know it has been grown and processed according to stringent, national safety procedures.