ROCKY FORD, Colo. — Rocky Ford melon season is in full swing! Crews with the family farm, Hirakata Farms in Rocky Ford, have been hard at work preparing and picking fruits as harvest season gets going.
Michael Hirakata has worked at the family farm his whole life. And he’s keeping the tradition alive.
“I farm with my cousin and he’s fourth-generation also. My dad, my grandpa, and my great-grandpa started this farm a long time ago,” said Michael Hirakata.
This farm’s history has roots dating back to the 1900s. Now their crops make summer in Colorado feel complete.
“It’s good to see the work materialize right before your eyes. It’s very rewarding because you start in the spring with dirt. Bare dirt. And within a couple of weeks, three or four weeks, the plants are growing. And a few more weeks and you’re harvesting,” said Hirakata.
“It’s grown in a special area. It’s really hot, really cool at night. And usually it’s dry. The elevation makes for extremely sweet canteloupe, watermelon and honeydew,” said Hirakata.
When you see the Rocky Ford Growers Association sticker, crops are coming from Hirakata farms. They make it from the field to local stores in about 12 hours.
“We harvest about 150-acres of cantaloupe. 150-acres of watermelons and then we’ll get into our pumpkins which is about 350-acres,” said Hirakata.
Crews spend hours every day during harvest season walking through furrows, carefully not stepping on the beds growing the cantaloupe. They’re looking for ones that are turning orange and you know they’re ripe because they come right off the stem.
They use GPS technology on their tractors that’s keeps them on perfectly straight lines, protecting crop beds as crews work in the fields.
“So when we go up and down the field, we won’t run over our irrigation. It makes everything very efficient. We don’t waste diesel fuel. We have less wear and tear on the machinery,” said Hirakata.
Next the crops are sorted making sure only the best ones are going out. Then they’re carefully cleaned, cooled and packed to go to stores. They’re one in a melon and you definitely can’t just have one!