First stop, Knapp's Farm Market.

Late afternoon is a busy time at Knapp’s Farm Market on Highway 50 west of Rocky Ford, but it’s because all the bins need to be restocked to welcome late afternoon after-work shoppers. All the produce marked “homegrown” is picked the day it is sold, said owner-operator Gail Knapp. The squash, cucumbers and peppers looked especially fresh on Tuesday afternoon. Knapp shooed the reporter away from the tomatoes. “Those are not homegrown,” she said. “It’s too early for the homegrown tomatoes.”

The reporter got very curious about the kinds of cantaloupes. “Most of what we are selling here now are short-season varieties,” said Knapp. The reporter asked about hybrids, thinking of the Rocky Sweets, which are a cross between cantaloupe and honeydew melons. “All of our melons are hybrids,” said Knapp, “some just mature more quickly.”

The reporter noticed the dove melons as well as the Rocky Sweets and started asking some more detailed questions. “There’s a reason we’re successful, and it’s that we don’t tell all our secrets,” said Knapp. Most of the melons do not come to the stand, but go directly to Hirakata’s packing sheds, to be cleaned and packed for the grocery stores. She told the reporter to go down to the field and see the whole picture.

“We start every morning at six,” said Knapp. “Go down to the field near the lumber store and see the whole operation, between 8, 8:30 and 9.” The reporter did so. The field is on County Road 21, and a person can see the whole operation. Careful of the big machinery moving in and out.

The reporter saw Brian Knapp there, directing the picking. Cantaloupes are hand-picked and put onto a conveyor belt emptying into a farm wagon. Did not look like an easy summer job, but at least it’s done early in the morning before it gets really hot.