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Purdue Extension helping IN melon farmers

Indiana melon farmers are trying to better understand Food and Drug Administration requirements in preparations for upcoming inspections later this year. The FDA plans to inspect all cantaloupe operations nationwide in response to a pair of bacterial outbreaks.

More than two dozen farmers gathered this week at a farm in Vincennes to talk about what they say is an uncomfortable but necessary topic—how to prevent food borne illness.

In 2011, a listeria outbreak originated from a melon farm in Colorado and last year salmonella was traced back to cantaloupes at Chamberlain Farms in Owensville, Indiana.

That’s prompting the FDA to inspect all melon farms this year and Purdue Extension Educator Scott Monroe says his organization is trying to help growers prepare by hosting a series of preparatory workshops.

“Our goal is to help these guys to do everything they can on their individual farms to make sure we’re dropping that risk as much as possible to produce the most safe and wholesome product that we possibly can.”

At the workshops growers learn about how FDA inspections are conducted and how to better prepare their packinghouses for the upcoming harvest.

Brad Wonning is a cantaloupe farmer in Vincennes and says growing quality crops is not just a matter of public safety – it’s also a matter of heritage.

“We don’t want this industry to die. It would easy to just quit growing them and not do that, but we don’t want to do that. We have a lot of pride. Our grandfathers and great grandfathers did this, so we’re not ready to give up the ship yet.”

The 2007 Census of Agriculture shows Indiana had 8,037 acres of land devoted to growing cantaloupe, honeydew melon and watermelon. The data shows 428 farms grew the produce that year.

Reporter Gretchen Frazee and producer Rachel Morello work at WFIU Radio in Bloomington, IN.

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