Local farmers know cantaloupe

Churchill County farms of all sizes supply the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival & Country Fair with melons over Labor Day weekend, the two largest being Lattin and Pioneer farms.

Rick Lattin is a longtime organic farmer who explained how the high desert is one of the biggest reasons why cantaloupes here are special. With hot days and cool nights in a desert 4,000 feet in elevation and higher, the melons receive the warmth they need but also cooler temperatures that foster a higher sugar content.

Lattin added that the varieties farms offer play a part too. For example, Sarah’s Choice or Hearts of Gold cantaloupes are sweet but have a short shelf life. So through the festival and farmers markets, residents and tourists can enjoy these more rare heirloom varieties not always shipped to stores.

“You don’t get a melon picked a month ago,” Lattin said of the carefully vine-ripened cantaloupes soon to be offered at the annual festival.

Jane Moon, executive director of Tourism and Special Events for Fallon, said the festival is part of the city’s effort to support the farm-to-table movement, preparing healthy and complete meals supplied by local growers.

“There has always been kind of a reputation about the heritage, awareness and pride in growing heirloom type cantaloupe and other produce from our area,” said Moon, who learned of the festival while living in Las Vegas. “It’s well-known throughout our state.”

Lattin said Sarah’s Choice is their bestselling melon at the festival and outside it, and Hearts of Gold is always the troublesome one to ripen perfectly. Other cantaloupes will be offered at the event such as the sweet, aromatic and disease-resistant Caribbean Gold and the new seed-hybrid Infinite Gold, which has a longer shelf life yet can retain its sweetness. Plus, there will be honeydew, canary melons and different kinds of watermelon.

“It’s not just a cantaloupe festival,” Lattin said. “Any kind of melon goes.”

The farmer shared how with a drought such as in recent years, it’s difficult to grow melons if a farm hasn’t converted to a low water use system, which both Lattin and Pioneer have done. Almost all Lattin’s crops are watered with drip irrigation.

“What we do is we save what water we have and use it on the more profitable crops like the melons and not alfalfa,” he said. “Every other day they get a little shot of water. They’re all on a little tape that has an emitter every 12 inches, right around the plant roots. We can get by with half the water we would normally use.”

Freshly picked sustainable fruits and vegetables will be available at the festival Sept. 2-5 at the Churchill County Fairgrounds. It will be open Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to midnight and Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The weekend also includes a parade, junior rodeo, mud volleyball tournament and an opening night concert by country star duo Love and Theft. Festival admission is $5 (ages 10 and older) and pre-purchased weekend passes are $10. Parking is free.

Visit www.FallonCantaloupeFestival.com or www.Facebook.com/CantaloupeFest for more information including how to participate. Call 775-294-7969 or email falloncantaloupefestival@gmail.com with questions.


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