Texas Agriculture August 5, 2016 : Page 22

Family keeps cantaloupe legacy alive growing the iconic crop. “You have a passion for it. You got to do what you love. I thought I want-ed to become a coach and a teacher,” Beto said. “But there was something that just drew me back to the farm. If you like it, you never work a day in your life.” Seeds are planted in early March. About 90 days later, they’re ready to harvest. When the first few fruits start to ripen, workers walk through the fields with bags on their backs. Push-ing back the vines. And picking the good ones. Most of these first melons will end up in the family’s fruit stand, along with onions, watermelons, peppers and more. All grown on their farm. A week or two later the real har-vest begins, and everyone works to-gether to make sure the Pecos canta-loupes get from these fields to tables across the state. “Some of our workers have been coming with us anywhere from sev-en to 10-11 years or more. We treat them like family. Without customers and work hands, you couldn’t do any-By Ed Wolff Video Services Director A Lone Star legend grows in Far West Texas—the Pecos cantaloupe. This sweet sensation almost went extinct. But the Mandujano brothers didn’t let that happen. “People have known Pecos canta-loupes a long time already. It kind of went out here probably about seven or eight years ago,” Beto Mandujano said. “We started back up. We start-ed with 30-40 acres. Now we’re up to 300-plus acres.” Beto farms with two of his broth-ers, Tony and Mando, just north of Coyanosa. Together, they make up Mandujano Brothers Produce. They also grow onions and pump-kins. Although watermelons are their biggest crop, cantaloupes are their most popular. The popularity stems from the aroma and sweetness, which is what sets their melons apart. Folks travel for miles and hours just for a taste. And it’s their customers that keep them growing. “The only reason we grow canta-loupes is for our customers. There’s a big demand for them. It is one of the hardest crops to grow,” Tony said. “As long as our customers want to keep buying those cantaloupes, we’re go-ing to keep growing to get them some for the summer.” Cantaloupes were first planted around Pecos in the early 1900s. But by the turn of the millennium, most farmers had stopped. The Mandujanos were raised on their dad’s farm in Coyanosa, about 30 miles south of Pecos. Their dad bought the farm when the growers he worked for wanted to sell out. From then on, he farmed for himself. After college, the brothers came back to farm on their own in the late ’90s. A perfect time to step in. And keep the cantaloupe legacy alive. Now they are the only farmers left 22 A UGUST 5 , 2016

Pecos Fresh

Ed Wolff

Family keeps cantaloupe legacy alive

A Lone Star legend grows in Far West Texas—the Pecos cantaloupe. This sweet sensation almost went extinct. But the Mandujano brothers didn’t let that happen.

“People have known Pecos cantaloupes a long time already. It kind of went out here probably about seven or eight years ago,” Beto Mandujano said. “We started back up. We started with 30-40 acres. Now we’re up to 300-plus acres.”

Beto farms with two of his brothers, Tony and Mando, just north of Coyanosa. Together, they make up Mandujano Brothers Produce.

They also grow onions and pumpkins. Although watermelons are their biggest crop, cantaloupes are their most popular.

The popularity stems from the aroma and sweetness, which is what sets their melons apart. Folks travel for miles and hours just for a taste. And it’s their customers that keep them growing.

“The only reason we grow cantaloupes is for our customers. There’s a big demand for them. It is one of the hardest crops to grow,” Tony said. “As long as our customers want to keep buying those cantaloupes, we’re going to keep growing to get them some for the summer.”

Cantaloupes were first planted around Pecos in the early 1900s. But by the turn of the millennium, most farmers had stopped.

The Mandujanos were raised on their dad’s farm in Coyanosa, about 30 miles south of Pecos. Their dad bought the farm when the growers he worked for wanted to sell out. From then on, he farmed for himself.

After college, the brothers came back to farm on their own in the late ’90s. A perfect time to step in. And keep the cantaloupe legacy alive.

Now they are the only farmers left Family keeps cantaloupe legacy alive growing the iconic crop.

“You have a passion for it. You got to do what you love. I thought I wanted to become a coach and a teacher,” Beto said. “But there was something that just drew me back to the farm. If you like it, you never work a day in your life.”

Seeds are planted in early March. About 90 days later, they’re ready to harvest.

When the first few fruits start to ripen, workers walk through the fields with bags on their backs. Pushing back the vines. And picking the good ones.

Most of these first melons will end up in the family’s fruit stand, along with onions, watermelons, peppers and more. All grown on their farm.

A week or two later the real harvest begins, and everyone works together to make sure the Pecos cantaloupes get from these fields to tables across the state.

“Some of our workers have been coming with us anywhere from seven to 10-11 years or more. We treat them like family. Without customers and work hands, you couldn’t do anything,” Beto said. “We all have to bond together. You’ve got to have workers to harvest your cantaloupes. And you’ve got to have customers who want your product. I think we’ve got the best customers all over the place.”

Beto’s dad always raised a few cantaloupes as they were growing up. He remembers picking them as a kid alongside his brothers. Now the cantaloupes they grow are shipped all over the state. A sweet treat for the hot Texas summer.

“A lot of people say, ‘Give me some of those Pecos cantaloupe seeds so I can plant them in East Texas.’ Well, it doesn’t work like that,” Tony said. “The location we’re at—the climate, the soil and the water—that’s what makes the cantaloupe so sweet. Once you try it, you’ll never go back to the other cantaloupe.”

Though they technically don’t grow them in Pecos, they do grow them in Pecos County. Making every cantaloupe truly Pecos fresh.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Pecos+Fresh/2551940/326435/article.html.

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