Monroe Organic Farms Brought the Greeley Wonder Musk Melon Back From Extinction | Westword

One of Colorado's Oldest Family-Run Farms Has Brought a Melon Back From Extinction

Chances are you've never heard of the Greeley Wonder musk melon, let alone seen or tasted one. But now, you can.
Kyle Monroe holding up the Greeley Wonder musk melon.
Kyle Monroe holding up the Greeley Wonder musk melon. Monroe Organic Farms
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Chances are you've never heard of the Greeley Wonder muskmelon, let alone seen or tasted one. But now this vintage fruit has made a comeback thanks to Monroe Organic Farms in Kersey, and owner Kyle Monroe and his wife, Samantha Caplan, are the farmers behind it.

"We brought it out of extinction," says Monroe, proud of the round melon, which resembles a canteloupe. "I am the only person that grows the melon, so if you want it, you have to get the seeds from me."

Monroe explains that his grandfather Gerald grew the melon on the same Weld County farmland he works today, which his family has owned since 1936. Sometime in the 1970s, his grandfather gave a cache of seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, and the food slowly faded from memory — until Monroe's parents, Jerry and Jacquie, went to the seed bank and asked about it.

Soon after, they discovered that there was also a bucket of Greeley Wonder seeds in the barn at the farm. Monroe found the storied bucket and picked out ten fifty-year-old seeds to germinate.

Against tough odds, the seeds sprouted, so he planted them all and grew the first Greeley Wonder muskmelon to exist in decades.
click to enlarge a man holding a young girl standing next to a woman in front of seedlings on a farm
Farmer Kyle Monroe with his wife, Samantha, and daughter, Delilah.
Linnea Covington

Monroe is a fourth-generation farmer in Colorado, though his family farmed three or four generations back in other states before moving to Greeley in the early 1920s and then to the current land a handful of years later. Despite that deep history, "back in high school, I did not want to do this," Monroe admits. "It's hard work, and who wants to work this hard? But now I see it as rewarding work that's appreciated, and people thank me for it."

Since his parents semi-retired two years ago, Monroe has run the certified organic, nearly-200-acre farm. He manages a small team of seven workers and plants over 130 types of fruit and vegetables. While relics of the family's farming past litter the driveway and are reminders of the past, a lot has changed over the decades, including the technology used and the climate.
click to enlarge man in front of old farm machine
Kyle Monroe in front of a machine his grandfather used to plant potatoes.
Linnea Covington
"All the equipment my parents already had, and if I didn't have the land that's been passed down, I wouldn't be farming," says Monroe, adding that for him, this isn't just a job, it's a lifestyle. "Raising my daughter on the farm that I was raised on, it's just so special."

Having generations of stories on the farm is special, too, he adds. Monroe's father, Jerry, used to host huge harvest parties on the property. His grandfather, Gerald (aka Jerry Senior), delivered fresh cucumbers to what was then known as the pickle docks by the train tracks in downtown Denver. He also started the first known version of U-Pick in Colorado. Now Monroe manages a CSA program with hundreds of full and half shares available in the winter and summer. The U-Pick still goes on, though now only CSA members have access to the perk.

There are still some CSA shares available for this season, both in half ($567) and full sizes ($773), and the U-Pick is included in the price. Overall, Monroe says, subscribers can expect ten to sixty pounds of seasonal, certified organic produce each week from mid-June through mid-October. The produce gets delivered once a week to distribution centers all over the metro area for easy pick-up.
click to enlarge farmers walking through greenhouse on sunny day
Kyle Monroe and Samantha Caplan walk through one of their green houses.
Linnea Covington

Monroe Farms also sells tomatoes, peppers, basil and other starters, as well as hanging baskets of strawberries and other tasty plants at local farmers' markets. This year it's adding flowers to the mix, and sheep, pigs and cows are being raised as part of a meat CSA add-on. 

But of all the things grown and raised on the farm, one of Monroe's favorite items to work with are the melons, in varieties like Crimson Sweet, Wilson Sweet, orange-fleshed melons and many more. By the time Monroe's three-year-old daughter, Delilah, is old enough to help her dad in field, he'll likely have added on another handful of hybrids, and maybe even something completely new or vintage, like his Greeley Wonder muskmelon.

You can find Monroe Organic Farms's stand at various farmers' markets in the metro area, including City Park Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Boulder Country Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
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