TAMPICO – For the Mitchell family, August is the month of melons.
For 50 years, the Mitchells have been raising and selling the sweet, juicy crops, making Mitchell Melons a destination during the brief but bountiful harvest.
With fresh-from-the field watermelon, cantaloupe, and sensations (a variety of cantaloupe), the Mitchells have created a niche market that draws visitors daily.
The Mitchells also grow corn and soybeans at the farm at 5549 Luther Road, but “melons are our livestock,” he said.
Midwestern summers and marketing are the biggest challenges during the brief season, which is “labor intensive” and dependent on the weather.
The hope is for a 40-day selling season, or at least one that lasts through Labor Day.
“We always set goals, even if we’re not sure we can make it,” Doug Mitchell said.
This year, Mitchell hired a small crew of college students to help out in the fields.
“They are phenomenal. My job is a whole lot easier if I have good people working hard,” he said.
Doug also credits the season’s success to the five generations of family members who devote many hours of their August to the various tasks, making the days go smoothly. Donna Crowe, a longtime friend of Mitchell’s mother’s, also is at the farm “from daylight to dark” to greet and talk to customers.
In addition to selling on site, the Mitchells also offer wholesale and retail sales (at Shaw’s Marketplace in Prophetstown, Sullivan’s Foods and Fareway in Geneseo), booths at country markets, and delivery within an 80-mile radius.
This weekend, Mitchell Melons is trying something new: COWS – Coffee on Wheels – will be available at the farm from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., offering a variety of summer drinks.
Melon sales are open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Watermelon and sensations cost $5 each, the cantaloupe is $4. To place an order or for more information, call 815-535-8901 or find Mitchell Melons on Facebook.