Tess On the Town: Famers market has melon-choly cure


WHAT: ANB Bank Farmers Market.

WHERE: Main Street, Grand Junction.

WHEN: Thursday evenings, June 14 through Sept. 20; Hatch melons should be arriving the third week in July.

If you visit the ANB Bank Farmers Market this summer, you’re liable to run into Dave Hatch, or his daughters, Karen and Jeannie, or his wife, Florence, or any number of his grandchildren.

You’ll know the Hatch family booth by its wide array of melons.

Nothing says summer like watermelon.

Dave farms a 7-acre patch in Loma, where he grows nine varieties of mini-watermelon including the traditional red, but also yellow and orange. They range from 12–18 pounds.

He grows seven varieties of cantaloupe, Crenshaw melons and Persian melons. He gets the Persian melon seeds from Israel, and they are roughly similar to honeydew melons.

This year’s crop of melons are coming in right on schedule, according to Dave.

“They’re just now starting to bloom and should be ripe about July 20 or 21,” he said.

After the melons ripen, a cascade of other produce will arrive like clockwork from the Hatch farm: tomatoes, hot peppers, bell peppers, broccoli and cabbage. The peppers are not from Hatch, N.M., but could legitimately be called Hatch chili peppers.

Most of the Hatches bounty will end up either at the farmers market or on the salad bars at District 51 schools. He is, in a way, feeding his own family “because I’ve got a lot of grandchildren in District 51,” he said.

Dave started this particular operation in 2004, but he has been farming all his life.

He spent the first part of his life working full-time at a Fruita area refinery, while he and Florence ran a 360-acre farm in their spare time.

After a lifetime of that, the couple “retired” to a new chapter. They became missionaries in Bolivia.

Not knowing how long they would stay, they set off for the remote village of Tambo, which is 300 kilometers from the nearest city. The Hatches, who celebrate their 52nd anniversary next month, ended up staying for 20 years.

In Tambo, with only power from a generator, they ran a self-supporting farm and school mission. Everything they consumed was something they produced. The Hatches produced milk, meat, vegetables and fruit, and taught children for five hours a day.

“They were wonderful people,” Florence said of the Bolivians.

She learned along the way things such as cheese-making and how to pasteurize milk.

“If you want to make pizza, you have to learn to make mozzarella,” she said, laughing.

The Hatches also learned a form of Castilian Spanish spoken in the Bolivian region and a smattering of several Indian dialects.

After two decades, and after warnings from the U.S. embassy about militant threats to the mission, the Hatches came home to the Grand Valley to farm 7 acres and grow mini-melons.

“We hope people enjoy it,” Dave said.

As to how long he’ll continue farming, Dave said, “as long as the Lord gives me health and strength, I’ll keep on going. It’s a privilege.”

Between the long morning and hot afternoon hours working in the field, Dave heads inside for lunch and (gasp) a quick nap.

“I’m 70 years old, I get to take a nap,” he said with a chuckle.

QUOTE: “When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat.” — Mark Twain

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