Rocky Ford cantaloupe growers are worried the ongoing listeria investigation will hurt the image that is crucially important to the Arkansas Valley.
"They tend to blow everything out of proportion this day and age," said Kent Lusk, owner of Lusk Farms in Swink, Colo. "It is the image (we're concerned with) and that does frighten us a little bit."
Lusk's cantaloupe crop is 95 percent picked and already shipped to market, with only a small, 2-acre field left to clear.
And his roadside market along Highway 50 is still selling cantaloupe, which accounts for 40 percent to 50 percent of sales, Lusk said.
"It's bound to be an impact, you know. How great? Time will tell," Lusk said. "Next year, when we start again, you know, it may be in people's minds. Maybe not."
Lusk showed 7NEWS that he plants the fruit on plastic mulch ground cover to reduce exposure to bacteria and still eats the fruit daily, serving it to both his oldest and youngest family members.
"It came from an outside source, somewhere other than the cantaloupe, that infected the outer shell," said Paul Casper, Lusk's business partner. "That's why I'm saying, this could happen anywhere and food preparation is key."
Both men told 7NEWS they hoped the state health department and federal investigators would soon pinpoint the source of the listeria outbreak, now blamed for 16 illnesses in five states, including one fatality in Colorado.
"There's always talking out of school. Bring us proof. You know, in the United States I always thought you was innocent until proven guilty. They're making you guilty before they can do anything," Lusk said.
Health officials took samples from the Rocky Ford area last Friday and Saturday. A spokesman for the state health department said they hope to have more specific test results by the end of the week.
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