by Victor Lopez
PECOS COUNTY--They're a common and expected summer time treat. But this year, finding a Pecos cantaloupe might be a little harder than year's past.
Clay Taylor used to grow them. He talked to NewsWest 9 about this year's crop. "We were growing about 95% of the cantaloupes grown here in Pecos and we're not going to pack any. There will still be a few around, but they'll just barely be enough to take care of the local markets. I doubt there'll be any to any of the chain stores this year."
While West Texas is reaping the benefits of a booming economy, the Pecos Cantaloupe Company was going through hard times, problems that date back to last year.
Taylor explains, "We lost our migrant labor housing here in town. They changed it from migrant labor housing to low income housing. Without housing, we can't bring in hands to pick the crops."
Normally at this time of year, Taylor's fields, which are now empty, would be full of cantaloupes, almost ready for harvest. But thanks to one local grower, there is still a chance you could get your hands on a Pecos cantaloupe, this summer, Armando Mandujano and his family business.
"We've got a fair amount of customers and we're going to try to take care of them. We've got some good ones there in Odessa that supply the HEB and the Wal-Marts."
With the total crop being cut by more than half, the volume of product being distributed will also go down. Mandujano says that means, not everyone that normally sells Pecos cantaloupes, will have them this year, "We've always supported our local markets here and we're going to continue to do so. Now as far as the Metroplex, Houston area, I'll be very surprised if they get any Pecos Cantaloupes."
Only one of the two packing plants in Pecos remains. Taylor says they sold the other to someone else, for a totally different business, "The main one we've sold to an oilfield service company. They've already taken possession of it and are remodeling it. It's out of commission, as far as for a packing shed."
Given the enormous recognition that Pecos cantaloupes have, you might ask what locals think about this strange turn of events. Taylor shared with us, the buzz around town, "Everyone around here is shocked. Everyone thought we would plant, right up to the last minute."