Jeanne Mitchell helps a student with the first step of growing a cantaloupe.

How Do You Grow A Cantaloupe? Ask A Second Grader! (photos)

A classroom of students at Tampico Elementary are trying their hand at raising a famous Mitchell Melon.
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Mitchell Melons near Tampico is the epitome of a local family run farm with several generations farming the land and spreading the word on the importance of agriculture. Beyond their corn and soybeans, they are probably best known for growing watermelons and cantaloupe, which are a must have when they come into season in August.

Over the past few weeks Jeanne Mitchell and Whitney Mitchell-DeWitte have been visiting elementary classrooms in the area to show the students how those delicious summer fruits end up on their table.

Kate Fordham, a second grade teacher at Tampico Elementary School, had the Mitchell’s visit her classroom recently along with Whiteside County’s Ag in the Classroom coordinator Diane Baker.

The class recently did a spring cleanup of the school’s pollinator garden as they started a unit on how plants develop flowers and fruits through pollination.

Whitney Mitchell-DeWitte shows the students photos of the melon greenhouse.

Whitney Mitchell-DeWitte presented a PowerPoint and video that showed the students each step of the growing process of cantaloupes and watermelons. From the planting of the seeds in the farm’s greenhouse to the transplanting of the seedlings in the field, to harvesting, the students saw how much hands-on labor it takes to grow the fruit.

The students then got the opportunity to plant a cantaloupe seed, which they will take home after it germinates in the classroom. The novice gardeners also received a sheet of instructions of how to care for the plant once it gets home and develops enough to be planted outside.

Eight year old Carmen Wright said she can’t wait for her cantaloupe to be ready to eat next summer and was amazed at the growing process. “I think it’s crazy that they (Mitchells) plant thousands of (melon) plants and that the plants spread out so much.”

Diane Baker encouraged the students to observe the difference between the taste of a local fresh melon and those that are shipped into the area during the rest of the year. They were also encouraged to share their plant’s progress with the Mitchells.

Mitchell Melons can be found throughout the area at stores and roadside stands in August. They also grow pumpkins, which can be purchased in the fall. Mitchell Melon Facebook Page

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