Farmers fear Listeria has ruined selling season

By STEVEN K. PAULSON | September 17, 2011 | 11:20 AM EDT

An operator of a fruit and vegetable stand near Denver holds a California-grown cantaloupe for sale at her business on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Federal and state officials have isolated a deadly outbreak of listeria to one cantaloupe farm near Holly, Colo. They have ordered a recall of 300,000 cases of melons grown on the Jensen Farms. Only California-grown cantaloupe could be found in Denver markets. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER (AP) — Colorado farmers worry that a Listeria outbreak linked to a Colorado farm has ruined the rest of their prime selling season.

The outbreak killed as many as four people in Colorado and New Mexico. Colorado officials say the contaminated melons were whole fruit from Jensen Farms in the Rocky Ford region and have been recalled.

Rocky Ford farmer Greg Smith says widespread reporting on the outbreak has been a huge blow. He laid off his lone farm stand employee because customers have all but vanished.

Colorado State University vegetable crops specialist Mike Bartolo says the outbreak is a setback, but it would have been worse if it happened a few weeks ago at the beginning of the selling season.