Where cantaloupe grow

Josh Pennell
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Central Newfoundland farmer turns out southern fruit

Perhaps Newfoundlanders have been talking themselves out of a bounty of fresh fruit all these years.

Chris Oram of Mark’s Market in Wooddale shows off some of the melons he has grown in central Newfoundland. — Photo by Krysta Colbourne/The Advertiser

While anybody with so much as a green fingernail will tell you there are great conditions here for those much-loved root vegetables — carrot, turnip, beet, etc. — the province’s ability to thrust up southern fruits has rarely been tested. Why would it be on a clip of rock shouldering winds from the North Atlantic?

Well Chris Oram of Mark’s Market in Wooddale (central Newfoundland) boldly planted what nobody — or at least few — have planted before in Newfoundland soil. And the fruits of toil have turned out as delicious as they are surprising.

“We had a few seeds there for cantaloupe and watermelon two years ago so I figured I’d try them,” Oram says.

The family farm has a large pumpkin patch and he was putting in his seeds for those at the same time. Last year he had enough success with the cantaloupe that this year he grew about 400.

“They’re sweet as can be,” he says.

They’re slightly smaller than what you normally find, he adds, but probably better tasting and even more nutritious since they’re harvested and sold ripe and fresh. Most fruit that has to travel great distances is picked before it’s ripe and allowed to ripen on the trip. Not so with Oram’s melons.

He started them from seeds in the greenhouse and when the plants were big enough, he transferred them outside into a black piece of plastic. You put the plastic down and put the plant down through it, he says. The plastic reduces weeds, controls moisture and is good for warmth. Once in the black plastic, Oram covered the plants with what’s called low tunnels — perforated pieces of black plastic that arch up about two feet.

“It’s almost like a mini greenhouse,” Oram says. “Once we started seeing them bloom we take the plastic top part off, so the pollinators can get in and pollinate them.”

He eventually saw that the fruit had set, but didn’t really think they would ripen.

“I was really surprised,” he says.

Other than the process mentioned he just took good care of the plants which grow as a ground vine, much like squash or pumpkins.

Last year was a bit of a trial run, but it worked out so well that this year he grew hundreds. Oram is getting some praise from fellow farmers in the area, too.

“Dad was talking to some of his buddies who were pretty impressed that we were growing them,” he says.

And, so far, the reviews from people who are buying them from the farm have been great, too. The hardest part has been convincing people they actually grew them. Initially, people were skeptical, Oram laughs.

“I think there is going to be a market for them once people do try them and get eating them because they are delicious.”

He also grew some watermelon this year on a trial run with the same method. They grew to a little smaller than a volleyball and were really sweet, as well. Next year he plans on growing several hundred.



Geographic location: Newfoundland, North Atlantic, Wooddale

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Recent comments

  • Robert
    October 02, 2013 - 14:51

    A lot of time and money goes into painting a gloomy picture regarding the impact of global warming! Here is a very bright picture of things to come!

  • Robert
    October 02, 2013 - 14:48

    A lot of time and money goes into painting a gloomy picture regarding the impact of global warming! Here is a very bright picture of things to come!

  • Ruby Curlew
    October 02, 2013 - 14:25

    Where can I buy some ? Would love to try NL grown Cantaloupe !!

  • Gerri
    October 02, 2013 - 12:08

    This is wonderful...I agree with one of the other comments that we have been 'conditioned' to not even give thought to such good things growing in our climate. Now I would like to know if I have to go to Chris' market (from St. John's) to get some of his own grown melons? Chris, any chance we will see you products closer to this town?? (:) I would not buy another import if that was the case. Good luck in all your future growth endeavours.

  • Terry
    October 02, 2013 - 11:55

    I now live in Nl, my home province, after having been away for nearly 40 years. I have referred to "home" as The Rock as long as I can remember, as do virtually all my friends and family; I don't consider doing so as perpetuating any myth. Rather, we view it as a term of endearment depicting the island and its inhabitants as indestructible, unmoving and of exraordinarily strong, stable and sound character. I suggest that our failure to realize the land's full potential in bearing forth produce other than those traditionally harvested, is more the result of being overly influenced by the mistaken claims and beliefs of others living elsewhere. In that respect, it's much the same as we have done with other sectors of our natural resources, none more obvious than our cod fishery. Good for you, Chris. We need more people like you, made of the stuff our ancestors were made of.

  • Mary
    October 02, 2013 - 09:20

    I want some!!! That is fantastic!

  • Earl
    October 02, 2013 - 08:36

    The disservice we have been doing to ourselves is calling this place 'The Rock'. It perpetuates the myth among ourselves and others that Newfoundland is poor for agriculture, when that is clearly not the case to anyone in the industry.

  • christine hynes
    October 02, 2013 - 07:28

    "Way to go Chris!!" The best market ever!! and yes the cantaloupe were delicious!!!!"

  • christine hynes
    October 02, 2013 - 07:27

    "Way to go Chris!!" The best market ever!! and yes the cantaloupe were delicious!!!!"

  • Pauline
    October 02, 2013 - 05:31

    where can I buy them?