The Greeley Wonder is a cross between a musk melon and a cantaloupe, sweet but not too sweet, and a mainstay of the Monroe family and their Weld County farm, Monroe Organic Farm. Nowadays, Kyle Monroe can walk by the trees his great-grandfather Lester Monroe planted more than 100 years ago.
The Greeley Wonder was sold commercially starting in 1915, and in 1930, Lester Monroe first got his hands on the seeds. He fell in love with the lumpy fruit. He passed on that love to his son Gerry, and his son Gerry Jr., and then to Kyle.
But over the years, the going got tough for family farmers like the Monroe's. Farms around theirs were bought up and merged. Consumers began to want their fruit smooth, regular and free of imperfections, things the Greeley Wonder was decidedly not.
Demand fell away steadily until a spring in the late 1980s when disaster in the form of heavy hail struck. Jacquie and Gerry Jr. knew that Gerry Sr. had sent some Greeley Wonder seeds off to a group called Seed Savers in Iowa. But because Kyle and his older sister were so young, it didn’t seem like the right time to put in the work for such a challenging melon.
So for a while, there were no Greeley Wonder melons growing in the Monroe family fields, or any fields for that matter. "But as we went on, it became this thing of, 'Gosh, I wish we could get that seed back.' As we got older and older, it became more and more important to us to try to get that seed back," Jacquie said.
That's where Philip Kauth, the director of preservation at Seed Savers Exchange, comes in. Kauth and Jacquie Monroe crossed paths after she approached one of his employees at a conference and inquired about the Greeley Wonder seeds.
That employee came back to Seed Savers and found the Greeley Wonder seeds, still in storage after all those years. But that was not all: Around the same time his mom was reaching out to Seed Savers, Kyle Monroe decided to investigate a dusty old storage area in his grandfather's barn. And like a scene out of a movie, Kyle pushed aside some cans and found a five-gallon bucket full of thousands of Greeley Wonder seeds from 1979.
From then on, the Monroe's were able to clear space and start planting some seeds. When the melons ripened, the family turned some back into seeds.
The Greeley Wonder has been a hit for the Monroe's. The 2019 harvest has already completely sold out. Having the melons back in the fields and at farmer's markets is a way of honoring the family history for Jacquie Monroe, especially after her son found the seeds hidden away for decades.