(July 30, 2013) I just returned from a quick visit with our melon growers at Turlock Farms in Turlock, Calif., and I’m happy to announce that the melons are coming into their peak of perfection!
Four generations have grown melons on this farm, which brings nearly 100 years of experience into growing the finest eating melons to be found. It all started with Don’s dad, known as “Cantaloupe Smith,” in 1918. Don Smith, the second generation, was born and raised in Turlock and even though he’s now well into his 80s, he still has his hands in the farm. Steve Smith is the third generation, while his son Alec became the fourth generation of the Smith family to find a passion for growing melons when he joined the farm after earning a bachelor’s degree at Yale University in 2006.
(Pictured above: Steve Smith, third of the four generations farming at Turlock Farms, walks the fields every day checking for the right time to harvest. )
We met Alec when we arrived, but he was so busy organizing harvest and packing crews, that we ended up spending the day with Steve. This guy is a genuinely great person and he contains a wealth of knowledge when it comes to melons.
“You have to have plenty of patience to grow great eating melons,” he told me.
Even with all his years of experience, he’s still often surprised by the unpredictability of these melons. Steve walks each and every field each and every day checking for the perfect time to harvest and even then he gets caught off guard.
“The melons have a mind of their own,” he said.
A melon that that he was thinking was a week to 10 days from being ready to pick is suddenly ready in two days, and he has to get the crews in and start harvesting. Steve only harvests when the melons are ready and not before. This is a commitment that is not easily kept when you have big retailers demanding fruit to cover their promotional ads. But he believes in doing the right thing for the ultimate user, which is you, our customer, who will actually enjoy the fruit. Steve said some of the varieties are harvested as many as 10 times to ensure each individual melon is picked at its peak of flavor.
We support Steve in this commitment to grow and bring the best-tasting melons to market by letting him tell us when the time is right for each variety. It is also why we only buy certain varieties from Turlock Farms when he says it is time. Minimum sugar is just not enough if you want great tasting melons. You know what I mean if you’ve ever tried to eat a melon that tastes like sweet cardboard!
Turlock Farms is GlobalGAP certified for food safety which is one of the highest standards to meet in the industry. GlobalGAP – which stands for Good Agricultural Practice – is a non-profit organization whose objective is to promote safe and sustainable agricultural production worldwide. Its voluntary standards are meant to achieve safe production methods, responsible resource use, good worker and animal welfare practices and reliable sourcing and processing for retailers.
(Pictured above: The Mini Seedless Watermelon, seen here packed and ready to head to a store, are exceptional this year! Left: A Turlock Gala Melon, picked when it’s ready to eat.)
Turlock Farms grows 11 varieties of melons and have partnered with an organic grower for three more bringing it to a total of 14. All are not available every day, but now through mid-August is the peak of season for these variety melons. The Cantaloupe, Tuscan-style Cantaloupe and Emerald Honeydew will be available well into September. The Orange Honeydew, Casaba, Crenshaw, Canary, Peil De’ Sapo (Santa Claus), Sharlyn, Galia and Hami will be in good supply over the next few weeks. In organic, we have Cantaloupe, Emerald Honeydew and the Mini Seedless Watermelon through Turlock Farms. All eat fantastic, but the Mini Seedless Watermelon has been exceptional!
Watch for our annual Turlock variety melon promotion to start Aug. 7. This is a great opportunity for you to try several varieties at a great value!
Have a great day – Joe