(July 22) AUTRYVILLE, N.C. — Increasing business has prompted facility improvements for North Carolina melon grower-shipper Jackson’s Farming Co.

The 26-year-old operation, which has been exclusively in produce since 1981, more than doubled its 20,000 square feet of cooler space by refrigerating all of its cantaloupe shipping docks and adding a shelter to shade the operation’s cantaloupe before it runs on the packing line.

The precoolers hold 20 trailer loads of cantaloupe.

“We’re trying to expand to meet our customers’ needs,” said Brent Jackson, Jackson’s Farming’s co-owner and sales manager.

“We’re mighty fortunate with the chain stores we work with. Their business has been increasing over the last five years. We’re trying to increase with them.”

To extend shelf life, Jackson’s Farming is adding a coating to its cantaloupe. The coating brought a 20% increase in shelf life on treated melons over nontreated melons Jackson’s Farming used on a test basis last season.

This season, the coating will be applied to all the company’s cantaloupes. Jackson’s Farming has increased its cantaloupe acreage this season from 300 to 330 acres.

Jackson attributes his increasing cantaloupe and watermelon business to the public’s increasing appetite for melons.

“I believe the public as a whole is eating more healthy than 10 years ago,” he said.

Chains are also more willing to put melons on end cap displays, Jackson said.

“Melons are now out in the front when people first walk in to the produce department,” he said. “That draws more attention to them. The chains we work with have been more willing to try new ideas.”