Turlock Fruit, founded 88 years ago by Smith’s grandfather, is still a family operation. His father, Don Smith, remains active in the business, and his son, Alec Smith, now represents the family’s fourth generation at Turlock Fruit.
Fresno, Calif.-based Crown Jewels Marketing LLC is once again marketing cantaloupes and honeydews grown by Perez Packing Inc., Firebaugh, Calif., another longtime California grower-shipper.
“We’ll do the same program as last year with about 3 million cartons of cantaloupes and 500,000 cartons of honeydews,” said Atomic Torosian, managing partner for Crown Jewels.
The first round of plantings should begin coming out of the field right after July 4, he said. Because of chilly, wet weather, the second plantings are of concern to Torosian.
“The second plantings may have some fruit that won’t make it to the table,” he said.
If so, it could mean tight supplies in late July, Torosian said.
Late summer-early fall will be a strong period for Crown Jewels, he said, because Perez Packing plants several late season varieties that ”get a little better color and sugar content,” Torosian said.
Rodney VanBebber, sales manager for Mendota, Calif.-based Pappas & Co., said he also is mildly anxious about possible weather damage to second and third plantings.
“But we still have time to grow out of the issues,” he said.
Overall, the westside’s melon acreage could be down slightly this season, VanBebber said. High prices for tomatoes, corn and cotton have captured more farmland, he said. In addition, the spring weather has delayed the harvest of some grains and postponed some melon planting.
Delmar Farms, Westley, Calif., has among the latest scheduled starts to picking. Delmar, which packs and markets only company grown fruit, is projected to begin picking July 15, said Brian Wright, salesman.
“We always tend to start later and end later that nearly everyone else,” he said.
Delmar has increased its cantaloupe acreage for 2011, while honeydew plantings are about the same as 2010, Wright said.
Another of the late starters is V.H. Azhderian & Co. Inc., Los Banos.
“Last year, we started July 19, and this year looks to be pretty similar,” said Berj Moosekian, general manager.
The spring weather caused only minor problems for the company’s early cantaloupe and honeydew plantings, he said in mid-May, “but I’d like to see the plants further along.”
Azhderian is among the few companies offering organic melons this season. The company expects to have limited supplies of organic cantaloupes and mixed melons, Moosekian said.
Turlock Fruit markets organic cantaloupes and honeydews. They are packed under the Regal Oak and Peacock labels, while the conventionally grown melons get the King O’ the West and Sycamore labels.