Legend Produce is expanding the production of its Origami cantaloupe variety year-round to cater to the increased demand. ( Legend Produce )

Cactus Melon Corp. boosts honeydew

Nogales, Ariz.-based Cactus Melon Corp., which traditionally has focused on watermelons, continues to increase its shipments of honeydews, said Ramon Murilla, president.

“We’ve been growing a little every year with honeydews,” he said.

Honeydews now comprise about 20% of the Cactus Melon’s shipments, Murilla said.

“Our honeydew is out of southern Mexico in December through February,” he said.

The company’s grower decided it was time to offer more than watermelons, Murilla said.

“He liked the area and found out he can produce there and decided to increase acreage a little each year,” Murilla said.


Cantaloupe board trying new market

The Dinuba-based California Cantaloupe Advisory Board will have a presence at San Francisco Giants baseball games this season, said John Gilstrap, the board’s manager.

“This year, we’re going to have an ad in the San Francisco Giants program to see if that gets any excitement at all,” he said.

Marilyn Dolan, owner of Sacramento, Calif.-based public relations firm Farmers Communication Exchange, which directs the board’s marketing effort, said there will be six different program ads.

“The Giants approached us, saying they were very interested in getting more advertising that was about health and nutrition,” Dolan said. “Our ads are promoting the health and nutrition of cantaloupes and recipes.”

Each ad will feature a different grower, she said.

A “meet the grower” program also will feature member growers on the board’s social media sites and its website, as well, Dolan said.

“It’s very popular on social media,” she said.

The board is developing a new section of its website, californiacantaloupes.com, devoted to growers, Dolan said.

“We have a blog on the website and have featured growers on our blog and featured them on social media,” she said. “Those posts about farmers have the highest engagement.”

The board also is planning to do an online consumer sweepstakes promotion in June, July and August, to give away tickets to Giants games, Dolan said. 

The contest is designed to coincide with peak cantaloupe season, she said.

“People can enter to win on Facebook,” Dolan said.


Dixondale Farms adds acreage

Carrizo Springs, Texas-based Dixondale Farms Inc. has increased its cantaloupe acreage by 25% this year, said Bruce Frasier, president.

The “primary” reason for the expansion was weather, as “we were able to start planting so early,” Frasier said.


Jackson Farming in growth mode

Autryville, N.C.-based Jackson Farming Co. is in growth mode, said Matt Solana, vice president of operations/supply chain.

“We continue to grow and have added more sweet potato storage rooms this past year, increased overall acreage by 15% on all crops and are looking to grow our marketing department with the hiring of a marketing and branding specialist and a staff accountant as our business continues to grow,” he said.


Legend Produce  expands production

Dos Palos, Calif.-based Legend Produce LLC has expanded production of its Origami cantaloupe variety significantly on a year-round basis by increasing its winter program, said Barry Zwillinger, partner.

“We increased our early volume in May out of Arizona and California,” he said.

Increased demand for the Origami dictated the extra production, Zwillinger said.

“We’re finding every year more stores are jumping on this bandwagon,” he said. “We had one or two stores five or six years ago who had the Origami. Now, we have 12 stores that want nothing but Origami and they’re willing to pay the premium price for it. They see other stores doing it that convinces them that’s the way they need to go.”

Legend has increased its Origami acreage from 200 five or six years ago to a total of almost 4,000 today, Zwillinger said.

Legend would like all of its cantaloupe production to be Origami in three years, Zwillinger said.

The company also has started direct marketing of the Galia, a melon variety it is doing 5-acre trials on this summer, Zwillinger said.

Legend has moved up several employees. Kristen Miesel, who has been directing the company’s food safety program, is moving into sales and marketing, Zwillinger said. Miesel has been with Legend for seven years.

Diane Garcia is moving into Miesel’s food safety position. Garcia has been involved in Legend’s audit program and holds numerous food safety certifications, Zwillinger said.

Family members are moving up in the company, with succession ultimately in mind, said Zwillinger, who is 57. A nephew, Justin Bootz, who holds a supply chain sales degree from Arizona State University, now works in sales with Legend.

Zwillinger has two sons — Mason, a sophomore at ASU; and Mason, a high school senior who will start at ASU in the fall, who are also working with the company.


MAS Melons & Grapes cuts acreage

Rio Rico, Ariz.-based MAS Melons & Grapes planted its lowest melon acreage in the last 12 or 13 years this spring, said Miguel “Miky” Suarez, owner.

“The reason is, for the last couple of spring seasons, supply has been very high and that has created problems with the movement, so this year we decided to come down 40% less acreage, compared to last year,” Suarez said.

The company will have about 370 acres for melons this year, Suarez said.

“We’ll see how this thing behaves,” he said.

The cut in acreage doesn’t necessarily mean volume the company ships will be correspondingly lower, Suarez said.

“For example, last year and the year before that, there were a lot of melons we didn’t pick because there was simply no business for them,” he said. “The spring is a very high-yield time of production for us, so even with a reduction of acreage, our volume is going to be enough for the business that we have. We’ll have less acreage but we’re going to pick all the melons.”