Especially in the last few months, we've seen more about the challenges with growing our food and how difficult it is for farmers. So quickly we can forget what went into actually bringing those fruits and vegetables to your produce department, and many of us don't quite know what went into growing the food in the first place. That's one thing I love to spotlight - the farming process behind the food - so that you can see how much heart, hard work, time, and money went in to growing, harvesting, packing, and shipping those farm-fresh fruits and vegetables! This is why I often say that farmers are often taken for granted and should be celebrated!
Seasonal items, like watermelons, are often even harder to grow because farmers have only a small window of time to accomplish what they need to, and external factors like weather, and now Covid-19, can be working against them. Talk about pressure! A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Melon 1, and I loved meeting the family, the farm workers, the staff, and team who all were busy as bees making sure their watermelons were representative of the high quality Melon 1 label, including delicious flavor, and were safe for us all to eat. Since 1935, Melon 1 has worked with family farmers all across the USA using cutting-edge technology to meet food safety and traceability standards, but keeping people at the heart of their business.
Here's a look into the complex but fascinating process of how they are growing one of the most popular summer fruits ever – the watermelon!
The whole process takes about 100 days - from planting to harvest! So, three months before harvest, watermelon 'transplants' are planted into well-drained sandy soil where they are watered and carefully looked after every single day. They grow slowly but surely on a vine, eventually growing into large, juicy, and ripe watermelons ready for the picking. The more bees the better, as these pollinators are critical and essential to growing delicious, juicy watermelons. Some farmers use bumble bees, some use honey bees. The main factor is to make sure that there are plenty there, as without them, there would be no watermelons!
Back to the "picking," because once the watermelons are ready for harvest, the real work begins! There's no fancy farm equipment when it comes to harvesting watermelon. Every single watermelon is inspected and harvest by hand to ensure that the fruit is not only ready to eat, but also makes it to your store in the best condition possible. Pickers look for a pale yellow "belly" on the bottom of the watermelon, which indicates ripeness. Once watermelons are cut from the vine, it is quite the thing to see! Watermelons are literally tossed by hand down a line of farm-workers into school buses – I bet you didn't expect to see school buses on a watermelon farm!
The school buses are actually purchased from schools in the district, and then the schools are able to upgrade to newer, better ones for their students. A win /win! One thing though - they have to have their roofs removed first! The roofs are literally chopped off so that they are open and ready for the watermelons to be lobbed overhead. Then, a line forms of farm workers, who take the watermelon and toss it along the line to their team, then gently placing them into the buses. After this has happened, and the harvest is complete, the bus of watermelons are then taken to the packing shed where they are again inspected, washed, and prepared for shipping. Then, once all of that is completely supervised by a team of people who have monitored the entire process, the watermelons are loaded into trucks to deliver to your local grocery stores! Then, it's all about you seeing them in the produce aisle - now ready for your pickin'!
What I especially love about these farmers at Melon 1 is the sense of family and camaraderie with the team, as they all face so much in a season, and this closeness and depending on each other strengthens their bonds with each other. They all have each other's backs. And Melon 1 is still a family business at heart today. From all the people working there, they all pride themselves on providing you with the freshest, highest quality watermelons possible. And, a humble family for sure, they admit that they owe their success to the many farmers and team of people who join alongside with them to make watermelon farming again this year (and next) possible. Happy Summer and sending y'all watermelon smiles!