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Pappas & Co. sees possible East Coast opportunities

Cool spring weather in Central California has delayed the start of the West Side melon season, but it is not expected to adversely affect total production, which, for Pappas & Co. in Mendota, CA, is projected to be similar to last year.

But Rodney Van Bebber, sales manager at Pappas, is hoping that the weather conditions that have been experienced by melon growers in other parts of the country may mean opportunities on the East Coast this year for West Side growers, in spite of high transportation costs due to the high cost of fuel.

“Our program will probably be about the same as it has been the last couple of years,” Mr. Van Bebber said May 31. “We have cantaloupes, honeydews, watermelons and sweet corn. We do about 2,000 acres of sweet corn, about 400 acres of watermelons (all seedless), about 400 acres of honeydews and about 2,200 acres of cantaloupes. We are hoping to ship about 2 million [cartons of] cantaloupes” and about 500,000 cartons of honeydews.

“We are optimistic,” he said. “We think there are going to be some opportunities this summer” for melon growers in California, “even with the freight deal, because of the weather back east. Any kind of a shortage should help us.”

Mr. Van Bebber said that he expects the company’s melon harvest on the West Side to start a bit late this year, “not as late as last year, but later than normal, because of the cooler-than-normal weather we have had here in California.”

He projected a start date of “somewhere around the 10th of July. Historically up here [on the west side of the central San Joaquin Valley], we start about the 1st or 2nd of July” in the Huron, CA, area, with the Mendota acreage starting typically about a week later. The growers in Bakersfield, CA, at the southern end of the valley normally start “a little earlier,” he said.

Pappas got its early fields planted on time and initially expected a normal start time. But due to cool weather, the melons “haven’t grown. The last 10 days, they haven’t moved.”

Pappas is “pretty much a family business,” Mr. Van Bebber said. “We’ve got one outside grower. Everything else we grow ourselves, and we pack it and cool it ourselves.”