Cool weather in California’s Imperial Valley has meant a slower start than usual to the watermelon season for Pappas & Co. in Mendota, CA, with full volume not expected to come on until around June 5, according to sales manager Rodney Van Bebber.
Pappas grows picnic, icebox, seedless and yellow-flesh watermelons on 240 acres in the California desert and 400 acres in Central California — and has for going on 75 years. The Central California deal is expected to begin on time, Mr. Van Bebber said.
While the market has been soft thus far this spring, Mr. Van Bebber expects it to improve by the time Pappas’ main volume comes on. “Chains will put demand on what they are promoting, wholesale will buy what is short,” he said. “The rest will suffer, f.o.b.-wise I mean.”
California does not have the same truck crunch other parts of the country are facing, but transportation is still an issue, especially given fuel prices that spiked this spring and are just now beginning to decline a bit. “You can get trucks,” Mr. Van Bebber said. “But they are expensive.”
Pappas also handles cantaloupes, honeydews, corn, broccoli, onions and tomatoes, and most of the line is packed under the “Golden Treat,” “Emerald Treat” and “Sweet Treat” labels.
The Pappas family’s farming tradition in America stretches back three generations to 1933. George Pappas and a few other Greek immigrant friends and family members settled in California’s lush San Joaquin Valley near Mendota, sometimes called the “Cantaloupe Capital of the World.”
The company has always been family owner and operated; even today, Philon Pappas, George’s brother who immigrated to the United States in 1949, still assists in the farming operations along with his son George. Facilities have evolved with the rest of the company, obviously — what was once a wooden packingshed is today a state-of-the-art cold storage, packaging and shipping facility located eight miles west of Mendota in the heart of Pappas’ farming operation, allowing the company to expedite orders straight from the field for maximum freshness.
“Our commitment is to deliver customers the highest-quality and freshest produce with dedicated customer service. We are proud of the fact that we have always been a family-owned-and-operated farm run on three generations of strong family values,” Mr. Van Bebber said. “We place the highest regard on food purity and safety, and we strictly adhere to the industry’s highest standards of quality control. We personally guarantee the same high-quality produce and outstanding customer service that has made Pappas & Company a name families have trusted for over 70 years.”