Cool weather has meant the U.S. watermelon deal has gotten off to a slow start, but even that is a matter of perspective, said Tom Glenos of Kid’s Choice Fresh Produce Inc. in Weston, FL, which grows and ships watermelon from several locations in Florida, Georgia, Arkansas and Michigan.
“We’re a little behind last year but it’s actually a normal circumstance because last year we were way ahead,” Mr. Glenos said. “This year’s more back to normal. It did look like we were going to be really far ahead but the cold changed that. The temperatures are pretty good now.”
The season’s earliest watermelons out of Florida will be a bit off size-wise because of the cold. Most Sunshine State growers with operations north of Orlando, FL, lost small parts of their earliest crops to a March 4 freeze and the remaining fruit is tending toward smaller sizes though the quality is good. Mr. Gleno’s deal was by design planted to come on a little later and thus was spared any significant damage.
“The early [Florida] stuff’s kind of rough because it went through bad weather. Our crop went through that weather, too, but it’s a little later so it should be pretty good for quality. We had some damage from the cold, but as long as we have good weather from here on out we’ll have good quality coming out of Florida, the stuff that’s setting now will have real good growing conditions,” Mr. Glenos said.
There are benefits to the cooler spring in Florida, though.
“The crop just really started setting last week. We had a lot of cold early so hopefully that set a good crop. Our fruit’s still so small now it’s hard to tell, but usually cool weather does bring on more sugars,” Mr. Glenos said.
Rain and cold has hampered planting in Georgia, and Mr. Glenos doubts that state’s crop will come off before Memorial Day, setting up the Florida deal for an excellent early season market.
“May usually has the best watermelons from Florida,” Mr. Glenos said. “The Georgia deal won’t make the Memorial Day holiday, they’ll come in maybe the 10th of June, some of them might be a little bit later, so Florida should have a good market.”
Mr. Glenos’ growing operations are relatively the same as last year, with 200 acres in Florida, 200 more in Georgia, 200 in Michigan and a slight increase to 230 in Arkansas.
Kid’s Choice Produce formerly operated as Tom Glenos Buying Services Inc. But after finding a remarkably receptive audience with the introduction of new, high-graphic bins with kid-appeal in supermarket produce departments in 2011, Mr. Glenos decided to rename and rebrand.
The distinctive bright yellow bins, featuring a wide-eyed, grinning watermelon, “just attracted so many customers I decided to connect the bin to the company,” Mr. Glenos said. “I want an identifiable product with the consumer and people really trust the bin.”