During the spring season, Pura Vida Farms LLC in Scottsdale, AZ, grows and ships melons out of Yuma, AZ, and Blythe, CA, according to Wes Liefer, a partner in the company.
“We are shipping right now” out of Yuma, “ he said May 29. “In about seven to 10 days, we will start shipping out of Blythe. We should go to about July 15.”
Pura Vida grows “all melons,” he said. “We grow watermelons, cantaloupe, honeydew and all the specialty melons. The variety melons that we grow are orange-flesh, Santa Clause, Canary, Galia, Crenshaw, Casaba and Golden honeydew.”
The company ships the melons to retail, foodservice and wholesale customers “all across the country and up into Canada,” he said. “We service every type of customer.”
Although Pura Vida does not grow melons on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, “we do a ton of business out of there,” Liefer said. “We buy and sell out of the west side.”
After wrapping up the shipping deals in Yuma and Blythe, “we will continue servicing customers with a couple of partnerships we have with growers up in the Central Valley,” he said.
On a “normal year,” Pura Vida would finish its desert melon deals by July 4 and move into the Westside deal on a buy-and-sell basis. This year, however, the desert production is expected to run later, by design. “We do have some melons planted a little bit later this year,” he said. And Pura Vida is not alone in that regard. “I think this year you will see many of the desert shippers going past July 14.”
One reason is an expectation that the front end of the Westside deal will be light, particularly out of the Bakersfield and Huron areas, he said. Another is that melons out of Yuma or Blythe have almost a $2 a box freight advantage going to the East Coast versus melons from the west side, “just because it is a little bit closer.”
The later production in the desert than in years past is made possible by the development of newer varieties “that can handle hot weather better and hold up better,” he said.
Liefer said he has heard estimates — “and they are just estimates” — that plantings may be down in the more southerly and earlier districts of the Westside melon deal by as much as 50 to 75 percent this year, largely due to a shortage of quality water. “That is why we are extending the desert deal.”
That does not mean overall acreage for the deal is down significantly, as much of that acreage has been moved farther north to areas such as Los Banos and Turlock. “We do quite a bit [of buy-and-sell business] up there,” Liefer said.
“Water is more available in the Los Banos area, so there is more acreage there,” he said. The harvest there “typically starts around the first of August or so, maybe [as early as] July 25.” Also, “I have heard there is more acreage up in the northern west side, up around the Turlock area, because of water availability. But being farther north, that makes it come off later. That then raises the question of how long they will go up there, and what that is going to mean for the fall crop in the desert.”
Pura Vida’s fall crop out of the desert typically starts about October and goes to mid-November, he said. “We have gone as late as Thanksgiving.”
In addition to melons, Pura Vida markets pineapples, which it imports from Central and South America, mainly from Costa Rica. The company is in the pineapple business 365 days a year.
Presently, Pura Vida does not handle any offshore melons, but that could change. “The company is working on putting an offshore deal together,” which would put Pura Vida in the melon business year-round, he said.