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Not a Good Year For Melon Growers- Not Yet

Not a Good Year For Melon Growers- Not Yet
New food regulations also affect growers.

If you think all the water that's pounded much of Indiana the last three months hasn't been good for your corn and soybeans, what do you think it's done for melon and vegetable growers, many of them located in southwest Indiana on sandier soils. The answer is simple- it hasn't been a good start to the season for them either.

Mike Horrall, Melon Acres, in northern Knox County, says that they were late getting cantaloupe and watermelons into the field due the wet spring. As a result, cantaloupe are running about two weeks behind, and so are watermelons. If you by a watermelon for the Fourth of July, it likely isn't form southern Indiana. Horrall expects to be harvesting watermelons in late July this year.

Water that ponds also isn't good for vegetable corps. That's one reason they typically do better on sandy ground. So if there are areas where water ponded on them, the results likely won't be good.

Horrall and his family, operating the business started by his father, Abner, in 1974, raise and process fresh asparagus, cucumbers, cantaloupe and watermelons, plus sweet corn. "We don't do pumpkins anymore because we just get tired by that time in the fall," Horrall quips.

In the early days most of their produce was washed by hand. Now they have packing lines of reach major crop. The packing line for cantaloupes, for example, rinses and sanitizes the melon, then sorts it by size. They go into tubs off the packing line. The higher the count per tub, the smaller the size of the melon.

The variety they raise today has better shelf life, but doesn't have some of the characteristics of the typical Indiana grown cantaloupe of days gone by. However, Horrall insists it still is a good melon.

Cantaloupe are harder to handle in the packing shed because their rough skin makes it harder to clean them. Conversely, watermelons are fairly easy to get ready for packing, he notes.

Most of their produce today is sold wholesale through brokers to large stores, such as Kroger and Wal-Mart. It meant appointing his oldest daughter, Audie, as safety director, which includes making sure they meet regulations.

The inspectors come, he notes, and they typically find something that they don't like and want fixed. They even inspect the quarters where the migrant workers stay, and can issue notices to correct situations that they find in those quarters, even though the Horrall's don't directly control how their workers live.

"She probably has the hardest job on the farm today," her dad says. "It's becoming more regulated all the time. We even have to record who visits our facility, and what they were here for."

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