Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, August 15, 1981, Image 18

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    AlB—Lancaster Farming, Saturday, August 15,1951
BLUE BALL A mountain of
melons has moved out of Eastern
Lancaster County to big-city
markets this year.
By the time the season ends in a
week or so, approximately 450,000
cantaloupes and watermelons will
have been direct marketed by the
Conestoga Valley Growers to
Acme and other supermarket
chains m Philadelphia, Baltimore
and Scranton.
It marks the first time that local
growers have banded together to
market their melon crop directly
to central metropolitan markets
without involving a “middle man.”
‘ ‘lt’s taken three years to put this
program together,” explains
Lester W. Martin, R 2 East Earl, on
whose property along Rt. 322 east
of Blue Ball is located a new
distribution shed in which the
melons are received from growers
and loaded mto trailers for the
hauls to the city markets.
“Being our first year, we’ve had
some problems with the growers
understanding the market
situation and the markets un
derstanding the grower’s situation.
“But the fresh fruit and
vegetable market is unique. You
must work with what you have. ”
The Conestoga Valley Growers is
comprised of about 40 growers
raising cantaloupes, eight with
cauliflower and about five with
The Board of Directors includes
10 growers and seven represen
tatives of the markets they serve.
A single price for the produce is set
by the board and then held for the
entire season.
"Previously, you had fanners
getting one price at the beginning
of the season and then throwing a
couple thousand over the back
fence at the peak of the season,”
Martin explained.
Some fall greens may also be
marketed through the Growers’
Last weekend was the peak ot
the cantaloupe season when 15
tractor trailer loads were shipped
from the Blue Ball distribution
shed. Each trailer holds 7600 to
8000 melons.
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Children of'Amos Martin. Blue Ball, help unload another
load of cantaloupes for shipment to metropolitan super
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Mountain of melons moves to market
On Wednedsday, the 50th trailer
load was loaded at the shed.
Melons picked m the early
morning arrive at the shed in
many ways - smaller truck,
tractor and wagon and horse and
Rntirr ♦tdili< iiou >ou'
on up, help unload the fragile fruit
into palleted bulk melon crates.
These are loaded into the
refrigerated trailers by forklift.
The direct marketing effort,
according to Martin, is an attempt
to help area fanners keep abreast
of changing agricultural
“We must be able to get the most
income off each acre,” Martin
“We need a cash crop, such as
melons, because the income is just
no longer there from red meat
“This was our first time and we
were able to keep our heads above
“We’ll grow with the situation
and learn each yfear from our
"We’re learning what we can
and can’t do m working with
central markets.”
Eventually, in a few years, the
group may work toward a hydra
cool facility, which would prepare
fruit and vegetables and provide
tune for shipment. But such a
facility would cost about $lOO,OOO.
As with many crops m 1981, this
was a unique season for the can
"I was talking to one grower,”
Martin said, "and this is the first
tune he’s seen such a season in the
past 15 or so.”
The melon season alter tran
splant started otf dry in June.
Then, the big July 4 holiday rams
The melons exploded into growth
and were really pushed. Then, they
entered a starvation stage. The
larger melons on the vme started
robbing what moisture there was
trom the smaller.
The ends got soft and truit turned
yellow in the field. And then,
growers couldn't keep up with the
“In my own held,” Martin ex- - estimates he got about 3500. Some ‘“'d lll6 processing of the melons u
plained, "production is down about growers got worse and some better done in mucn tne same way.
one-third. They peaked so quickly than that. And if this marketing trend
we couldn’t pick them last In this first year, donated labor continues, as it is expected to,
enough.” has played a large role m the nee d to expand its
Average yield of cantaloupes is marketing program. The shed was ® r^, n !. rorn lts meata
about 7,000 to the acre. Martin constructed with volunteer labor to the produce section.
Load of cantaloupes arrives by horse-drawn begins. Cantaloupes are transferred to tractor
wagon at distribution shed along Rt. 322 east trailers, in background, for trip to big-city
of Blue-Rail and unloading into melon crates supermarkets.
Lester W. Martin, foreground, checks in on forklift prepares to move it to waiting
crate load of cantaloupes; while Nevin Martin tractor trailer truck.
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