History of melons in Arizona
Updated: Jul 24, 2021
“A number of varieties of cantaloupes and watermelons have been grown in the Yuma Valley for nearly 100 years”. By: Yuma ESS Staff
Much has changed from the “Bracero” days in the 1940’s to the present. The way we harvest, package and transport melons has significantly changed in the past almost 100 years. It has evolved into a modern more cost effective process that helps streamline the delivery of the product to vendors. One thing that hasn’t changed is the hard work of our local growers and agriculture workers put in to make sure Arizona Grown melons are available locally, throughout the US and abroad.
Some of the original growers of this fruit in AZ, were Lee A. Consaul Co., Jack Brothers Co. and McDaniel and Sons, Inc., all based out of Somerton. Lee A. Consaul operated one of the largest packing operations in the region outside of Somerton, strategically located adjacent to the railway which made transport easy to customers in other parts of the USA.
In part two of this story, we will learn more about how melons were processed, packaged and transported in the early days.
Some of the larger growers of watermelons and cantaloupes today are SMT Farms, Pasquinelli Produce and Barkley Ranches, to mention a few. During fiscal year 2017-2018 Arizona growers produced a total of 9,239,563 cartons of different varieties of cantaloupes and 4,308,629 cartons of watermelon. During fiscal year 2019-2020 they produced 9,387,678 cartons of cantaloupe and 3,433,622 cartons of watermelon. Most of this product was produced for export.
In the video below you’ll see how things were done in the mid 1940’s. This short video was recorded by a gentleman who owned and operated a movie theater in Somerton. This footage along with other was rescued by Stacy Wright who grew up in Somerton near the theater.
We encourage everyone to stop by your favorite grocery store today and get yourself some delicious Arizona Grown cantaloupes and watermelons.
In part two of "History of melons in Arizona" we will share with you stories about packing sheds, in the early days. STAY TUNED! (Video will be included)