The Watermelon Bus! Throughout North-Central Florida watermelon farmers, harvesters, and packers are getting their harvesting buses ready to dive into what looks to be a nice watermelon crop. Farmers have been challenged with below average temperatures, and above average rainfall this spring, but the farmers appear to have made the right management decisions to deliver a nice crop. As I travel around, farmers are getting their harvesting buses ready in good running condition, and sanitized to meet their food safety requirements. It can be a challenge to keep equipment in top shape that is only used for 3-4 weeks each year, but without the buses to haul melons from the field harvesting would be at a stand still.
Locally there is a lot of talk about more acres of watermelons planted this year compared to last. I have heard it suggested that watermelon acres may have increased 20% over last year in this area. As consumers have learned about the nutritional benefits of Florida Watermelons, the planted acreage has stabilized after falling for decades. Census data show as many as 73,000 acres of watermelons planted in Florida in 1960. However, the area planted in 2014 is probably around 24-26,000 consistent with the last several years. The region of greatest production is the north to north-central Florida region which grows about 37% of the states harvested acreage. This region includes Suwannee, Gilchrist, Alachua, Lake, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties.