Last year I was invited by retired Laurel Farmer George Collins to visit the water melon operation of his son Mark at DMC (Wife Dawn and Mark. A series of health problems permitted me from making that date.
This year I asked if the invitation was still open; it was. So I spent half a day with George surveying the water melon fields and the operation from cutting the melons from their stem to the shipping process.
Over the years in Laurel others have built processing centers, skipping the middle man at the popular and long standing Laurel Farmers Auction where trucks and trailers sit and go through an auction process.
Most of the workers are out of Florida where they are use to the heat. A team of 10 are out in the melon field cutting the melons from the vines; this would be their fourth cutting, a fifth is questionable according to the foreman, but their are other fields.
On the other side of the field is another team of ten picking the melons and tossing them to team members on a school bus with the top cut off, seats out to accommodate the melons.
The buses then head to the packing facility where they line up next to a conveyer belt; the; rest of the process is intriguing. The assembly line has about 15 people. The most important person after those who are unloading, is the person who slaps the melon with both hands.
If the melon doesn’t sing his tune, it is tossed in the dump truck. It then goes to a computerized scale where the melon is weighed, them moves along the conveyer belt. Their are several computerized sections who have picked up the weight of the melons, and as they move along the line, they are kicked out by a board according to their weight.
They are then loaded into boxes we see in the stores then lifted by a fork lift and stored on pallets throughout the warehouse, to be loaded on tractor trailers waiting.
Most of the Collin’s melons travel to stores in Phila and New York. They process up to 20 bus loads a day. A very interesting day.
Other farms in the Laurel area I am aware of: Givens, and Vincent Farms. Vincents grows a lot of truck crops as Tomatoes, corn, cantaloupes, etc.