Anticipating increase of more than one-third in melon sales in 2010, Westley, Calif.-based Del Mar Farms has launched a construction project to add eight forced-air cooling tunnels.

Del Mar Farms doubles cooling capacity

Courtesy Del Mar Farms

Del Mar Farms, Westley, Calif., is increasing its cooling facilities to handle more volumes of cantaloupe and honeydew melons starting in July.

The new tunnels, each of which is approximately 7,500 square feet, will double the company’s cooling capacity to 16 tunnels, said Brian Wright, director of sales and operations. Del Mar Farms cools, packs, ships and markets apricots, tomatoes, cantaloupe and honeydew melons. The facility is used to store almonds in the fall and winter.

Del Mar’s primary grower of cantaloupe and honeydew melons, Patterson, Calif.-based T&M Farms, expanded acreage, Wright said, leading to the decision to increase the cooling capacity.

“Last year, our combined melon volume was about 750,000 boxes,” he said. “We know we’re going to exceed one million boxes this year.”

Westley is located in western Stanislaus County at the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley. Unlike their west side counterparts further south in the valley, growers represented by Del Mar Farms have ample irrigation water, Wright said.

“Our growers have good wells and their acreage is served by several strong irrigation districts,” he said. “Nearly all the melons we produce and market are grown within a 10-mile radius of our cooler.”

The expansion project is expected to be completed by the start of the melon season in July, Wright said.

“There is nothing but open fields where our packing and cooling facility currently sits, so we have plenty of room to keep growing,” Wright said.