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Life is too short to eat bad food! Sharing great recipes, farm life, stories and photography from our Northern California dairy farm.

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August 14, 2013

A Peek inside at a Safeway Watermelon Grower plus recipe

I had the pleasure of being invited by Safeway to take a field trip to one of the local farmers that provides Safeway with their seedless watermelon supply.  Living on a dairy farm, I never turn down the offer of touring other types of farms if I can help it.  I find it completely interesting to learn about how food, other than milk, is grown or produced.

The bloggers/writers met up at the Marina Safeway in San Francisco where we then loaded onto the shuttle bus and drove the hour and a half to the Tracy, CA Safeway to pick up the other half of the group, including Perry and Sons, the farming family, before driving the short distance to the farm.



















On our drive over, we listened to Art Perry, sixty-something year old watermelon farmer, passionately share his family history, about how his grandfather came to this country in 1925 as an immigrant from the Azores Islands, Portugal and settled in Manteca, CA to live, grow their own food and operate a small dairy farm. The family made the transition from dairy producer to watermelon/pumpkin farmer in the early 1960's.

Art, in his senior year at Cal Poly, {he remembered my father-in-law, George, attending Cal Poly the same time}, changed his mind from becoming an Ag teacher...... he "was pulled back to the farm", something within him was drawing him back to the family farm, even though his father, wanting better for his son, encouraged him to choose a different career.

Shortly after Art's decision to come back to the family farm after graduating college, the farm partnered with Safeway, providing the grocery store with its supply of seedless watermelons.  They have been in partnership with Safeway for over 60 years.  Art feels the relationship with Safeway has lasted so long because they have the same beliefs in running a business, "quality and service" and "loyalty".




Upon arriving at one of Perry & Sons leased farmland crops, in Tracy, we learned that they only plants their watermelons on "virgin" land.  Land that has never grown watermelons previously, produces a better, healthier and more plentiful fruit.  Perry & Sons are constantly "hunting" for new land for their watermelon crops.  After a season of growing watermelons, the land can then be planted with other types of crops, such as corn.

Largely depending on climate and heat, a watermelon takes approximately four weeks to grow from the small melon in the photo below to the "ready to eat" stage.















At every stop along the various stages of crops we were shown, there were all sorts of goodies for us to try, all made with watermelon and various Safeway products.  This was my favorite....
Watermelon Black Bean Corn Salsa....



















Paul Gnomes, farming partner, showed us how to check if a watermelon is ripe for the picking.  All watermelons are hand picked when harvested, placed on a conveyor belt and will be at Safeway, ready for the consumer within 24 hours.

















More goodies.......





















Bees play a very important role in mini watermelon production.  A "pollinator" plant is planted at approximately a 3:1 ratio with the fruit bearing plants.  The bees must collect pollen from the pollinator plant and pollinate the fruit bearing plant for it to produce fruit.

This little guy was busy at work....





Perry and Sons also farm pumpkins.  Here Art poses with Steve, the Produce Manager from Safeway in a field of pumpkins..


















Dessert time.....


















Pumpkin muffin with cream cheese frosting was another favorite of mine...

















Towards the end of the farm tour, we had the pleasure of meeting Art's parents, George {94 years old}and Violet Perry.  Together they stand among the four generations of Perry & Sons farm.

Coming from a farm myself, it was not surprising  to hear how passionate Art is about farming and how close his family is to one another.  There's gotta be that passion from within and love of the land to farm seven days a week.

I was pleasantly surprised however, to learn Safeway buys from local produce farmers on a large scale.  I shop many places for the food that feeds my family, but predominately Safeway, and now knowing they buy from local produce farmers as much as they can and having the opportunity to meet one of the farming families, gives me a good feeling about shopping there.

Okay, I don't have the exact increments for the Watermelon recipe, but these were the ingredients and this is what I would do.....

Watermelon Black Bean Corn Salsa

3 cups Chopped watermelon
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 can corn, rinsed
1 cup cilantro, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together and enjoy!
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