Cucurbit Production in Indiana: 1925 and 2013

In December 2014, I described the ‘Yearbook of Agriculture, 1928”. In that blog, I wrote about processing tomato production in 1925 and 2013 (the ‘Yearbook of Agriculture, 1928’ lists data back to 1925). Today, I would like to discuss cantaloupe and watermelon production. Unfortunately, yields posted in the “Yearbook” are in different units than in use today. However, I can compare acreage in 1925 and 2015.

Cantaloupe production in Indiana in 2013 was at 2,100 acres. This compares to 4,820 acres in 1925. Part of the reason for the drop in acres might be that cantaloupe requires a lot of postharvest handling. Buyers want cantaloupe, also known as muskmelon, to be washed and cooled. Food safety concerns require growers to invest in specialized equipment and wade through reams of regulations.

In 1925, Indiana was number 6 in the US in cantaloupe acreage, behind California and Arizona (of course) as well as Colorado with 7,900, Arkansas with 7,730 and Maryland with 5,570. The 2013 USDA data, which lists Indiana as number 4, doesn’t even list Arkansas and lists Maryland with 630 acres and Colorado with 600. It is interesting to note that total acreage for cantaloupe production has dropped from 93,260 in 1925 to 70,410 in 2013. Acreage appears to have consolidated in states like California, Arizona and Indiana. My guess is that yields per acre have also gone up, but I can’t compare given the units used in 1925.

I mentioned that production tracked in different units back then. In 1925, Indiana produced 627,000 ‘crates’ of cantaloupes. I am not sure what a crate is; it may have been in crates of 36-45 cantaloupe. In any case, an average price per crate in 1915 was $1.29. If correct that means that cantaloupe were 2 to 3 cents per fruit!

If one uses the above production data for 1925, then cantaloupe production value in Indiana was $808,830. Figures for 2013 give a value of $11,500,000. Of course, inflation accounts for much of the increase in value. Whatever the reasons for the increase, the cantaloupe industry in Indiana is healthy.

Watermelon acreage in Indiana went from 3,440 in 1925 to 7,400 in 2013. It seems that what was lost in cantaloupe acreage has been made up for in watermelon acres. Watermelon do not have the same post-harvest needs as cantaloupe. In 1925 Indiana was number 8 in the US. In 2013, Indiana was number 6. A couple of states that Indiana jumped ahead of in the intervening years are Missouri and Alabama with acreage at 12,200 and 10,030, respectively.

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