Wide World of Watermelons

Wide World of Watermelons

By Ben Batton, ALC Des Moines

After a scorching hot summer ravaged much of the country, let’s think about something cool, sweet, and juicy. Watermelon, that iconic summer fruit, holds a special place in our hearts as the ultimate thirst-quencher and sweet treat. In this edition of Keeping It Fresh, we’ll take you on a refreshing journey through the world of watermelons, exploring fascinating facts, their growth areas, consumption, and the logistics that bring these luscious, lycopene-laden fruits to our backyards and tables.

Watermelons have a long history dating back to ancient Egypt, where they were not only consumed, but used as containers for water storage. There are over 1,200 varieties of watermelon, ranging in size, shape, and color. The most common types include the classic red seedless and yellow-fleshed varieties. Watermelons are aptly named, as they are composed of over 90% water. This makes them an excellent hydrating snack, especially during the hot summer months. Plus, they are rich in vitamins A and C, and antioxidants!

ALC Des Moines office has worked with Capital City Fruit since 1969, managing hundreds of watermelon loads every year. Keith Brooks, Capital City’s watermelon buyer, has been in the melon business since 1991 and has built strong relationships with growers nationwide. He works to guarantee the availability of fruit for his customers and sources watermelon all year long, especially during the peak season of April through August. Keith is active with the National Watermelon Association (NWA) and has been on the board for eight years. Allen Lund Company has been a member of the NWA for nearly 15 years.

“Back in the day, we used to load bulk watermelons on the floor of the trailers on top of straw or shredded newspaper,” Keith remembers. “But today, watermelons are shipped in bins triple-stacked on reefers or dry vans with produce vents.” All the growers he buys from are good partners who follow food safety requirements and communicate well. “However, some of the characters out there are lower than a snake belly in a wagon wheel rut, so you have to pick your partners wisely,” reminds Keith.

All fresh produce is heavily affected by weather, but watermelons present an added challenge because they are not typically cooled before shipping. Most produce is harvested and transported to a cooling shed where it is brought down to temp before being shipped across the country. Many growers use converted school buses to haul melons from the field to the packing shed, where they are sized and placed in bins. This means there can be a lot of “field heat,” so it’s common for drivers who transport watermelon to open the front and rear vents when first loaded in order to circulate air through the trailer during the first couple hours.

As we savor the sweet, juicy taste of watermelon on hot summer days, it’s worth appreciating the global effort and logistics that go into bringing this delectable fruit to our tables. From the fields where they are grown to the logistics networks that transport them, watermelons truly represent the essence of summer. So, the next time you bite into a slice of watermelon, remember the journey it took to reach your plate. Cheers to the summertime staple that keeps us cool and refreshed!


Ben Batten is General Manager, ALC Des Moines.
Ben graduated in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Transportation and Logistics from Iowa State University and joined DMTB in January 2004. Over the next decade, he worked as a broker, account manager, and sales executive before being promoted to VP of Sales and Operations in 2015. In 2017, he became a partner in the business, and the Allen Lund Company acquired DMTB in February 2020, where he served as the assistant general manager of the ALC Des Moines office before being promoted to general manager in 2022.