Knox County, Indiana
Growing watermelons is a Mouzin family tradition.
“My great-grandfather grew watermelons in France. We have continued the family business for years since coming to the U.S. My son Mike marks the fifth generation to farm this ground,” said Joe Mouzin.
The Mouzins sell their produce in a variety of markets. Nationally, they sell through a brokerage, meaning that shoppers can find the Mouzins’ produce at a variety of large grocery stores including Aldi, Kroger and Walmart. Locally, the Mouzins sell directly to consumers on their farm and at a farmers market. This local connection provides them the opportunity to build relationships with customers close to home, especially those who choose to come back year after year. Joe said, “We have customers who have been coming for years; some buy a few melons and others buy a pickup load. We just hope people enjoy what they get and buy more.”
The watermelon industry presents challenges that don’t exist for commodity crops. For example, watermelons don’t have futures prices, which makes profits even more variable compared to other crops. It also increases the financial risk to those who wish to invest in a watermelon producer. These challenges have pushed some out of the watermelon industry entirely.
“There are probably less than half as many growers today in our area as there was five to ten years ago,” said Joe. “You have to have space to grow, but it’s challenging because of competition for land and space in the national market.”
Due to the complexity of the watermelon market, the Mouzins have prioritized farm expansion and diversification since Mike joined the operation, turning to Farm Credit Illinois for support. When they began, Mouzin Farms consisted of 20 acres. With help from Farm Credit, the farm has grown in acres and even spans multiple states. The Mouzins have also diversified their crops to include corn, wheat, soybeans, cantaloupes and tomatoes, in addition to watermelon.
“The watermelon industry is complicated and very different from the general corn and soybean farms that local lenders are used to working with,” Joe said. “The service and advice Farm Credit Illinois provides helps us make crucial decisions; we couldn’t have what we have without them.”
Despite the challenges they’ve faced, the Mouzins remain proud to carry on the family tradition of producing watermelons for their community and the nation. Joe said, “Watermelon is a tasty and sweet dessert. It’s something people can enjoy if they are having a picnic, going to the beach or just sitting at home. We enjoy working together and, at the end of the day, enjoying the sweet fruits of our labor.”
This story originally appeared in Farm Credit Illinois’ bimontly e-newsletter, Essentials.