By - August 1, 2015

Produce supplier tells his story of partnering with Publix

Kong of the West Honeydew Melons


Back in 1952, a gallon of gas cost about 20 cents, the average American worker earned an annual salary of $3,400, and fast food restaurants were gaining popularity. It’s also when Publix began partnering with the Turlock Fruit Company to bring King O’ The West honeydew melons to our 21 stores.

The Turlock Fruit Company has been family owned and operated for four generations. Owner Don Smith learned the business from his father by being hands-on at the loading dock. But it was his experience in sales that connected the farm to Publix.

“We originally worked through a produce broker in Tampa, and they introduced us to Publix,” said Don. “When we landed the Publix account, I was pretty proud of myself — it was a big deal!”

Don’s family farm was just a few hundred acres back then — they were just getting started — but as Publix opened more stores and word of their King O’ The West melons got out, Don had to grow his business to keep up with demand.

Today, the Turlock Fruit Company has grown to a few thousand acres, and Don is passing his knowledge to his son and grandson — part of which is providing quality honeydew to Publix.

“We have a great partnership because we grow good honeydew, and Publix buys good honeydew,” said Don. “We leave them on the vine longer than other farms, so it gives them more time to ripen and makes them sweeter.”

Having strong partnerships with our suppliers doesn’t just benefit Publix — our customers also get the best products at great values. And it doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

Melon Facts

  • This time of year, the Turlock Fruit Company grows its King O’ The West melons in central California’s San Joaquin Valley. The cooler temperatures there make for perfect growing conditions.
  • Honeydew melons have a short life span. After King O’ The West melons are picked, they’re quickly shipped to our produce distribution centers. By the time they arrive in stores, they’re at their peak flavor.
  • Speaking of peak flavor, King O’ The West melons will be featured At Season’s Peak Aug. 13 – Sept. 2. Pick up a melon that has a creamy yellow color and skin that’s slightly tacky or waxy — that signals the sugar content is just right.

Online Exclusive

The Turlock Fruit Company is just one fresh product supplier we’ve partnered with for a long time. Below are examples of other suppliers we’ve been doing business with for nearly half a century — or more!

Longstanding fresh product suppliers in our record books

Eighty-five years in the grocery business has taught us a lot about supplier partnerships. We develop fantastic relationships with suppliers who have similar values as ours and understand the importance of providing quality products for our customers.

Below are examples of our longest-standing fresh product suppliers — we’ve partnered with some of them for more than 50 years!

Supplier Product(s) Partners since
Produce Exchange Beans, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash 1947
Wish Farms Strawberries, blueberries 1950s
Turlock Fruit Company Honeydews, cantaloupes, other melons 1952
Wayne Bailey Sweet potatoes 1954
Joseph P. Sullivan McIntosh and Cortland apples 1955 (approx.)
Holler & Greene Cabbage 1963
Yakima Fruit & Cold Storage Apples, pears, cherries 1965/1966
Sunkist California citrus Before 1975*
*Records with Sunkist date to 1975, but Publix bought product before then.