The Enza Zaden watermelon program, while only 4 years old, has grown rapidly due to a combined R&D and commercial team with over 100+ years combined experience, and a great product assortment. Based in Myakka City, FL, the commercial team’s collaborative style, as well as the prime east coast location, contribute to the fast success and a bright future for this program.
The eastern commercial team consists of three members; Justin Lanier, Butch Brady and Rod Jorgensen.
Rod Jorgensen, Enza Zaden Sales Manager, brings his knowledge of selling and marketing watermelons to the team – having worked with watermelons throughout much of his seed career in sales and marketing for the company that currently holds the highest market share in the watermelon industry.
Justin Lanier, Enza Zaden Product Specialist, previously worked as the county extension agent in Crisp County Georgia, a location with the most acres of watermelon of all the counties in the state of Georgia. Lanier has experience helping growers with recommendations learned through extensive trialing of watermelon varieties, trials of pesticides and herbicides, as well as a wealth of knowledge on the overall cultural practices and growing needs of watermelons.
“Justin is a great data resource and growers really appreciate that when we go into a field,” Rod Jorgensen, shared. “Justin’s expertise is integral in helping us position our products to sell. With his input, we can make fine-tuned statements about where our products will do well.”
Butch Brady, Enza Zaden Senior Sales Representative, brings a lifetime of watermelon experience to the team and has an extensive network of contacts of growers and brokers on the east coast. His grandfather and father grew watermelon in the 60’s and 70’s in Florida and evolved to buying and distributing watermelons throughout the eastern US.
“Once we get through the product development phase, Butch is able to target the key individuals in his network and make sure that they see the product,” Jorgensen shared.
“Three years ago, the common question was; ‘What’s an Enza?’ but today there is a lot of buzz about us and we are establishing new standards in the variety makeup of watermelon growers,” Jorgensen said. “Not only do we offer great, high performing varieties, but the combination of having great products with a great team has allowed us to penetrate the market and do as well as we have.”
One variety the team expects to have tremendous success with is Cracker Jack (E26C.00063).
Cracker Jack has a very strong plant that emerges well in the greenhouse as a transplant and continues to provide a strong vine throughout the growing season. The uniformly setting blocky oval fruit offers a firm flesh with a very deep red internal color when cut. Cracker Jack has an early maturity of 81-83 days. The average weights are from 15 to 19 lbs.
“This is our big year in the field and we’re watching it closely and learning a lot about the variety and how good and adaptable it is across a wide-segment of the production areas,” Jorgensen said.
The breeding team, located in California, and the watermelon team have worked together to produce new hybrids quickly. Building a robust assortment of products – including crimson seedless, non-harvestable pollinizers, diploid pollinizers, mini watermelons, etc. – is one of the key objectives of the team and is also a requirement to be considered a great breeding program.
Looking forward, the team expects to launch 2-3 new products over the next 3-4 years.
Congratulations to the watermelon team on a successful start and a bright future.