June 25, 2003
Albany-- It's a farmer's goal to have their watermelon crop to market by July Fourth.
That's when sales of the melon skyrocket. After that, prices drop dramatically. A wet planting season has delayed the harvest by about a week.
"If you will notice on top of this melon there is sunburn which is caused by a fungicide that we spray on the crop." Worth County Extension Agent Rusty Harris knows sunburned watermelons probably won't make it to market, "No it doesn't effect the taste, but people don't want to buy a sunburned watermelon, but it is fine."
This field looks pretty healthy--but a good portion of the watermelons just aren't ready for picking. Harris says, "The cool wet weather in the spring has really put a kink in the process in terms of having a lot of watermelons ready to go to the market."
The watermelons just didn't get enough sunshine early on, delaying maturity by a week--and when it comes to watermelons a week can make all the difference, "The market we are going for is the Fourth of July market and the prices really drop off after the fourth and it is really not economically justified to grow a watermelon that comes off on July 5th."
When it comes time to harvest a watermelon, the way to tell if it is ripe is too give it a good thump. Harris demonstrates by tapping on two watermelons, the one with a deeper sound is ready for picking. Of course it takes a trained ear to really tell the difference between a good watermelon and a not-so-good one. But this year, there will be fewer to choose from.
While harvesting normally starts the second or third week in June, Worth County farmers are just starting to pick their watermelons now.
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