Spring weather puts watermelon crops behind - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Spring weather puts watermelon crops behind

Some kids enjoying watermelon at the Farmer's Market in Cordele Some kids enjoying watermelon at the Farmer's Market in Cordele
Amy Horton, Watermelon Farmer Amy Horton, Watermelon Farmer
Monica Simmons, Cordele Chamber of Commerce President Monica Simmons, Cordele Chamber of Commerce President

Do you have a taste for some good ole' south Georgia watermelon? You might have to wait a little bit.

Farmers are running about three weeks behind after some crazy spring weather made this one of their most difficult seasons ever and sent prices up.

When planting season was a little dry, it caused problems with some crops. And when farmers had to re-plant multiple times, it may have passed rising costs on to the consumer.

The juicy fruit that brings smiles to those who take that mouth watering bite had a hard time getting to market this year.

"It's been kind of a hectic year. We've had to replant three times due to the weather," said Amy Horton, Watermelon Farmer.

Horton has worked on a family farm all her life, and she said she hasn't seen a season like this before.

"I've been doing this for over thirty years, and I've never seen it as hard as it is now to be able to actually have a stand of watermelons and be able to get them to the market on time," she said.

One watermelon hauler who didn't want to be identified said prices are at an all time high. He said five years ago he was buying melons for under a dollar, but now he said he's often paying up to $4 for one.

Those prices may have increased because of a delayed supply and increased labor costs.

"So it's a good bit difference. About 50-percent overall. (a 50-percent increase in costs?) Yes. Yes, sir," Horton said.

And recent rains have caused more complications.

"With more water that you get later in the season...you need a lot of water to begin with. But then once the watermelons come up and you get a good stand of them, and you start turning the vines and all, you really don't need all that much water," said Horton. "A lot of excess water makes them have disease."

But while the crops have been struggling, she said some sweet Georgia melons are finally beginning to arrive in the markets. Horton said there's no telling what next year will be like, and said farmers will just have to roll with whatever the weather brings.

The Cordele Farmer's Market manager said many farmers haven't arrived yet, which is very unusual for this time of year. They're expected to begin arriving next week, just in time for Independence Day.

The watermelon capital of the world is celebrating the succulent fruit, and this week the 64th annual Watermelon Days Festival is in full swing in Cordele. It will finish with a big bang this weekend.

A street parade up 7th Avenue will kick off at 9 O-clock Saturday morning. Other events include a car show, a watermelon seed spitting competition, and hot air balloon rides.

"We're doing hot air balloons this year. And this is our first time doing that. That will be Friday night out behind flash foods and Chick-fil-A. And then on Saturday morning they'll be at the arts and crafts festival. We're really excited about that," said Monica Simmons, Cordele Chamber of Commerce President.

Visitors can also expect to see plenty of watermelon queens and live entertainment throughout the day.

And watermelon lovers should come hungry. The popular watermelon eating contest will be held around lunch time.

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