A Taste of SummerPosted on Aug 9, 2022
For those who keep track of such things, August 3 was National Watermelon Day, and the countless watermelon lovers who have spent endless summers enjoying this tasty treat will agree with this recognition.
A little research into watermelon production reveals that nearly 80 percent of all U.S. watermelon production hails from four states including, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California, according to information from the USDA.
However, Kentucky producers have been providing homegrown watermelons to their patrons for years, as more and more consumers are looking for locally grown foods.
Brent and Rhonda Cornett of Laurel County have found it to be a productive part of their family farm.
The two own and operate a large fruit and vegetable operation outside of London, Ky., along with running their farm store where customers can buy their local produce including the ever-popular watermelons they grow on the farm.
“We've got about a total of four acres of watermelons, and we start planting around the first of May but they're not all planted at the same time,” Brent Cornett said. “We plant about an acre at a time over a six- or seven-week period. That way when we start harvesting, we should have watermelon all the way through until first of October.”
The watermelons are ready to pick around the middle of July, just in time for the summer picnic season.
Rhonda Cornett said that while the watermelons aren’t necessarily the “star of the show” at their farm, they surely bring in the crowds.
“For the store and the retail side of things, when you have good watermelons, it's a good draw to get people in the store,” she said. “It's one of those things that if you don't have, then they may choose somebody else to go shop with. But if you've got good watermelon, it definitely brings people in.”
Savannah Columbia, an Agricultural Extension Associate in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment Department of Agricultural Economics, provided some interesting facts about watermelons.
- Watermelons get their name from being about 92 percent water. Besides being just plain good, watermelons are full of nutrients and antioxidants which support a healthy and delicious diet.
- Watermelon consumption and production has increased in Kentucky and across the country. The Ag Marketing Resource Center estimates per capita consumption of watermelon to be about 15.5 pounds per person. That’s about one medium-sized watermelon per person!
- According to the UK Center for Crop Diversification, Kentucky farms annually harvest more than 1,000 watermelon acres. This makes watermelons the Commonwealth’s second largest fresh market vegetable by area.
- Watermelons can be found at your local farmers market or on-farm store (like a Kentucky Farm Bureau Certified Farm Market). They are also sold through produce auctions, community supported agriculture, wholesale markets, and local retailers.
- Watermelons can be found in local markets from May until October, giving consumers the opportunity to enjoy them all season long.
Rhonda Cornett said the watermelons are just a traditional part of summer for them and their customers.
“We start out the selling season with strawberries and that's a huge draw and everybody knows that spring is here. And when we get to summer, that's when the watermelons come in and they know summer is here,” she said. “My daughter says watermelons taste like summer!”