Watermelon season winding down

-A A +A


Special to the Citizen

After a late start the Levy County watermelon season will be winding down in a couple of weeks.

"It's been a good season and it's not over, with a few more weeks to go," reported Marti Eberhart Smith at Billy Smith's Watermelons. "It's been going great since June 2. It did start late."

She said the cooler wet weather in April and May was responsible for the late start. And with the rain it hasn't been easy to pick every day.

Smith added that their seedless melons are good quality this season: "nice and sweet."

"My indication is we're having a really good year," she said. "Prices are about the same as last year."

The Georgia crop has not arrived yet and Smith said consumers might find bargains from local farmers and brokers who are selling culls or No. 2 watermelons. These are good melons that might not have the traditional 

appearance desired by some stores and markets.

"We'll know how the season was in a couple of weeks," said Anthony Drew with the Levy County Extension Service. "It depends on who you talk with."

He said watermelons will be followed by corn in July and August and peanuts in mid-August.

"It's not a bad year," said grower Frank Quincey, back after a year away. "Price-wise it's not as strong as we've had, with a lot of culls."

He said they started harvesting on the last day of May this year, a little later than usual, and the rain, at certain times, didn't help. Quincey also had some hollow heart this year, a watermelon condition that causes internal cracking but does not affect taste or quality.

It could be linked to poor pollination, with the early cool cloudy weather keeping the bees from doing their job.

"It's a problem we've had for years," he said. "All-in-all, between one and five, I'd give this season a three. We're going to make a few dollars."

He also gives the season another 10 days, if the vines stay healthy.

According to Bob Gibson, Florida Department of Agriculture, Levy County ranks about sixth in the state for watermelons. Census figures show the county with 12 watermelon farms on 1,220 acres.