RICHMOND, Va. — Melon harvest is under way in Virginia, and growers are reporting a quality, sweet crop this year.
In Halifax County, Reese Farms grows nearly 50 acres of watermelons and cantaloupes, which they sell at two retail farm stands and to Virginia wholesalers that serve customers in a 150-mile radius.
“It’s looks like an excellent crop for our melons this year,” said Don Reese of the family-owned farm.
“We were able to plant on time despite the wet conditions in May. The hot, dry conditions in June have been ideal for ripening. We have seen great quality since we started picking.”
Reese began picking cantaloupes the last week of June and began harvesting watermelons in time for the Fourth of July.
“Both cantaloupes and watermelon are very popular, but Halifax is known for its excellent-tasting cantaloupes,” Reese said.
In fact, Halifax County Farm Bureau will supply melons from Reese Farms for the 2018 Virginia Cantaloupe Festival on July 27.
Melons are best enjoyed during the heat of summer, Reese said. The National Watermelon Promotion Board’s consumer research finds that the majority of watermelon is eaten as a cool, refreshing snack. NWPB also touts the healthy, nutritious benefits of eating watermelon, which is packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
Buyers are eager to purchase summer melons from Hanovertown Farm in Hanover County, but the wet spring weather delayed harvest of the farm’s fruit. At that farm, George Rice grows seeded and seedless varieties, such as Wayfarer and Sweet Dawn, but he won’t begin to harvest them until next week.
Rice sells 75 percent of his watermelons to local produce stands and the rest to produce distributors in the Richmond area.
“The watermelon crop started slow because it was adversely affected by the rain. Now, the fields are drying up with spurts of fine growth. I expect them to be great when ripe,” Rice said. “The vines and leaves that make sugar are taking off and should produce sweet watermelons.”
— Virginia Farm Bureau Federation