By Clint Thompson
North Florida watermelon growers hoping to take advantage of an early harvest by planting this year’s crop in late February are enjoying the fruits of their labor. Harvests are well under way across the Suwanee Valley Region.
Bob Hochmuth, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Regional Specialized Extension agent in Live Oak, Florida, believes almost all of the producers in his area will have started harvesting by the end of this week.
“I think by the end of the week, we’ll probably have 90% to 95% of the farms that will have at least started, and only a few later-planted fields that would probably be starting next week,” Hochmuth said. “We’re well into it now on these fields that were planted in late February and the first week in March. Most of those fields were harvested last week or some that got started very early in the week before that.
“Through this week, we’ll be full on, I think, with harvests.”
The production season hasn’t come without its share of challenges, however. Two freeze events in March temporarily stalled the growth of the fruit. Just last week, some of the watermelons were damaged when hail impacted the region. Still, watermelon growers appear pleased with this year’s crop. They will stay excited as long as demand remains high for the fruit.
“There’s some really good quality fruit coming out of here. I am hopeful and anticipating a good couple of weeks here at least,” Hochmuth said. “The demand is still strong. We’re hopeful that this could be shaping up early on here as a pretty good year.”