RALEIGH – On Thursday morning at the North Carolina State Farmers Market, eight of the best farmers in the state came together to find out who had the largest watermelon. Four experienced growers took home the top prizes, but growers of all ages made the contest great.
Kenneth A. Davis of Forsyth County had the heaviest melon at 180 pounds. After coming in second in the contest last year, Davis planted seeds from last year’s 187.5-pound mammoth to bring another impressive melon.
While this year’s crop was smaller, so was the rest of the competition’s.
“I guess we got a little bit luckier this year,” Davis said with a laugh. “This was an impressive crop again, so I’m just happy we were able to come away the winner.”
Davis isn’t a huge farmer with acres of land, but he grows enough corn, watermelon and other products to feed his family. In return, his grandchildren and other family members make sure to give back by helping to grow the winning watermelon.
“It’s hard work to grow a big one,” Davis said. “We started this one in April in an incubator, but it didn’t pollinate until June. … My grandsons both went out to the fields to dump the compost. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
As for what he plans to do with the $1,000 prize for winning, Davis told me, “I’ve got 11 grandchildren and 14 birthdays coming up, so this should be enough to go around.”
Davis brought the largest melon, but the smallest belonged to arguably the cutest contestant. Young farmer Will Barefoot brought his family and a 100-pound watermelon to the contest. Though he didn’t place this year, the smallest grower made an impact on the young fans in attendance.
“Teaching children when they’re young the importance of agriculture is huge,” Carmen Honeycutt, North Carolina’s Watermelon Queen said of Barefoot’s involvement. “I think it’s great to see Will growing his own watermelon and bringing it up here.
“He’s going to keep practicing and one day—when he’s as old as these other growers—he’s going to win.”
She also noted how important events like the watermelon contest are for the state’s agriculture as a whole.”Events like this really bring us together,” Honeycutt said. “It’s a reminder that agriculture is what keeps us alive and keeps us going. … The ones that live on the farms and grow these humongous watermelons get a chance to show off their skills.”
Barefoot might be several generations behind Davis and the other contestants in terms of experience, but one thing is for sure—the seeds are planted.