ASK THE EXPERTS: WHY DID YOU BECOME A WATERMELON FARMER?

July 19th, 2010 by The Watermelon Guy

Here’s a good question from a What About Watermelon reader. This one is answered by Ryan Van Groningen, a fourth generation watermelon grower from California.

CASEY A. FROM ROYSTON, GA, ASKS: I’ve always thought being a watermelon farmer would be a pretty neat job and was wondering why you became a watermelon farmer. Out of all the different crops you could have grown, what made you choose watermelon?

For me, the decision to grow watermelon was easy because watermelon growing is a family tradition! My family’s farm is called Van Groningen & Sons and I’m a fourth generation grower. To put it simply, we love what we do!

My family has been farming since 1922, when my great grandfather Henry Van Groningen (that’s him in the picture above) began farming row crops here in California. In 1929, he moved to our current location in Ripon, CA, about 80 miles east of San Francisco, and the rest is history. Today, I help manage the farm along with the rest of my family, which includes my father, my brothers, my sister, and my cousin.

As for why we chose watermelon as one of the crops to build our farm around, I have to say a big reason is because watermelon is a fruit that everyone loves! We take great pleasure in watching people enjoy such a fun and healthy treat. Also, the watermelon industry is a fast and furious business in the summer months, which means there’s never a dull moment because of the high volume of demand. And when you’re a farmer, being busy is always a good thing!

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ASK THE EXPERTS: WHAT PLANT IS THIS

December 17th, 2009 by The Watermelon Guy

“Ask the Experts” features questions submitted by readers via the Ask the Experts feature in the right hand sidebar. Feel free to ask our panelists anything you’d like about watermelon. All questions will get a personal response and some will be featured here on What About Watermelon!

KEITH FROM THE CARIBBEAN ASKS: I hope you can help out. I live in the Caribbean and I only started growing watermelon this year and got my seeds mixed up, between watermelon and pumpkin. Now I’ve attached a photo of a plant that I’m confused about (copied below). I don’t know if it is watermelon or pumpkin. Can you help with identification? I have North Carolina Giant White Pumpkin trying to grow down here but I have no idea which plant it might be.

Thanks, Keith

pumpkin plant

Josh BaileyGood question, Keith. These two plants are often confused, at least until they start growing a pumpkin or a watermelon. The plant in your photo is a pumpkin plant.

There are a few easy ways to determine this. First, watermelon plants are a vine plant, therefore they grow outwards, not upwards. A pumpkin plant, however, grows more upwards and has bigger leaves (it looks more like a bush).

Speaking of leaves, a pumpkin plant’s leaves will be shaped like a spade on a deck of cards (like the ones in your photo). The leaves on your pumpkin plant are rounder with relatively smooth edges, but some pumpkin leaves might not be as round and can be shaped like a large maple leaf, only with smoother edges. Though it can vary based on the type, most watermelon leaves have a more irregular shape and aren’t as round as pumpkin leaves. Watermelon leaves sort of look like oak leaves without the pointy tips.

leaves watermelon pumpkinConfusion often sets in during the younger stages of each plant, because the leaves can sometimes take a little while to mature and take shape (again, depending on the type of each plant). But the plant in your photo is advanced enough that I can tell it’s definitely your North Carolina Giant White Pumpkin. Good luck with it!

Best, Josh

ABOUT JOSH: Josh Bailey comes from a family farming background, and he started his own operation called Premier Melon Company in January 2004. Previously, he worked for his uncle’s company for 10 years, gaining experience in watermelon growing and handling. Josh lives in Schoolcraft, MI, and is a past president of the National Watermelon Promotion Board

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