The 30th annual Watermelon Convention gets underway today at the Sheraton Imperial at RTP. Michael Bunch Murfreesboro Farms, near Murfreesboro, NC, and President of the NC Watermelon Association says that Friday is the growers’ day, with the latest innovations on growing melons:
"A big part of our conference, on Friday, is we always have educational session where we get a lot of information from NC State and some of the seed people, it's a good growers' day. We'll in and learn about some of the seed trials that have been run, and some insecticides, pesticides and herbicides that we can use on melons and what they're looking at the will help us with our growing season."
Saturday is the fun day and the fund day for the watermelon growers and the Association. In addition to the Watermelon Queen Contest, there’s also an auction to raise funds for research and promotion of watermelons. Bunch explains where the funds raised from the auction are allocated:
"It's a good deal for everybody. Most of the time, we come close to raising anywhere from $150 - 200,000 and all of this money is used for the promotion of our product of watermelons and also research. Our budget at the association has, we allot a certain amount to research. We are commited to research projects and we award those that we feel are best for what we need done through NC State. And also we have a lot of help through NC Department for advertising and we usually spend in the range of $25-30,000 just to promote North Carolina watermelon."
While certainly not the largest cash crop in the state, Bunch says the Carolina’s offer some great melon growing aspects:
"It's not as big as some of the others, say cotton and peanuts, and maybe tobacco, you know, it's not as big a cash crop, and we kind of got to fight for what we've got. But in a way, it is very unique. It is a pretty tight knit group that grows melons and it's not for everybody. You know some people like it and some don't. North Carolina is a good place to grow - we have a window as far as growing, anywhere from coming off the first of July to October. And I've always felt North Carolina melons are as good as you can get anywhere and most of that is due to our climate.'"
Michael Bunch of Murfreesboro Farms.