HOPE, Ark. (KTAL/KMSS) – Wet weather is causing a growing problem for watermelon crops in our area, raising concerns about a famous festival featuring the fruit.
By this time of year, growers say their fields would be filled with hundreds of watermelon ripe for the picking, but summer storms have saturated the crop.
“Watermelons takes a little rain and a lot of sun,” said Manuel Salinas, owner of Salinas Farm. “And we ain’t had neither.”
Salinas has been farming for 65 years. He said this season has been the least fruitful watermelon crop of all. He’s planted his eight acres of fields three times this year.
“I’d get hundreds and hundreds of watermelons,” said Salinas. “This year, so far, we got about 300. That’s it. No more.”
It’s a problem impacting growers across the region and something on the minds of Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce officials as they gear up for the 43rd Annual Hope Watermelon Festival.
“We will have melons,” said Beckie Moore, Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce executive director. “It’s just gonna be a little bit of a challenge to see where we get them and how we gather as many as we need.”
Hope is home to world record-setting melons, and while the size of this year’s crop may be smaller, the tasty tradition will continue.
“Whether you eat a large Hope watermelon or a small Hope watermelon, you always will walk away happy,” said Moore.
Moore said there’s something special about the soil in the city that sets their award-winning watermelons apart. In fact, city leaders plan to reinstate a sticker for growers to use to signify their crop’s an official Hope melon.
Officials said the move is in response to reports of fraudulent fruit being sold as a slice of Hope.
Growers hope to be able to contribute crops to the Watermelon Festival by the time it arrives August 8 – 10. For more information about the festival, click here.