One would be mistaken to think the only way to get water in a watermelon is to plant it in the “spring.”
Kenny and Linda Cornelius know better, and they should as they have been melon farmers for 45 years.
“Actually, the drier the year, the sweeter the watermelon,” Kenny pointed out, adding, “watermelons just need a drink every once in a while.”
The rainfall this year hasn’t made for ideal growing conditions, but Kenny and Linda know there are good years as well as bad years when you farm.
“It truly is a labor of love because a person really can’t make a living growing and selling melons,” Kenny noted.
“If this were easy and there were money in it, lots of people would grow melons,” he said. The Cornelius family is just one of three groups who grow watermelons in Daviess County.
Kenny and Linda transplant approximately 140,000 watermelon plants on three fields that total about 100 acres, and they, as well as sons Kyle and Kade, can attest to the fact the work is hard, the days are long, and the sun is hot.
While technology has evolved over the years, which has made the planting easier, the Cornelius family still turns vines by hand so fields can be cultivated. Vine turning is tedious and repetitive, but necessary.
Kenny, who will turn 67 next month and still is active in the planting, vine turning and cultivating, started working in the fields when he was nine years old.
“Working in the fields is just something that gets in your blood,” he said.
Kenny is no stranger to work as he maintained a fulltime job with the Indiana State Highway and also farmed. He instilled that work ethic in his two sons. Younger son, Kade, wants to carry on the legacy, as does grandson, Cash.
Those who do not farm likely question why devote so much labor, time and sweat in a venture that is such a financial gamble.
“There are no words to convey the feeling you have when you start with a small plant, tend to it, and then see it produce,” Kenny commented, adding, “you just have to have that feeling once and you’re hooked for life.”
The Cornelius family, during the hurry of the growing season, tends to forget the hard work that leads to the harvest as watermelon season winds down. The family members know the harvest is the tangible proof of their labor; harvest is the reason they look forward to the year that will follow.
Each family member wishes for just enough rain at just the right time in hopes of a productive growing season.
The watermelon-growing legacy will continue in 2020, but before this season ends, Kenny will continue a tradition nearly as old as he — as he begins disking, he will stop his tractor by one watermelon on each of his three fields and take a bite of a watermelon. That tradition is his way of extending his luck to the next growing season.