- Associated Press - Thursday, August 6, 2015

OAKTOWN, Ind. (AP) - Watermelons and cantaloupes: sweet, round and tasty. They’re also grown right here in the Wabash Valley.

The area between Sullivan and Vincennes is home to various melon fields and fresh produce stands. People near or far make the trip to sample local growers’ offerings, particularly watermelons and cantaloupes, which are currently in season. The melons are also being celebrated today, National Watermelon Day.

A drive South on U.S. 41 toward Vincennes winds past various retail stands that offer these fruits and other fresh produce such as corn, peaches, eggplants and tomatoes. At the Melon Acres in Oaktown on Saturday, a mother and son carefully inspected the watermelons and cantaloupes before picking - and purchasing - two of each.

Cleotis Hamilton and her son made the drive from her home in Sullivan to get the melons. For many years, it has been a family tradition to shop for these items at the Melon Acres. “We just think they’re always good,” she said.

Her kids grew up eating them, she said pointing to the melons, but this time, “They’re just for me. Those are mine.”

But the business of growing and selling the melons is also a family tradition for those who own Melon Acres. Co-owner Vicki Horrall said it is a third-generation family business. The members of the second generation - Horrall and her husband - now co-own and operate the business along with their three children.

The eldest, 28-year-old Autumn Freeman, is in charge of food safety at the business. But she has many fond childhood memories of working on the farm and the store with her family “all day.” She has other memories of accompanying her father and grandfather to the farmer’s market every weekend to sell produce and “strawberry fights” with her brother. Her mother says that when the children were younger, they would crack open watermelons, throw them at each other or put them on as hats.

But like many of her customers, Freeman also likes to eat watermelon.

“I love them,” she said.

Horrall said there’s high demand for the melons. People of all ages and from various parts of the country - including Ohio and Illinois - visit the stands for these sweet products. But as a wholesale business, trucks of watermelons and cantaloupes also get transported to various retail stores throughout the country - some as far away as Florida, Horrall said.

At The Big Peach, a farm and store further south of the road - near Bruceville - a steady stream of people came in to get the farm’s specialty - peaches - and also watermelons and cantaloupes.

Kayci Dycus, her husband and three children stopped by the store for peaches and a cantaloupe. The family was headed Indianapolis, but relatives asked Dycus to stop by The Big Peach for fruit.

“They ask me to stop every time,” she said.

Saturday was the first time Dycus got a cantaloupe from The Big Peach. “We’re gonna try it,” she said.

Acting manager Dylan Hagemeier said the store starts selling the melons in early July and continues to do so as long as supplies last, usually through August. The store gets the product from local growers.

“We sell melons really quickly,” he said of the demand. The store also gets lots of inquiries about them from out-of-state customers.

“People know this place” for melons and peaches, he said.


Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1Iqe4q4


Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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