The first few Hermiston watermelons are starting to hit the stands, but watermelon season isn’t in full swing yet.
“We’re starting very slowly,” said Jack Bellinger of Bellinger Farms.
Bellinger said on July 9 that they had put a few watermelons out in the Bellinger Farms store south of Hermiston, but they weren’t shipping them out quite yet. He said that he had planted about a week earlier than usual this year, but some “questionable weather” had slowed things down.
The wind storm that swept through west Umatilla County and north Morrow County on the last day of May damaged watermelon crops around Hermiston, including some damage to Bellinger fields.
“I’ve never seen a wind storm do that to a watermelon crop before,” Bellinger said.
The weather wasn’t the only interesting thing this spring — farmers have also been having to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Bellinger said luckily between his “core crew” of people who usually help with harvest during the summer, plus their contract labor from Atkinson staffing, he has had the help he has needed.
He said the first watermelons to ripen haven’t been as large has he was looking for, but people can still look forward to a good, quality taste.
“I’ve been happy with the flavor of the seedless so far,” he said.
Jade Mueller of 3rd Gen Farms said the wind storm and subsequent days of strong winds broke many of the farm’s watermelon starts, so their crop will be about half of what it has been some years.
She said their smaller melons, such as Gallia melons, have already been for sale at Alive and Well and said they were planning on starting to sell watermelons the week of July 13. 3rd Gen Farms also has a stand at the Maxwell Market in Hermiston most weeks.
Patrick Walchli of Walchli farms said the uneven temperatures this summer slowed down the ripening process, and the farm plans to start harvest July 20.
“I think the crop looks really good so far, it’s just been set back a little bit from normal,” he said.
He said since June he has gotten plenty of people asking when they can get their hands on a Walchli watermelon, and it’s always a nice feeling to know people are excited for their product.
“It makes you feel good that people think of it,” he said.