Cave City watermelon growers warn against knockoffs

Cave City watermelon growers warn against knockoffs
The hot May helped growers catch up after a cold April delayed planting. (Source: KAIT)
The hot May helped growers catch up after a cold April delayed planting. (Source: KAIT)

CAVE CITY, AR (KAIT) - It doesn't quite feel like summertime in Sharp County until the Cave City watermelons hit the stands and that happened this past week.

For the town that boasts the sweetest watermelon in the world, the weather is an important factor each season.

Phillip Johnson of Johnson Brothers Farms said the below-freezing temperatures in April made them nervous.

"Usually we start setting the first plants somewhere along about the middle of April and that's when we were getting some real cold weather, so we were delayed a little bit in getting the first plants set out," Johnson said. "We thought that we were going to be really late. We thought we were going to be about three weeks late."

Thankfully, that changed once we finally shook winter and headed into May.

"They thrive really well in hot weather so the hot May was really good for growth," Johnson said. "Grew better than I've probably ever seen watermelons grow."

That's saying something since Johnson and his brother were raised in the watermelon fields as their parents also grew them.

The continual hot weather has now put them about one week ahead of schedule in opening the stands.

Johnson said that's a great thing because residents are always patiently waiting for that first watermelon of the season.

Since their watermelon are known across the state and even the country, a problem farmers often face are imposters.

Johnson said people passing off other watermelons as those from Cave City is not a new problem.

"Sometimes they do and they have for as long as I can remember," he said.

It can be a little aggravating, he said, when others are using your name to sell a different product.

One thing the city does to try and avoid this problem is that all certified Cave City watermelon growers put a sticker on their melons to show where they are from.

"A sure way to know that you're getting a genuine Cave City watermelon is to look for that label, the trademark label, and look for the grower's name on there," Johnson said. "Then you can always contact that grower with the information that's on there and give a call and say 'hey, we picked this up at this place is this legitimate?'"

Johnson suggests you could always make the trip to Sharp County to visit one of the grower's own stands as well.

"Pull up a chair, sit and visit for a while, and have a good time," he suggested.

Around 1980, a group of city leaders actually trademarked the name "Cave City Watermelons" so that anyone who uses that registered trademark to make money off of a different product is actually breaking the law.

You can always check the Cave City Watermelon Festival's website to get information on each of the certified growers.

The annual watermelon festival, which draws thousands to the town each year, is scheduled for July 26-28.

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