GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Many South Mississippians are preparing to chow down on a popular 4th of July fruit this weekend, but before watermelon makes it to the table for Independence Day, farmers have to make sure they're ripe and ready.
Watermelon season is in full swing. Courtney Farms in George County is making sure the green melons are sweet and succulent.
"Mother Nature has a lot to do with it. You got a good sunny, hot day, it seems to make a better eating watermelon," owner Mike Courtney said.
Though this is peak season, the preparation begins well before then.
"We start growing them the first of March and it takes about 90 days around that time," Courtney said.
A few miles away, Eubanks Produce Farms also has melons everywhere. They're shipping out loads of the fruit to meet the demand this summer.
"It started out in early June, and it's starting to slow down right now, because there are a lot of watermelons on the market," owner Allen Eubanks said.
Eubanks is a third generation farmer and says though watermelon is popular this time of year he admits the season has had its ups and downs.
"We had some challenges with the cold weather and a lot of rain, but it has been a fair season overall," Eubanks said.
Still, watermelon equals big bucks for George County. Farmers said the county could gross more than $6 million this year from the sweet crop.
"It is very big here. It is probably 50 percent of our overall business as a company," said Eubanks. "A lot of income comes from watermelon, from the people selling the stuff, to grow them, to work and process and labor getting them out. It is a lot. It is a pretty big impact."
Next time you are enjoying a delicious slice of watermelon, you never know, it could be from George County. The farmers said watermelon season typically ends July 31. George County will be sponsoring a watermelon fun day Saturday, July 12, at 9 a.m. in front of the courthouse in Lucedale.