The story behind Plains' watermelons

The story behind Plains' watermelons

PLAINS, TX (KCBD) - "This is actually a field of Jack O'Lanterns here," Rhonda Hartman said as she pointed out the window of her farm truck.

Hartman was born and raised on her family's farm in Yoakum County.

"My great grandparents have farmed, my grandparents, my parents, all out here," she said. "Mostly watermelons and pumpkins, but we do grow some peanuts."

And while some of their crops are shipped across the country, others stay right here in Texas.

"Our Jack O'Lanterns, because we have a broker who handles those, the label will say 'Jackson Melons' and they also handle our watermelons. But the ornamental pumpkins will have a label or a sticker on them that say 'J and A Farms'. It's Jerry and Anne, my parents.  There is a lot of pride there," Hartman said.

Hartman said the family has a lot of pride in their employees too, some of whom have been with the company for years.

"You know them by name; you've seen their kids grow up. It's like we are one big family," Hartman said.

One big family who is harvesting 600 acres of watermelon this year. Hartman's mother helped found the Watermelon Round-Up. Hartman said their family along with other local watermelon growers donate melons to the festival every year.

The West Texas weather has cooperated so far this season, but Hartman said farming takes  a lot of faith and a lot of prayer.

"There is so much of it that is totally out of my hands. I can plant the crop, I can water it, fertilize it, and then it's in God's hands," Hartman said.

And while it is a risky business, "I couldn't ask for anything more. When I graduated high school, I was like I'm so out of here. I moved around a little bit, went to college, and came back and started farming and haven't regretted it since. I just, I love it. It's in my blood," she said.

With her parents nearing retirement, she and her brother are taking on more responsibility and she said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love being able to drive down the road and do the one finger wave or you always wave and the person you are passing will wave back and that's just what you do. I can't think of ever moving away. This is home; this is my place," she said.

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