Free watermelon day draws crowd

Published 4:41 pm Friday, August 9, 2019

VALLEY — There’s nothing better on hot sweltering August day than a slice of watermelon washed down by some ice-cold lemonade. Lots of people were treated to that at Friday afternoon’s Free Watermelon Day at Valley Farmers Market. Valley Parks and Recreation Director Laurie Blount got some volunteer help from Council Member Jim Clark, Ray Edwards and Elizabeth Hall in serving slices of red and yellow meat watermelon.

The yellow meat slices were from watermelons grown in the heart of Chambers County by Walter Pulliam. The red meats were provided by Ora Finley off Camp Hill and Matthew Steele of Shorter.

Pulliam said he’s pleased with what his yellow meat melons have done so far this growing season.

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“I’m just getting started with my watermelons,” he said. “I will have a nice two-acre patch filled with them in October.”

Pulliam has a farm just outside LaFayette and works about 15 acres each growing season. In addition to his yellow meat watermelons, he has harvested some really nice purple hull peas, rattlesnake beans, tomatoes, okra and yellow squash this summer. On Friday, he sells them at the farmers market in Valley and on Saturday at the farmers market in Alexander City.

Steele is a member of a farmer’s co-op.

“Five of us work together,” he said. “We live within 25 miles of each other, and our co-op works to the benefit of us all. One of us may not be doing too good with one crop but another guy is doing great. We all have our ups and downs, but being in a co-op helps us all.”

Steele had the back end of his pickup truck loaded with watermelons at the Friday farmers’ market.

“I’ve done really well with my 720s, and my Charleston Grays this year,” he said. “We also have cantaloupes, peaches, tomatoes, okra and sweet potatoes.”

When asked if farming has taught him some lessons about life he responds, “I don’t believe in luck. I am all about hard work and staying with it.”

Ora Finley is working the family farm he was born on in 1949.

“This hasn’t been the best of years for us, but we’re OK,” he said. “Except for that time when I was in the service, I’ve been on that farm my whole life. I saw the world in the U.S. Army in 1968. I spent some time in Vietnam.”

Finley and his daughter, Maya Robinson, had plenty of watermelons along with some really nice-looking corn, butterbeans, okra, cucumbers and cantaloupes at the Friday market.

Laura McClellan of Circle M Farms, Fredonia, had a table full of items for sale in jars, and it all looked very tasty. She had preserves made from watermelons and figs and an amazing variety of pepper jelly, including one variety made from Dr. Pepper.