Balmorhea – The wide expanses of West Texas contain majestic landscapes with mountains, dirt and dust. Despite the dry climate, life has found a way to flourish in this part of the state and the growing conditions are so good, you just never know what you’ll find blooming near Balmorhea.
“I guess we’re proving a point that you can grow watermelons in the desert,” Luke Brown said.
Luke Brown is a fourthh generation watermelon farmer.
“Everybody in Texas has their own story about a watermelon, and this is mine,” Luke said.
Since 2010, he’s made melon magic on these 800 acres right off of Interstate 10.
“It’s a long ways to get anything,” Luke said. “Midland Odessa is over a hundred miles. Fort Stockton’s 50 miles. Pecos is 40 miles and when you get to those two places, you still don’t have a lot options.”
Despite the long drive, Luke loves growing the great gourds in the parched part of our state. Technically, watermelons were first found in the deserts of Africa, and the climate here is just about the same sort of circumstances.
“They do very well in the arid climate because of the cool nights,” Luke said. “No humidity, low disease pressure, low pest pressure. This is a long growing season. We’re not so far north that we run out of heat days like today, you get this nice breeze. It’s very nice farming watermelons out here.”
When it came marketing his massive melons, Luke needed something that made his large juicy fruit stick out, so he made a very unique sticker.
“A picture’s worth a thousand words,” Luke said.
It’s not just his picture that pulls in the attention, his contact info actually creates a crazy amount of correspondence.
“I have an email address on the sticker,” Luke said. “I have received thousands of emails from people all over the state, all over the country, Canada, even a few from England. I don’t know how they got over there.”
Growing up in a family of watermelon farmers, Luke has been surrounded by this sort of lifestyle his whole life. It was no wonder that when he found love, he was looking in the sweetest spot: The Annual Watermelon Convention.
“I’ve been attending those watermelon conventions,” Luke said. “I attended my first one in 2007 and I was 12 and those girls were pretty then.”
Luke didn’t settle for just any good-looking Texas lady, he earned a blue ribbon when he married the Watermelon Queen. We’ve established Luke did a great job picking a wife, but can he pick the perfect watermelon?
“That is a question that is difficult for even I to answer,” Luke said. “Size doesn’t make ripeness. Exterior color doesn’t exactly make ripeness. It’s a combination of looking at this field and knowing which watermelon showing is ripe. That being said, for those of you in the store, if it’s cut and put in a bin, it should be ripe.”
Turns out giving it a smack might help too.
“That hollow kind of a good..that means you’re getting a uniform vibration, reverberation back out of the melon,” Luke said. “The interior quality is all intact. It hasn’t been dropped. It hasn’t been bruised and it hasn’t been allowed to just sit and get hot.”
The best part of being in a watermelon field in far West Texas is that you’ve got your pick of the litter.
“The perfect watermelon to me is sweet, crisp, firm texture,” Luke said.
For Luke, growing watermelon is his way of life. A Texas tradition that means more to him than a sweet simple snack on a summer afternoon made for a great stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“This is freedom, waking up, figuring out what needs to be done and then making that happen,” Luke said. “It’s something I don’t take light heartedly or for granted. I’m thankful every day that I wake up and have had this opportunity to be here. And, I’ve been blessed with the family that I have and all I aspire to do is when I have children of my own grandchildren, my own, that I can instill the same values and work ethic that I believe I possess.”