HERMISTON — Hermiston’s most famous crop is shaping up nicely this year.

Bellinger Farms started selling their first batch of watermelons this week and Jack Bellinger said he was pleased with the sugar content and weight.

“All indications suggest that it’s going to be a good year, quality-wise,” he said.

He said he was surprised with how much the early melons weighed this year, making him cautiously optimistic about the season.

Heavy snow in February had put the crop behind schedule, Bellinger said, and he had expected to see a gap between when his early fields and late fields were ready. Instead, ideal weather in June helped speed things up and will help keep watermelons rolling into the store.

“I would have guessed we wouldn’t start until July 15 or so,” he said.

Watermelons are already available for purchase, however, and Bellinger said their operation would start shipping them outside of Hermiston on Friday.

Walchli Farms watermelons are not quite ready yet, but Patrick Walchli said they are looking good and will be here “shortly.” The large family-owned farm sells its melons out of a warehouse on Loop Road.

“Right now they’re not ripe, but I expect to have good quality from what we’ve seen,” he said.

He said in Eastern Oregon you never know what you’re going to get, weather-wise, during a growing season.

The region’s climate is one of the reasons Hermiston watermelons are so sweet, however. Hot days spur the plants to produce more sugar for energy, and cool nights help them retain the sugar. The taste makes the melons a coveted commodity around the United States, and draws people to Hermiston each year.

Reporter

Reporter covering city government and economic development in Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield and Echo.

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