Kevin Moore is a late comer to the watermelon grower scene in Cave City, but is none the less productive. Moore, who is a full time farmer and part time construction worker, began producing melons in 2008. He had been around melon production his entire life and always wanted to try it, so he threw his hat in the ring. His great grandfather grew melons back in the 1930s.
Moore is growing 15 acres of watermelon and cantaloupe this year. “We are pumping a lot of water but they are doing really good.” They are currently getting two loads out each day, but will soon begin getting three out in time for watermelon festival.
He said the heavy spring rains put them a bit behind on the year’s planting. Moore was able to get melons in the ground from the greenhouse on May 4. “You like to start the second part of April. We had all that rain first, and then it quit.” One thing Moore has an advantage over other growers is he has had little trial an error due to precedence set by pioneer growers. Moore got into the production game after plastic, irrigation and drip tape had long become a common practice among Cave City growers. This was first established by the Johnson Brothers after they visited several Missouri Bootheel growers on Field Days and has been the single most important innovation in the growing process for all growers. Prior to this, growers simply trusted in nature for watering of melons. The irrigation and drip tape allows melons to get the optimal water needed to be the best they can be.
Moore and his son, Kolton and son in-law Andrew Creekmore work in the family operation. When asked how to determine the perfect melon, Moore said, “We look at the ‘curlies’ [stems] and we listen for that deep drummy sound.” He explained the ‘curlies’ are the stem and the two vines on either side need to be dead but only on a healthy vine. They pick their melons in both the mornings and evenings.
Moore said the main issue they have had in the past with their melons is animals and not getting enough water. “You have got to get your ground right, real powdery and real soft so the plant sets good,” he explained of the importance of the pre-preparation phase of the ground before transplanting the watermelons.
Moore said he was very lucky when he started. “Most of the growers are my cousins, the Carters and Johnson’s.” George Carter was instrumental in helping him get started. “I was lucky there. When I was a kid, we hoed the melons for Junior Simmons. There was no plastic back then. You have little learning curves every year but I was lucky, I had them behind me.”
His son and son-in-law also have chicken houses, so they are just a farming family. The Moore’s are also thinking about experimenting with growing strawberries next year.
They try to rotate their crops every three years to avoid depletion of nutrients in the soil. In the event they can’t, they plant in the middle row on the off year .The melon farming work is hard and begins early around 6:30 a.m. Kevin said he stays at the stand until around 7 p.m. each evening to help customers select and load melons. As a family oriented business, Moore also enjoys the time the stand allows him to be with his family. He is especially fond of having his four grandchildren at the stand. The Moore’s have shipped melons by plane to Alaska. “Cave City melons are known everywhere. We are really going to start stocking up next week. We hit it lucky this year. We have about five acres that haven’t come off yet. We are going to hit festival good this year. We lucked out. It is a really family oriented business, I couldn’t do it without them.”
Moore’s stand is located at the Junction of Hwy 115 and 167 in Cave City.