Tim Carter is another Cave City watermelon grower that goes back several generations and shares the long line of melon blood in Cave City. Carter works a full time job at the Cave City School Department and also teaches agriculture classes. He operates his stand with his sons and Grayson, 16, John Alan, 12, and wife, Britney.
Carter recalls working as a child in the watermelon fields alongside his father grandfather Billy and father, Johnny, working 90 acres learning early-on the tricks of the trade and how to effectively produce the best melons … an art, he still takes seriously today.
The Carter operation is smaller than most today now that Tim has gone solo, but the family enjoys
it just as much. After his father’s death in 2009, he took over and his sons and years later, his sons, like himself began the family tradition of melon farming. Like other growers, Tim Carter utilizes the planting techniques of green housing his own plants beginning in about April. He also plants them in plastic and used drip tape irrigation to water the plants.
The long hours of work are something he and his boys are used to. A comfortable chaise
folding chair can be seen at their stand next door to the Dollar General in Cave City where they spend much of the day to sneak a little downtime between customers.
Tim said his business has been successful through the years due to a lot of repeat customers who come from far away to purchase melons and the many locals who trust in the quality they have gotten used to and even come to expect from the Carters. Customer service and satisfaction is something the Carter family takes very seriously and is undoubtedly something they have earned time and again with repeat customers.
Watermelon growing isn’t always easy and each year a different set of challenges are confronted and
conquered. This year the drought has been the main culprit for most watermelon growers in the area and being able to get enough water to the plants for them to grow adequately is key. Another issue he faces involves wholesalers who buy from them and sell them at more mark up than even the grower can get. This can sometimes discourages people out of town into thinking the melons at the Cave City stands are much higher than they actually are. “You have to watch who you sell them to and what they are going to do with them. They take it and are trying to get $25 bucks for these melons and they are not having any luck at it. If they keep that melon for two weeks and it rolls around in the back of their car it still has your name on it. So when they do sell it, it might be mush.” He spoke of the famous Genuine Cave City Watermelon stickers that grace the rinds of all registered growers melons.
To demonstrate his point with wholesalers, Carter recalled an incident a few weeks after his father passed away. He stepped into finish out the year’s production. While on a trip to a drag race in Newport, Tim saw melons for sale that had his dad’s name still on them. He said the man who brought them continued to be his customer until he too passed away.
The Carters continue the long line of melon farmers and perhaps someday, Grayson and John Alan will take over for their father and carry it to their own children.