Category Archives: NWA Member Mondays

Member Monday: Nunhems USA Helps Growers Become Members

Watermelon farmers are the lifeblood of the National Watermelon Association.  Without their dedication to the soil there would not be a need for the Association.  Thankfully though, there are those that have the diligence and the fortitude to urge little sprouts to grow into the developed vines that bear us so much fruit.

That being said, it is imperative that we draw more growers into our Association so that we can share with them all the tools that we have to offer.  With new laws, disease pressures and other adversities, the National Watermelon Association can and does help growers face them with their best foot forward.

Nunhems logo

Bayer Vegetable Seeds (Nunhems) understands how important growers are, that’s why they have chosen to fund first year membership to eligible watermelon farmers who aren’t members of our great association yet. By partnering with the Association, Bayer is opening the door to this possibility for growers.  Having the ability to show growers that we are there for them will be beneficial for all in the long run.

We would like to officially welcome four new grower members who have taken advantage of this unique opportunity. Gary Cecil from Owensboro Kentucky has joined the Illiana watermelon Association. Greg Wright from Byers, Colorado, and Gerardo Alberto Flores Cavazos from Mexico have both joined the Texas Watermelon Association. Galen Crawford from Ontario, Oregon is now a member of the Western Watermelon Association. We are thankful that these watermelon growers and their family businesses have joined our watermelon family and will begin to benefit from the member services that the Association offers to them, all through the work and support from Bayer Vegetable Seeds (Nunhems) generosity.

Members:  If you know of a watermelon grower that is NOT a member of our association, please share this opportunity with them. The more members that we have, the stronger that we will become as individuals and as an association. When we are stronger, we can do more to help our members and the National Watermelon Association.

John Lapide #nwaMemberMondays

john and grandson lapide

‘Our strength begins with our farmers. With relationships dating back over 20 years…’ This statement, found on the Melon 1 website, reflects the value they place on longstanding relationships. This is also indicative of the value founding partner, John Lapide of New York, places on relationships. The National Watermelon Association has been the happy recipient of John’s friendship and involvement for over 13 years.

John Lapide is the epitome of  hands-on leadership. He served the Association as President in 2009-2010 and as an officer for four years. He is currently an active and engaged leader on our Executive Committee as well as the Co-Chair of the Auction Load Committee. John is also involved as a member of the Budget, Food Safety, Nominating, Liaison, Public Affairs, Research, Promotions, and Convention Committees.

You can see that John Lapide jumps into everything he does with both feet. We’re proud to call John a member of our ‘Watermelon Family’ and appreciate his hard work on our behalf. His family is also proud of him; here’s what they have to say…

“As with most people who grow up with a family business, John began working at a very young age. I met John in college in September. Right away I knew he was “the one”, so in December, I proposed and he said yes. After we got engaged, he wanted to introduce me to the business, so for Easter vacation I went to his home on Long Island. Every day we worked with his mom, dad, brother & grandfather. We were there at 6 in the morning and stayed as late as 1 am one day for a delivery, working side by side. John talks about going to his high school graduation, going out for a quick to lunch to celebrate, and then all the men leaving to go back to work. There have always been long hours and very few days off in this life. Following in the footsteps of the hardworking men in his life he admired, his grandfather, great-uncle and father, John has always been dedicated, had pride and a genuine love for the watermelon life. Over the years I’ve seen a real passion grow in him. He’s always educating himself on the newest technologies and methods for growing and ways to combat pests and diseases. He has a close working partnership with all of our farmers to ensure the successful futures for all of us. When he served as President of the NWA in 2009, our children attended the convention and it was a really proud moment for him. The next year in 2010, our daughter Patty & her husband Jeff,  came to work for the business in Brooklyn. Since then, Jeff has begun to run our shed in Hamilton, NJ and Patty has been working to raise the next generation of watermelon brokers – our grandchildren, Nate, Ben & Autumn. Our youngest daughter, Marian, has recently expressed an interest in learning about what we do and I think nothing would thrill him more than to have both Marian & her husband, Peter, become involved with the business and help carry on the legacy.”  – Alisa Lapide

“Growing up, I didn’t really know or understand exactly what my father did for a living. I knew he worked really long hours and that meant missing out on a lot at home. When my grandfather passed away when I was 17, I saw a man who I couldn’t believe could possibly work any harder do just that. Going on the road and growing our business by partnering with farmers and long time friends to begin paving the road for the business as it is today. Now that I’m an adult and have a better understanding of what he does I have a tremendous amount of respect for the sacrifices he made when I was younger. Because of that hard work we have an amazing business that has been able to support and employ our family. Family is the most important thing in the world to John Lapide. Every decision he makes is made with careful consideration of how it will impact not only our “blood” family, but our “watermelon” family. Every time we expand or build a new packing shed, it’s to build the future for our family. I’ve never seen this more than since the birth of my children. Anyone who knows John, knows that my three kids, Nathaniel, Benjamin and Autumn are the main driving force behind his determination these days. I’m so thankful that all his hard work has paid off and he’s now able to spend time with them and enjoy their childhood because he’s earned that privilege. I know I’ve painted pretty lovey -dovey picture of him – and it’s definitely not all sunshine and roses.  But my father is passionate about this industry, it’s future and guaranteeing the best possible future for all of us.” – Patty Lapide Osterle

The stories that many of us could share would take up volumes of pages to cover them all, yet missing so many. What i have come to know is a man that has a fierce passion to do what is right for the association. I fondly remember a phone call just a day after he had brain surgery (that may explain things) a few years back to remove a tumor. The knuckle-head that I gladly call my friend was selling watermelons within hours of that surgery. Work-a-holic? However, I witnessed a sensitivity arrive when he became a grandfather. He still remained fiercely competitive and passionate, but those grandkids are definitely in control.  And, maybe that’s a good thing. – Bob Morrissey


Thank you for your service John.

lapide family



From Watermelons to Witnessing – #nwamembermondays

Stockholm_February_2016_04  Stockholm_February_2016_03  Stockholm_February_2016_02

Our Watermelon Family is diverse, yet unified in mission and purpose. Nevertheless, there are times when a greater call redirects our path and we must respond. Jonathan Mayhue, of H. C. Schmieding Produce, and his wife, have heard such a call on their hearts and plan to answer as soon as the watermelon season comes to a close.

The call to the international mission field came to approximately two years ago for Jon and Amanda Mayhue. While Jonathon was studying Missiology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and diving into the Great Commission given by Jesus in the book of Matthew Chapter 28, he and Amanda began seeking exactly where the Lord would have them go to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through a series of divine events the answer to that question would be Stockholm, Sweden.

They are honored and excited share the call God has placed on their hearts with their Watermelon Family. The Mayhue family, including their two boys, Magnus (age 6) and Atticus (age 4), plan to make the move to the Stockholm area by Fall 2016. Jon plans to continue in sales at Schmieding Produce throughout the ministry fundraising process including the duration of the 2016 watermelon season.

Stockholm is a city made up of 14 islands with an expansive suburban area. Over 20% of the population of Sweden (~2.1 million people) lives in Stockholm county. Over a quarter of Stockholm’s residents are immigrants speaking 13 different languages. The city is culturally diverse, rich in history and tradition, renowned for tolerance, equality and considers itself to be on the cutting edge of the human advocacy movement. Considering the great diversity of this city, only about 4% of people consider themselves evangelical or Christ followers. Sweden in general is increasingly disengaged with the traditional expression of church and belief in God; resulting in over three-quarters of the population declare they believe in no god at all.

Stockholm Sweeden perspective

The Mayhues are believing that God is and will continue to  grow a body of believers in Sweden walking in abundant hope and shining the light on an eternal identity in Christ Jesus. In Sweden, they will continue the work of establishing Bible study-focused, Christ-centered small groups within each neighborhood within Stockholm and throughout its surrounding towns. Jon and Amanda desire for their family to be a catalyst to teach and encourage disciples, who desire to make disciples, to further reach Stockholm and Scandinavia for Jesus Christ. This is a big task, but we serve an even bigger God.

Throughout this journey, Jon and Amanda have found great encouragement in Romans 10:13-15, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how can they call on Him to save them unless they believe in Him? And how can they believe in Him if they have never heard about Him? And how can they hear about Him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, ‘How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”’ The Mayhue family has seen God begin to provide prayer support and financial provision for this ministry in an awesome way! They ask that you would keep their ongoing journey to Sweden and the ministry there in your prayers. If you would like more information about this ministry and how your family can be a part of what God is doing in Sweden please visit


Nicole Schrader


The First Three! ~ New Grower Program #nwanewmembermondays

paul nuzzo's early melons Greg Wright, Galen Crawford, and Gary Cecil are the first three watermelon growers to take advantage of the promotional-partnership between the National Watermelon Association and Bayer.

The Vegetable Seeds division of Bayer and the National Watermelon Association have entered into an unprecedented partnership to attract new members into the Association. For the next two years, Bayer is funding first-year memberships to all eligible watermelon growers. Bayer and the National Watermelon Association want to spread this message to the watermelon industry: if you are a watermelon grower, we need you! We will fully fund your membership so you may explore everything the Association has to offer at no cost to you.

As the voice of its members on important issues such as trade, labor, research and food safety, to name a few, the Association stresses the importance of Association involvement from new generations of watermelon growers and being a part of these issues as they start their careers.  And not to forget seasoned growers, the partnership welcomes them as new members in the Association as well.

In order to be eligible to receive membership in this program, growers must be new to the Association.

We’d like to welcome these new members to our Watermelon Family:

  • Gary Cecil of Gary Cecil Farms in Owensboro, Kentucky, a  new member of the Illiana Watermelon Association
  • Galen Crawford of Galen Crawford Farms in Ontario, Oregon, a  new member of the Western Watermelon Association
  • Greg Wright of Prairie Harvest Organics in Byers, Colorado, a new member of the Texas Watermelon Association.
“We are elated that Bayer has agreed to fund first-year dues to all new members and therefore aid us in growing the National Watermelon Association,” said Bob Morrisey, executive director of the National Watermelon Association. “We encourage growers in the watermelon industry to share their talents and strengths with the Association and allow us to share our expertise with them.”
“Bayer CropScience Vegetable Seeds and the National Watermelon Association Partner to Aid Watermelon Growers.” Nunhems –. N.p., 5 Oct. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016.

James Corden gives a Watermelon farewell to David Letterman

New Late Late Night Show host, James Carden, closes his show with a Letterman-style ending. Dropping a dozen watermelon off the CBS roof to the parking lot below. It’s a smash ending and fun to watch. We’ve added the link here for your viewing entertainment!


“Watermelon Sign-off – #ThanksDave.” Watermelon Sign-off – #ThanksDave. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

#nwamembermondays – Lee Wroten

Lee and Debbie WrotenFrom childhood, Lee Wroten wanted to work in the fields with his father, Al Wroten of Global Produce Sales, Inc. His mother, Debbie, recalls him turning watermelon vines alongside his dad when he was ten years old. In high school, Lee put together a crew of his own to work out in the fields with Al. Throughout  his college career, Lee spent summers working in the family fields in Cordele, Georgia. His educational interests also focused on preparing him for the family business. Lee majored in international business, focusing on economics, with electives that included organic gardening and Spanish. Lee studied abroad in Barcelona where his Spanish became second nature to him.

In the fall of 2001, Lee and his new bride Debra, returned to Lakeland where he began to work for his father in earnest. Lee started in the office, but summers were spent in the fields and in the packing house. Lee’s Spanish allows him to communicate easily with his Spanish-speaking co-laborers, as well as translate. His mother notes that it is not unusual for the Mexican workers to speak to Allen in English and turn to Lee and return to Spanish.

Lee Wroten has grown up in the National Watermelon Association family. It is a natural transition for young watermelon farmers, like Lee, to become members and leaders in the Association. Lee has made that transition with capability and ease. He currently sits on our Executive, Food Safety, Research, Public Affairs, and Y Generation Committees! We are privileged to have Lee Wroten as a member and are confident that he will add insight, energy, and strong leadership to the Association.

Co-owner and friend, Steve Nichols, adds this about Lee:

Other than being an Auburn grad, he’s okay.  He was lucky in marriage like me when he found Debbie (also an Auburn grad).  They have three active boys (I’m not sure there are any other kind).  Lee is a deacon at Christ Community Presbyterian Church.  Loves to hunt.  Lee is a third generation watermelon man following in his Grandfather Lee and Father Al’s footsteps.  He is bilingual (which aggravates all of us who aren’t).  He has always done whatever was necessary to serve his co-workers at Global, our growers, harvesters, carriers, and customers.  He gives me great confidence for the future of Global.

We close with this quote from his mother, Debbie Wroten:

I am so proud of Lee. He has such a good work ethic and helps everyone. I am so glad he lives nearby, I love watching him be a dad.”


The Last Four in the Class of 2016 – National Watermelon Hall of Fame

nwa hall of fame

The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
The following is the Class of 2016!
Gordon Etheridge
Raleigh, North Carolina
Lifetime Council member, Gordon Etheridge, has been a member of the National Watermelon Association for over 40 years. He has served on many committees in that time and was the President of the North Carolina Watermelon Association at its onset. Owner of Etheridge Produce LLC, Gordon began in 1958 as a watermelon broker. He worked his way up the east coast and is now ‘at home’ in Raleigh, North Carolina. Gordon’s still in business today and is a faithful member of the Association.
Known for being honest, hard-working, and ‘hands-on’ has given Gordon a reputation that precedes him. Michael Bunch has known him most of his life and describes Gordon as, ‘the Grandfather of the watermelon business.’
Ralph Meitin
Zellwood, Florida
Ralph Meitin was the president of Zellwood Fruit Distributors; established in 1943, Zellwood Fruit Distributors was in business for 71 years!
Ralph served on the Executive Council of the NWA in 1969. He was a Lifetime Council member of the National Watermelon Association and was an actively engaged member for over 30 years.
Ralph helped to found the Tangerine Bowl, which supported the Elk’s Harry-Anna Crippled Children’s Hospital in Umatilla.  Meitin’s children said they were inspired by their father’s involvement in philanthropy. Ralph Meitin was a well-respected leader in business as well as in his community.
Howard  E Sorrells
Arcadia, Florida
Howard Sorrells was born in Hiram, Georgia. He moved to Arcadia, Florida and later attended and graduated from U of F with a BA in business administration in 1951 on a GI Bill. He moved to Atlanta and operated Sorrells & Chapman (a wholesale business that sold citrus and watermelon in the off-season) for 6 years.
Howard returned to the family packing house in Arcadia, Florida in 1957 where they grew watermelon as well as citrus. Howard served in both the Florida Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Association.
From 1968-1980, Howard Sorrells proudly served on the School Board of DeSoto County serving as chairman of the board from 1971-1973. He was appointed to the Florida Citrus Commission by Governor Lawton Chiles and served from 1991-1998. In 2008, Howard received the NWA Lifetime Achievement Award.
Nancy Childers
Morven, Georgia
Nancy Childers served as the executive secretary-treasurer of the National Watermelon Association from 1976-1991, when it was based in Morven, Georgia.  She was always willing to go the extra mile with her support, hard work and selfless interest in the watermelon business. When she left, the Association’s membership stood at about 600.
After leaving the NWA, Nancy remained entrenched in her Georgia roots by helping growers from multiple crop industries to organize the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association in August 1996, where she remained for a number of years as the organization’s secretary-treasurer.  To this day, the GFVGA serves its constituents in addressing common issues with and for the industry.


Only Eight More in the Class of 2016 – National Watermelon Association Hall of Fame

HOF banner with slice

The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
The following is the Class of 2016!
Percy Bunch
Murfreesboro, North Carolina
Percy Bunch began growing watermelons as a hobby farmer in the late 1950s. His watermelon wholesale business, Murfreesboro Farms Inc., officially opened seasonally in 1973 on Union Market in Washington, DC. Percy and Frances moved the business back to their hometoFrances and Percy Bunchwn, Murfreesboro, North Carolina, in 1984. Percy was president and general manager of the company until he retired in 2009 at which time his son, Michael Bunch, took over the operation and continues to do so today.
Throughout his career in the watermelon industry, Percy and the Bunch family have been active members of the National Watermelon Association. Percy served as President, started and led the North Carolina Watermelon Association, and presided over the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Percy Bunch has served in the National Watermelon Association for over 30 years. He currently sits on our Lifetime Council.
Vernon F Highley
Fresno, California
President of Highley Associates, a federal relations firm founded in 1985, in Washington, DC – relocated to Fresno, CA in 2000. He represented the National Watermelon Association as a federal lobbyist. He began his career in agriculture marketing  and later joined the US Dept of Agriculture where he became the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture, Clifford Hardin.
In 1982, Vern was persuaded to return to Washington, DC to serve as Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service. He went on to become Executive Director of the Farmers and Ranchers for the Reagan-Bush and Bush-Quayle Presidential campaigns before forming Highley Associates.
Vern led the USDA operations in the Western states and the Pacific Trust Territories, before opening his own firm, Highley Associates. He represented various organizations including the Cotton Growers Warehouse Association, National Watermelon Association, Imperial County California, and the Imperial Valley Conservation Research Center.
Vern was honored twice with the National Watermelon Association’s Outstanding Service Award.
Josephine Hughes
Houston, Texas
Josephine Hughes was instrumental in starting Canino Produce Company in 1958 on Airline Drive in Houston, Texas.  She worked tirelessly as the co-founder and co-owner for over 25 years.
She was chairwoman of Vegetable Day Celebrations that the Farmers Market held for many years. Josephine was an active and then honorary member of the Texas Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Association.
Josephine won many 1st place ribbons for pecans that she and Charlie harvested on their property in the Texas hill country.
Harmon R Lawson
Morven, Georgia
Harmon Roy Lawson operated the H R Lawson Farm Supply in Morven, Georgia. He served as the President of the National Watermelon Association from 1966-1967 and served on the Executive Committee for 25 years. He was a faithful member of the NWA for over 40 years!
Harmon served as Executive Secretary-Treasurer for the National Watermelon Association from 1968-1991 and was given title of Executive Secretary Emeritus upon retirement.


#nwamembermondays – The List Continues: Hall of Fame Class of 2016

nwa hall of fame
The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
The following is the Class of 2016!
Buddy Leger
Cordele, Georgia
Buddy Leger
Buddy’s career began in the early 1950’s when he worked for the Federal State Inspection Service grading fruits and vegetables. In the ’60s, he managed Cordele’s Farmers Market operated by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, but it was in 1964 that he set foot in the watermelon business for himself. In the late 1970s, Buddy recognized the need for watermelon producers and shippers to come together to support watermelon promotion and research. Buddy naturally became first leader of the newly formed National Watermelon Promotion Board.
Buddy has held leadership positions in Georgia’s Watermelon Association as well as serving as President and Chairman of the National Association. Today Mr. Leger sits on the National Watermelon Association’s Executive Council.
Wallace Luffman
Salisbury, Maryland
Wallace was a lifelong innovator, adopting new farm practices influential in the agricultural industry in Delmarva. In 1972, he was awarded the Certificate of Merit by the Governor for agricultural achievements. In 1990, he represented the US Dept of Agriculture in Armenia to assess that country’s ability to grow and distribute vegetables.
Wallace served as the president of the Mar-Del Watermelon Growers (precursor to the Association) and was a board member of the National Watermelon Promotion Board.
He received a lifetime achievement award from the National Watermelon Growers and Distributors Association (precursor to the National Watermelon Association). He farmed all his life.
Robert Brian Bloebaum
Clermont, Florida
Bob Bloebaum was born and raised in Vincennes, Indiana and moved to Florida in 1961. In 1968, he graduated from the University of Florida.
Bob was the owner/operator of the Dal-Don Produce, Inc. (brokerage and shipping) in Clermont, Florida for over 40 years. The company shipped more than 3000 truckloads of watermelon during its peak years.  Dal-Don handled products from about 2500 acres in several states in the South and the Midwest.
Bob served on the Executive Committee of the National Watermelon Association.
Dallas Jones
Clermont, FL
Born in Washington, Indiana, Dallas Jones moved to Clermont, Florida to partner with long-time friend Don Bloebaum.  Over more than 40 years, Dal-Don Produce grew into a substantial fruit-distribution venture nationwide.
Dallas was a pioneer in the produce industry and a man of unwavering character. Dallas embodied the most beautiful and enduring qualities of his generation; achievement through hard work, service to those in need, and a deep commitment to provide for, love and cherish his family.
Dallas retired in 2002.  His sons, Danny, Billy, and Bobby all continued in the watermelon business forming Sun State Produce Sales, Inc, and  Jones & Jones Enterprises, Inc.

A Few Good Men – the next four inductees to the National Watermelon Hall of Fame

HOF banner with slice

The National Watermelon Association has a long history of remarkable leaders from the watermelon industry that have contributed their time, energy, and expertise to the Association and its members. 
The Association’s Hall of Fame has been created to honor the lives and contributions of these members, both past and present.
We will inaugurate the Hall of Fame and recognize the first class of inductees during the National Convention in New Orleans, February 25th-27th, 2016.
The following is the Class of 2016!
John Cooper
Centre, Alabama
John Cooper operated John Cooper Produce, Inc. which was founded in 1971 as a small cargo and freight service company. It was also known as Hi C Transportation and Hi C Produce & Truck Brokers.
John was a member of the Executive Committee and was an active member in the 1950s- 1970s. John Cooper was involved in the National Watermelon Association for over 30 years!


W.W. ‘Coonbottom’ Glenn
Marianna, Florida
Woodrow was co-founder of the Florida Watermelon Association and served as its secretary and treasurer.
He was an active member in the NWA for over 31 years.
Woodrow Glenn served on the Lifetime Council of the National Watermelon Association (in 1973).
Woodrow attended and graduated from the University of Florida with a MA in 1918 and took a job in Jackson County as County Extension Director – where he worked for 30 years. Mr. Glenn retired in 1991.
Gerald Funderburk
Jefferson, South Carolina
Gerald A Funderburk (1929-2014), of Jefferson, South Carolina was one such leader. He encouraged and advocated the advancement of others within the Association.
Although much of Mr. Funderburk’s time was spent in the wholesale selling of seeds, fertilizers, and chemicals, he made it a priority to be actively involved in both the South Carolina and National Watermelon Associations. His loyalty and service to the South Carolina Association placed him on their Lifetime Membership.
Gerald was also a leader in the National Watermelon Association serving on the Executive Committee and later on the Council in 2006. Mentors like Gerald Funderburk, make membership in the National Watermelon Association a meaningful and valuable experience.
C.C. Winkler
Vincennes, Indiana
In February 19, 1921, at the 7th annual meeting of the Association, CC Winkler was listed among the Executive Committee members in attendance of the Melon Distributors Association in Vincennes, Indiana.
In April of 1926 at the 12th annual meeting, CC Winkler was Chairman of the Executive Committee and was elected President of the Association.
In July of 2015, at the opening of the Knox County Watermelon Festival, CC Winkler, aka “Mr. Watermelon” gave away slices of watermelon with the Mayor.  He was also acted as the Grand Marshall of the watermelon festival parade. (The Knox County Watermelon Festival was inaugurated in 1957, ceased for a short time in 1961, and began again in 1963. It continues to this day as an annual tradition.)