Tag Archives: Member mondays

The National Watermelon Hall of Fame Class of 2016 – the next four!


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.
We introduce the next four in the Class of 2016:
Tom Ayoob, JR
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Tom was known for his integrity and willingness to help others. He never hesitated to donate his time or money to the industry.
Known as the Watermelon King of Pittsburgh, and coined the phrase, ‘eats like sugar.’
Ayoob was usually the top contributor at the Watermelon Association auctions.  Tom served on the board of both the Florida and National Watermelon Associations.
A graduate from Duquesne University in 1955, Tom Ayoob spent 2 years in the Army where he coached softball.  He attended law school at Georgetown University for 1 ½ years, until his father asked him to come and take over the family business, Tom Ayoob Inc. He updated the company, improved technology, and expanded the product line.
Tom was also the president of the Pittsburgh Wholesale Produce Association at the time of his death.
John Campbell
Lakeland, Florida
John Campbell operated Growers Marketing Service in Leesburg, Florida. Mr. Campbell was the second vice president of the Melon Distributors Association in 1937-38, and he served as the President of the National Watermelon Association prior to 1947. John also served as Chairman of the Executive Committee and the Executive Council.
In 1945, Lake, Marion, and Sumter county watermelon growers organized and formed the Watermelon Growers Association. The first president was John M Campbell – also the president of the growers’ marketing service in Leesburg at the time.
John was one of the 10 original committee members that established the original Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association in 1943.
John Campbell was known for his generosity.
Oren Childers
Cordell, Georgia
Oren Childers operated Cedar Creek Melons in Crisp County – just outside Cordele, Georgia.
He served as National Watermelon Association President 1985-6. He was in leadership roles for the Association from 1983-1988, and served as an Executive Council member in his later years.
Oren farmed over 3000 acres and raised watermelon on about 1000 of those acres in Crisp County.
Al Harrison
Nogales, Arizona
The Harrison Brothers wholesale produce company was established in Los Angeles, California in early 1930s by Al and Robert Harrison.
Al Harrison bought out his brother, moved the company to Nogales, Arizona and renamed the operation Al Harrison Produce Co Distributor Inc. He perfected melon and hard squash production and packaging. Al also established an internal transportation department.
By the 1970’s, Harrison captured nearly 90% of the watermelon market in the region and soon became known as the ‘Watermelon King.’
Al Harrison had a vast concept of marketing. One example was the ‘Mile Long Railroad Freight of Watermelons’ he organized as a promotion for a Canadian chain store and received a large amount of fanfare in the early seventies.

#nwamembermondays – Nowell Borders



If you’ve been reading our Member Mondays articles, you may see a common thread among our members beside watermelon. The work ethic runs deep and dedication to family even deeper. Nowell Borders is a dedicated member of the National Watermelon Association and we’re so proud to call him ‘family.’ His own family describes him best, so I will let his wife, Ranell Borders, introduce him to you.

“Nowell Borders was born March 30, 1970 in Shreveport, Louisiana.  He grew up in Center (a small East Texas town).  I was told that even as a young boy, Nowell loved to work.  He was always helping his father, Ronnie Borders, who grew watermelons. 

As Nowell got older he started stacking bulk loads of watermelons, running crews, and along the way learning Spanish.  As soon as he graduated from high school, he packed up and moved to McAllen in south Texas.

 When I met Nowell a few years later he was farming, harvesting, and shipping his own watermelons and thus started Borders Melon Co.  Our office at the packing shed consisted of a couple bales of hay with a piece of ply wood on top for a desk and a phone.  It worked pretty well at the time. 

Since then things have changed quite a bit.  Nowell now has offices and farms throughout Mexico, Texas, Georgia, and Florida.  His operation has grown, his Spanish is second nature, and his love for watermelon still beats strong.  Nowell has always told me, ‘You have to think like a watermelon, to know what they need.’  This seems to have worked for him.  He is always thinking of new and more efficient ways to farm and harvest watermelons.  He works hard, and even after two hip replacements his gait might have changed, but his stride is still moving ahead full speed.

 I am very proud to call this man my husband and so grateful for the life he provides for our family and the families that work alongside him on this journey.  He is our life – our watermelon vine!”

The success of BORDERS MELON COMPANY, INC is determined by their success in operating as a unified team. According to Nowell, you have to earn the trust and respect of customers every day. Borders backs their product up with their service, and that service is provided by their team. There are no magic formulas.

This is the way Borders Melon Company does business and the way they look at their membership in the National Watermelon Association. Nowell Borders is a man who understands the meaning of teamwork and service. As a member of the Association for over 19 years, Nowell has served in various capacities. Currently Nowell is serving on the Executive Council.

Thank you Nowell, we are privileged to have you on our team!


#nwamembermondays – Ray and Tom Vincent

VincentsMany of our members operate farms that have been handed down to them by their parents. These family farms often grow and develop with each generation. This is indeed the case with Vincent Farms Inc. Jim Vincent founded the business in 1978 with a single-row cultivator and two mules. Today the operations are run by his grandsons, Ray and Clay, and cover over 2700 acres in Laurel, Delaware, where they claim to produce the freshest and safest produce available.

Ingenuity and creativity run in the family. Tom, Jim’s son, uses his background as a cabinetmaker in the oversight of the construction of agricultural buildings; Ray incorporated mechanized equipment to seed their seedling trays – as well as some neighboring farmers’ – and seed at least 40-50,000 trays of seedless watermelon a year; the brothers even became distributors of the plastic irrigation tape they use themselves to growers in the region. This devotion to the family and to the community is what sets the Vincent family apart, and their dedication extends beyond their region.

” Tom and Ray are two of the hardest working men I know. In spite of their many demands they still manage to be devoted family men who recognize how blessed they are.”  –Teresa Vincent

Tommy and Ray Vincent are long-time members and supporters of the National Watermelon Association. They have participated in leadership for over 30 years. Currently Tommy is on the Executive Council and Ray is on the Executive Committee. At the National Convention in February 2015, Vincent Farms Inc donated the load that brought the most money ever generated by an individual load. The members that purchased the load donated the funds to the Moffitt Cancer Center in honor of Arnold Mack.

Thank you Tommy and Ray Vincent, and Vincent Farms Inc, for your creative and generous support of the National Watermelon Association.




#nwamembermondays – Jim Mastropietro

Jim Mastro

The National Watermelon Association recognizes outstanding service and outstanding leadership in its members. Jim Mastropietro, Bulk Manager for International Paper, is such a member. Jim’s involvement in the Association has always been characterized by engagement. He followed his presidency of the Alabama Watermelon Association with service on several national committees. At the National Convention in 2014, Jim presented with the award for outstanding service. Currently, Jim serves on the Executive Committee, the Auction Load Committee, and the Convention Committee.

Jim was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His first job was in a steel mill in New Castle. Perhaps his devotion to the Steelers and the Pirates was established then. In August of 1975, Jim moved to Florida and became involved in the produce industry. Although his children were born in central Florida, Jim’s devotion to his favorite teams has been transferred to the next generation. If the Steelers are playing, Joey and Erin as well as their spouses will be wearing gold and black and cheering alongside their father. Soon their four grandchildren will be waving the banner as well.

Those who know Jim Mastropietro attest to his faithful commitment and integrity in every aspect of life. His business relationships quickly become sincere friendships.

When I think of Jim, I think of integrity, which according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the quality of being honest and fair”.  That describes him perfectly.   — Steve Nichols

“Jim and I have known each other for almost 20 years,” Rich Novak of IP reflects on his relationship with Jim. “We were competitors for a long time but since 2008 we’ve been working on the same team. It’s a lot of fun working with him.”

Our executive director, Bob Morrissey, had this to add:

“There are friends, and there are acquaintances, and then there are really good friends.  I am honored to call Jimmy a really good friend – – a confider; a gentleman; a believer in the mission; and a good guy all-around.  It is a relationship that brings out the ‘Jimmy’ from ‘Jim’ or the ‘Bobby’ from ‘Bob’.  Tough to define in some cases, but we know how the years have defined our friendship and molded it into a sort of brotherhood.  I am blessed to have Jimmy (and Terri) as our friends.”

Thank you ‘Jimmy’ Mastropietro for your membership and commitment to the National Watermelon Association – we wouldn’t be ‘family’ without members like you!



#nwamembermondays – Gordon Etheridge


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.

Percy Bunch, longtime friend and fellow Association member, remembers when they were both starting out. “Gordon  and I met as watermelon brokers in Florida. I’ve known him for over 35 years and he is one of the best friends I’ve ever had in the watermelon business. He’s a fun friend and a good businessman.”

Known for being honest, hard working, and ‘hands-on’ has given Gordon a reputation that preceeds him. Michael Bunch has known him most of his life and describes Gordon as, ‘the Grandfather of the watermelon business.’  Michael goes on to say, “Gordon is a good friend of ours, he’s always honest. Everybody follows him.”

We appreciate Gordon’s lifetime commitment and dedication to The National Watermelon Association. Thank you, Gordon.

#nwamembermondays – Arnold Mack

arnold mack1

Arnold Mack has been recognized as a farmer who CARESbecause of his ‘Best Management Practices.’ He has been highlighted by Eat Florida Fresh for food safety and good agricultural practices in their growing, harvesting, and packing house.

Apparently Arnold Mack’s experience farming watermelon at McMelon, Inc. since 1967,  has earned him the reputation of being a successful farmer and a man of integrity and insight. As a past Association President and active participant on such committees as the Budget, Nominating, Public Affairs, Auction Load, to name a few, it is not surprising that Arnold is on the Lifetime Council for the Association. But his National Watermelon Association ‘family’ has more to say about Arnold than his responsible farming practices and faithful service.

Former Association President and long-time friend, John Corsaro says the following about Arnold Mack.

“He is an incredible business man…….he is a more incredible friend and person. He will give it to you straight from the heart. He is so charismatic. They don’t make them like Arnold anymore.”

“I have enjoyed ‘listening’ to many conversations with Arnold over the years,” says Bob Morrissey. “I called him very recently, intending just to touch base for no more than five minutes. The call ended forty-five minutes later after listening and laughing. There is no such thing as a quick call with Arnold. Jokes are his forte. He knows so many of them. Arnold is full of life, and is devoted to his wife, his boys, his company, and to this Association. We are privileged to have him, his dedication, and his humor.”