Volume 5, Number 23                                                    June 23, 2002

The Farmer


Georgiaís Sweet Watermelons

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad


Some of Georgiaís sweet watermelons will be coming off of Muhammad Farms starting June28th. In the meantime the "Watermelon Capital Queen" was chosen on June 22nd in Cordele, Georgia, the 19 year home of The Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

Now here is some irony for you. In the June 21st edition of the Cordele Dispatch pictures of the 74 contestants (all White) for Watermelon Capital Queen were displayed is section B, while the front page ran an article entitled "Truck attack investigation continues". It seems that on the previous Sunday two trucks carrying watermelons were attacked at the corner of Joe Wright Drive and 22nd Avenue in Cordele. According to the article people were drinking, dancing in the streets and congregating up and down Joe Wright Drive when these two trucks passed through at about midnight.

During watermelon season it is quite common to see people walking up and down this same street day and night as the watermelon trucks carry their loads from the farms up to the State Farmerís Market at the end of Joe Wright Drive. In the past money would be flowing in this predominantly Black but poor neighborhood as local farm workers spent their watermelon harvesting wages. Many "ladies of the night" could be seen walking up and down the streets provocatively attired to attract the men who had just got paid for their labor or who had just sold a load of watermelons in the "Watermelon Capital of the World", Cordele.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad lived in Cordele for 19 years from the age of three years old. The corner where this "attack" occurred was the former sight of the Holsey-Cobb Institute where young Elijah attended school up until the third grade. This corner is now flanked by the Sunset Homes Housing Project which looks more like a concentration camp because of the barbed wire fence which partially surrounds it. But why attack watermelon trucks?

According to the World Book Encyclopedia, watermelons were first grown in Africa. Georgia is famous for its sweet watermelons. In the past these melons were raised by many Black farmers whose numbers have steadily declined due to collusion of racist whites and the USDA. As Black farmers were moved off of their own land, many found employment on the large farms and plantations that grew on top of the land that they once owned. "Massa" would allow his best workers to use corners of his fields that were too small to be planted with his large agricultural equipment. Many of these small plots were then used to grow watermelons.

So when the watermelon season arrived, these Black men had extra money, above their meager plantation wages, which was indeed cause for celebration. But now mainline Cordele has its own "Watermelon Festival", all White, while Black people are still relegated to the night. But what is worse, Mexicans, run out of Mexico due to NAFTA, are bringing in watermelons from Florida to predominate the Cordele State Farmerís Market. Large white farmers are setting up their own packing sheds so that the major watermelon buyers donít even pass through the farmerís market. Mexicans are taking over the field work on the large farms while Black workers are being "locked out" of the fields.

Today if you want to sling watermelons you must be hired by a "certified" field foreman. Ostensibly this certification process and the issuance of a "badge" was to insure that all the immigrant workers were "legal". However, what it has effectively done is to eliminate yet another source of employment for the local Black and poor populations of Cordele.

So the Watermelon Queen is White. The watermelon producers are White. The watermelon pickers are Mexicans and the Black people just sit and watch behind barbed wire fences. No wonder that watermelon trucks were attacked.

All of this is happening right under our noses. Black people first lose the land, then lose the farm jobs, get herded into the cities and put behind fences. For the few Black farmers that are left, the "market" has told them to switch watermelon varieties from the traditional Black Diamonds, Charleston Greys, Jubilees and Crimson Sweets to Sangria. Supposedly the "Sangria" watermelons ship better and look pretty when sliced, always a deep red color inside. However, these melons do not taste any sweeter but their hybridized seeds cost four times what the traditional varieties cost.

I have seen Black farmers come in to the Cordele market with their Black Diamonds, Jubilees or Crimson Sweets and just sit their while Mexicans with a load of Sangria grown in Florida sell out and head back to Florida for another load. So now the Black farmers have to spend more money to compete, while the larger white farmers still grow the older varieties, by-pass the Cordele farmerís market and ship directly to the large supermarket chains.

Muhammad Farms occupies the site where the Honorable Elijah Muhammad raised watermelons to ship across the country in the Nationís own fleet of trucks back in the late 60ís and early 70ís. As a college student and young member of the Nation of Islam back in the 70ís, I would sell these sweet Georgia melons door to door in Winston-Salem, N.C. Now I am the manager of Muhammad Farms and we grow these same sweet Black Diamonds, Jubilees, All Sweets and Crimson Sweets so that you can have a sample of what a "real" melon should taste like. I donít mean to brag but we have been told that our watermelons are sweet, real sweet. We even grew some Sangrias so that we could make the taste comparison.

When you buy one of the watermelons from Muhammad Farms, we can guarantee that they will be sweet, raised and harvested by Black hands and will not be filled with harmful chemicals. On the other hand you can go to your local supermarket and take a chance on something that looks like a watermelon. Have a nice summer.

If you want sweetness to go along with your summer, contact Muhammad Farms at (229)995-6619 or visit our website at www.MuhammadFarms.com.

Peace, Doc