TV

Midlands heirloom watermelon farm featured on national news show

Bradford melons
Bradford melons

A South Carolina farm known for its unique and historic variety of watermelon will be featured on CBS Sunday Morning this weekend.

Nat Bradford with The Bradford Watermelon Company in Sumter said their watermelons will be featured 9 a.m. Sunday.

The farm grows a variety called the Bradford watermelon, which Bradford’s great-great-great grandfather Nathaniel Bradford developed in the 1850s in Sumter. The watermelon was known for its sweet flavor, white seeds and dark green skin.

Bradford said journalist Martha Teichner took an entire day to film at the farm last July. They talked about everything from the crop’s history to agriculture philosophy to taste-testing products.

“They’re going to cram something like 12 hours of filming and interviewing that day into 13 minutes, so we’ll see what they show,” he said.

Some of the products they offer aside from the watermelons themselves include watermelon molasses, watermelon brandy and watermelon rind pickles.

Bradford said Teichner loved the watermelon and raved about his wife Bette’s homebrew watermelon stout.

“Martha said, ‘I’m not a very big beer person, but I would drink this one,’” Bradford said. “And she drank the whole thing.”

Watermelons used to come in different varieties with different flavors and textures different from the ones available in grocery stores today, according to Bradford.

“If you’re only ever had the store-bought melons, you don’t know what you’re in for,” he said.

By the early 1900s, watermelons with thicker rinds that could be stacked became more popular.

But the Bradford watermelons are making a comeback.

Bradford said one person drove all the way from New Orleans to buy 20 watermelons after last year’s harvest. This year, a man in Alaska wants to come to Sumter because he’s been “dying for a good watermelon all his life.”

Bradford said one person described the watermelon’s flavor as deeper than the light flavor of typical watermelons, like cotton candy and caramel.

He said the texture is much more tender and succulent.

“As soon as you slice into it, it just pours watermelon juice,” Bradford said.

He said all products are available online at bradfordwatermelons.com, and the watermelons will be harvested in August and September.

Bradford said the farm will post watermelon availabilities and presell them for deliveries and pickups on its website and Facebook page.

Bradford watermelons are $20 each and weigh about 30 to 40 pounds. Bradford said that equates to about 50 cents per pound for organic watermelon.

“We’re price competitive per pound,” he said.

Bradford said he is glad to be able to represent South Carolina agriculture on a national level.

“There’s a lot of us farmers out here that are trying to make South Carolina agriculture something enviable,” he said.

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