Marvelous melons: A Jackson family farming legacy

By on June 26, 2020

Every Friday on social media, we post a Farm Feature Friday showcasing one of our dedicated North Carolina farmers. Brent Jackson, of Jackson Farming Company, is one of those farmers. The #FarmFeatureFriday campaign will run for an entire year on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to tune in each Friday afternoon on social and help show your support for our local farmers!

“Rodney Jackson has been driving a tractor since he was four years old and in the field since he was three,” said John Wooten, Sales Representative for Jackson Farming Company, “he has loved it all his life and it is all he has ever known.” Brent and Debbie Jackson started Jackson Farming Company in 1981 at 21 years old. Brent grew up in a farming community but not directly on a farm. Although, he was not completely new to the agriculture industry because he worked for local farms in his childhood and teenage years, which led to his lifetime love of farming.

Soon after marriage, Brent and his wife started a family legacy of farming with only five acres of land and an immense passion for agriculture. “They really started the farm from scratch, originally growing corn, soybeans and wheat,” John said. Now over 6,000 acres and run by their son Rodney, the Jackson’s are known for a variety of fruits and vegetables, including their delicious cantaloupe and honeydew. In fact, 350 of those 6,000 acres are dedicated to cantaloupe and honeydew alone!

During melon season, Rodney starts his day early in the fields determining what is ready for harvest and directing crews to those areas. While crews are busy harvesting in the fields and putting orders together in the packing house, Rodney is busy overseeing spraying, irrigation and other farm operations.

Global GAP and Eastern Cantaloupe Growers Association certified; food safety also plays an important role in the Jackson’s daily operations.
“The packing line is thoroughly cleaned each morning before it is run to fill orders,” John says, “we then cool the cantaloupe and honeydew at 40 degrees before shipping them out.” According to John, their coolers have the ability to hold about 20 truckloads of product at one time.
“Once everything is done, we do one final check on orders and the packing line before cleaning up,” John said, “then we come back and do it all again the next day.”

The Jackson family says the hardest part about growing cantaloupe is the quick turnaround time needed during harvest and the uncertainty of a good, quality crop each year. “It’s more than just planting a seed and waiting for it to grow,” John said, “you plan for nine months for a three month growing season, have 48 hours to pick the fruit while it is ripe and then one day to clean, pack and ship it.” Even more difficult is putting your entire livelihood, blood, sweat and tears into something and not knowing if you will get a quality output in return.

Although the process can be grueling and the anticipation can be maddening, the Jackson’s say that nothing compares to the pride they feel in growing a delicious fruit from the ground up and the joy they experience through the compliments and praises of their customers.

Jackson Farms partners with growers around the state to provide quality products to its retailers all year round. In addition to cantaloupe and honeydew, they also grow strawberries, broccoli, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and more! Products from their farm can be found at most major retail chains such as Food Lion, Harris Teeter, Walmart and Publix.

When asked for tips on picking out the perfect cantaloupe, John said, “first, make sure it has a Jackson Farms sticker and then pick one with a golden-brown color and a lot of netting because that means it will be sweet.” He personally enjoys eating the center part of the cantaloupe straight out of the field when it is still warm. When picking out a honeydew, John recommends choosing one with a dull white to fully white color and what appear to be crack marks on the exterior.

In the future, Jackson Farms will continue to grow upon the current third generation of family farmers and work to provide the best quality food for its customers.

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