For security, click here to clear your browsing session to remove customer data and shopping cart contents, and to start a new shopping session. 

The web browser you are using is out of date and no longer supported by this site. For the best experience, please consider updating your browser to the latest version.
Buy Online Pick Up in Store Now available - Tractor Supply Co.
Navigate to Shopping Cart
Cart Item Count
Make My Store

Your nearest store doesn't match your preferred store. Do you want to change the nearest store as your preferred store?


Click "YES" to clear all the customer data, cart contents and start new shopping session.

Your current shopping session will get automatically reset in seconds.
If you are still active user then please click "NO"

Changing your store affects your localized pricing. This includes the price of items you already have in your shopping cart. Are you sure you want to change your store?

Your nearest store doesn't match your preferred store. Do you want to change the nearest store as your preferred store?

  • To view pricing.
  • To make purchases online.
  • To check availability of Pickup In Store items and Delivery Services.

click here
We do not share this information with anyone.For details,please view our Privacy Policy

Please enable your microphone.


We Are Listening...

Say something like...

"Show me 4health dog food..."

You will be taken automatically
to your search results.


Your speech was not recognized

Click the microphone in the search bar to try again, or start typing your search term.


We are searching now

Your search results
will display momentarily...

Slice Of Heaven — Fall 2010 | Out Here Magazine

It takes a lot of tender, loving care on the part of the Wilkersons to produce prime watermelon.

Michael Wilkerson's central Florida farm produces watermelon for the nation

By David Frey
Photography by Brittany Bott

Next time you sink your teeth into a slice of juicy watermelon this summer, you might say thanks to Michael Wilkerson, who grows watermelons for much of the country on the farm his parents started a generation ago.

Of course, they might not recognize the place. Wilkerson has more than tripled the acreage, doubled the yield, and increased the technology. He and his wife Jennifer share the work with their son B.J., now the third generation to take on the watermelon farm.

"My father and mother farmed and raised watermelons about all their life, and I've been doing it ever since," Wilkerson says before heading out in the fields to check on the crops. "I'm 50 years old. I've been farming for 50 years, I reckon. I reckon when you learn something and are taught something by a good family and are brought up with something, you just keep doing it."

At a time when lots of small farmers are calling it quits, Wilkerson keeps going. On his 300-acre farm in Trenton, Fla., he and his family raise some 300,000 watermelons a year — with seeds and without — to fill supermarket shelves across the country.

It's an unusually specialized operation for a small farmer, and watermelons are a notoriously touchy crop, but it's all Wilkerson has ever known.

Jennifer and Michael Wilkerson check their watermelon crop to see how well they're ripening and how they taste.

Wilkerson compares growing watermelons to caring for a flower. It takes a lot of tender, loving care. It also takes a lot of work. No machine plants them. No machine harvests them. No machine loads them onto the truck. It takes dirty hands to get it done.


By about the first of March, Wilkerson, his family, and their workers are out in the field planting seedlings. By the first of June, if all goes well through the unpredictable Florida spring, the watermelons are plump and ripe and ready to go.


"The weather is tough," he says. "You have to watch it constantly. If you get too much rain, that's bad. If we don't get enough, we have to water them."


In time for summer picnics, Wilkerson loads 6,000 tons of watermelons onto trucks. In some ways, it's not too different from the way it was when he was helping his parents on the farm.


"It was stay up all night and all day," he says.


A lot has changed, though. Wilkerson has a pivot irrigation system to fill in when the rain doesn't cooperate, and computers to monitor the operation.


Technology has improved. So have fertilizers and pesticides. That's made farming more expensive, he says, but it's also boosted the yield. Wilkerson figures he has doubled or even tripled the yield his parents had.


His son B.J. graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in agricultural science, something his parents never would have dreamed of when they started planting watermelons. He's one of the few young people interested in carrying on the family farm, and Wilkerson hopes he might inspire others to do the same.


"We're just trying," he says, "to keep it going."


David Frey writes in Glenwood Springs, Colo.