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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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National Watermelon Queen tours to educate on all things watermelon

Photo courtesy of National Watermelon Queen
Watermelon Queen

Aggie royalists have reason to rejoice. The Texas A&M student body now includes a newly-crowned royal. In lieu of representing a body politic, however, she represents the entire domestic watermelon industry. 

The National Watermelon Association crowned nutrition sophomore Olivia Johnson the 2023 National Watermelon Queen at their 108th Convention. She previously served as the 2022 Texas Watermelon Queen, but her watermelon roots run deep.

“My dad is a sixth-generation watermelon farmer in my hometown of Center, Texas, and a bunch of his good buddies are members of the Texas Watermelon Association,” Johnson said. “So if you’ve ever bought a watermelon at your HEB, Kroger or your local grocery store, there’s a very good chance that before I was queen, I knew those people.”

Johnson’s royal tour will take her throughout the continental United States and Mexico, serving as a spokesperson for the watermelon industry.

“Our job is to educate the public on watermelons, health benefits, versatility, really just kind of tell the watermelon story and promote it to the consumer,” Johnson said. “I like to look at it as we’re translators. We hear from the actual watermelon industry and then put it in a language that consumers can understand.”

As the Texas queen, Johnson used social media to help promote watermelon by posting recipes. However, she said nothing beats watermelon as it grows on the vine.

“The watermelon lemonade was my favorite,” Johnson said. “But like I said, I think watermelon should be eaten as it is, with maybe a little salt.”

Watermelon is second nature to Johnson. Whereas queens are trained on how to pick out the best watermelon, Johnson said she can tell a good melon by its sound.

“I do the thump,” Johnson said. “I know what noise to listen for. I’ve been selling watermelons since I was five years old. So I know how to take those out and I do the thump method, but you can’t really teach that.”

Johnson thumps, some people knock, but both techniques search for a specific sound which is hard to describe.

“You look for a hollow bounce,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to explain. But once you get the hang of it, you got it.”

For those of us who did not grow up around watermelons, Johnson said she was taught an alternative, beginner-friendly way of inspecting watermelons at queen training: the look, lift, turn method.

“‘Look’ refers to making sure there are no cuts or bruises on the melon,” Johnson said. “‘Lift’ means making sure the watermelon is heavy, given that it is 92% water, and finally, ‘turn’ means making sure the watermelon has a yellow, buttery spot which shows that the melon is ripe and sweet, kind of like a sun tan.”

Johnson emphasized how interrelated the watermelon industry is across the supply chain.

“What you learn in the agriculture industry is that they truly are all our family, everyone in this type of industry that is so hard to make in our days,” Johnson said. “They just want to support each other and help each other.” 

Johnson said she is very thankful for the support she has gotten from her professors and the university at large.

“A&M has been very helpful with this experience, working with me with school and makeup exams,” Johnson said. “They’re very understanding that this role means so much to me, and that it’s not just a yearlong role for me, this is the industry I want to spend the rest of my life in.”

The best way to support the watermelon industry is to buy locally, Johnson said.

“Most people think of summer when you think of watermelon, but watermelon is available year-round,” Johnson said. “You can eat it in so many different ways. And the main way to support it is just buy locally.”

Johnson and the current Texas Watermelon Queen, horticulture sophomore Savannah Carr, are currently planning on serving watermelon to the Aggie baseball team. 

“We are in contact with the assistant coach and dietician,” Johnson said. “We are pretty much waiting for Texas watermelons to be ready.”

By bringing local watermelon to America’s pastime, Johnson said she hopes to keep watermelon in the forefront of people’s minds.

“I truly mean it when I say the entire industry is one family who’s just trying to help keep a good American tradition alive,” Johnson said.

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