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Famous Central Texas watermelon stand ‘fruitless’ for first summer ever

Extreme heat and illness have plagued Holder’s Produce in Gholson
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 12:30 AM CDT
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GHOLSON, Texas (KWTX) - People from all around Texas come to Gholson to get their watermelons from Holder’s Produce stand.

However, for the first time ever, there will be no famous watermelons for sale this summer.

“We’re just as disappointed as everyone else,” said Larry Holder, owner of Holder’s Produce. “It’s just been kind of a perfect storm this year between the weather and my health issues.”

Holder was diagnosed with cancer in February.

“I’m limited on what I can do: some days I can do a little bit, some days I can’t,” Holder told KWTX Monday. “(It’s) so frustrating, the one thing I’ve had to learn to do is ‘let go.’”

From his daughter, granddaughter, son-in-law and nephews, family had been stepping-in for Holder to try to make it through the season.

“I’ve had to let other people do more of what I’m used to doing,” said Holder. “I’m very independent and used to doing everything by myself, and I’ve had to delegate certain jobs and turn it over to family and friends, and they’ve been great about it, anytime I need help, all I have to do is pickup the phone.”

However, Holder’s illness didn’t end up being the reason there wouldn’t be any watermelons at the stand on FM 933, a Central Texas staple, this summer--it was the weather.

“The weather has been just so terrible this year, hard on farmers, it’s reminiscent of 2011, a carbon copy, wind, dry wind, no rain, hot temperatures early,” said Holder. “On dry years like this, wildlife if just a number one problem, they have nothing to eat and so they feed on melons, they love watermelons, they love any kind of vegetable, and so we’ve just had a really tough time with them this year.”

Holder says deer ate whatever the heat and wind didn’t kill of his crop.

While they were slim in 2011, this is the first year they won’t have any watermelons to sell to the public.

Fans on Facebook were disappointed by the announcement, saying they’re sad to be missing out on the summer tradition.

“I think a lot of people have been here since they were kids and they remember that and it’s kind of nostalgic,” said Holder. “It’s kind of a throwback, they remember being here as a kid so they keep coming back and they bring their kids and their grandkids, so it’s a little bit of history.”

The history began 80 years ago.

“The farm started with my dad back in the 1940s,” said Holder. “It’s been a good business for a lot of years.”

After high school, Holder got into the business with his dad, Ernest, in 1976.

“It comes natural to me, and it takes a little bit to teach it to other people, it just takes years of experience to really get it,” said Holder.

His daughter, Amanda Mendes, says her father is irreplaceable on the farm.

“It takes three to four people to do one Larry Holder job,” she said.

Not knowing her father would get sick or the crop would die, Mendes left corporate America last year to start helping out with the farm which also grows and sells seasonal strawberries (which the heat also killed early), jellies, tomatoes, pumpkins and other melons.

For the first time, this year Mendes planted peppers to bring something new: the only crop currently surviving at the farm.

However, the big draw has always been the watermelons.

They typically sell about 10,000 of them a year.

While they won’t have any to sell this summer, they’re not giving up.

“We’re just hoping we can get by this summer and maybe make it up to our customers in the fall, maybe a little past Labor Day,” said Holder. “The hope is we get a little break in the weather and we can throw in a fall crop and maybe have some melons in September going into November.”

Beyond this year, they say the future for Holder’s Produce looks bright.

Holder’s nine-year-old granddaughter says she wants to keep the family business going.

“I’m honored to be part of a family that’s grown such a huge business,” said Layla Mendes. “I’m hoping my mom will run it, and then whenever she’s not running it anymore I’m hoping that I will, and if I ever have children I’m hoping that they will.”

“I just want it to keep going as long as it possibly can,” she said.

You can follow Holder’s Produce on Facebook for updates on the potential fall watermelon crop.

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