Luke Rich and Ronnie Whiteside

Broad River Farm

Rutherfordton County 

Watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkins.

Ronnie and Luke are a father and son-in-law duo located in Rutherfordton, NC. Ronnie has been farming all his life in the footsteps of his father who grew sweet corn, cantaloupe, watermelon, and sweet potatoes. Ronnie’s father was famous for selling watermelon in the area; he would pile them up in the front yard and people would just drive up and grab them. By word of mouth, everybody in the area knew (and still does) that they grew the best watermelon in town. In addition to selling through TRACTOR, they also sell to produce stands in Rutherfordton. 

Luke and Ronnie love growing in Rutherfordton because of the soil. Watermelon grows best in the topsoil because of how sandy it is. Lake Lure had a dam that busted in 1916 and the river flooded, which deposited an abundance of sand on the land, making it perfect to grow watermelon. When asked his favorite process when farming, Ronnie says, “Harvesting is the most enjoyable part because you’ve watched that product from the time it was a seed, until the time it produces a fruit, when it produces a fruit, there’s no better joy than going out there and seeing the fruit laying there and harvesting the fruit because that’s the fruit of the harvest. That’s your reward for what you did all year and that’s the enjoyment that the farmer gets out of seeing that.”

Luke and Ronnie use transplants from First Step Farm, a private non-profit that promotes recovery from drug and alcohol abuse to help them get back on their feet. Luke and Ronnie farm using a balance of tilling with tractor, hand planting and hand harvesting.