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The Western Watermelon Association, which was formed just two years ago, held its annual convention Jan. 15 this year at the Treasure Island Resort in Las Vegas.

"I felt we had a great turnout from the industry," said Brent Harrison, president of Al Harrison Co. in Nogales, AZ, and vice president of the association. He estimated that more than 150 people attended.

Tashi Zouras, president of the association and president of Dimetri Gardekis Produce in Santa Fe Springs, CA, "did a great job putting it all together," Mr. Harrison said. "I have to give him credit. He did a lot of the leg-work and e- mailing and following through."

Three speakers were featured at the event, according to Mr. Harrison.

Richard Hassell, a vegetable extension specialist with Clemson University in Charleston, SC, gave a presentation on watermelon grafting, covering new methods, rootstock disease packages, advantages and disadvantages of grafting, associated cultural practices, and the future of watermelon grafting in the United States.

Howard Rosenberg, a University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in farm labor management based in Berkeley, CA, discussed the causes and consequences of heat stress among watermelon field workers and measures to control heat stress in the context of California regulations.

Cory Lund, a policy analyst and project manager with the Western Growers Association and administrator of the California Agricultural Communications coalition, gave a presentation on the new KnowACaliforniaFarmer.com web site, "an interactive social media tool that promotes dialogue between farmers and consumers," and talked about how watermelon growers and shippers can tell their story directly to consumers.

In addition to the featured speakers, Bob Morrisey, president of the National Watermelon Association, talked about the events planned for the association's convention scheduled for San Diego Feb. 23-27.

The event was "a good networking [opportunity] for our association" and a chance for "everybody to get together and shake hands and catch up on what is going on in the industry," said Mr. Harrison.

According to the Western Watermelon Association web site, the association encompasses the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and the country of Mexico, which represent 32 percent of all melons grown in the United States and Mexico.

"Our purpose is to have a voice in the industry" regarding issues of particular interest to western growers, Mr. Harrison said.