USA / 5 min read
(and the family that reawakened it)
Today, the average age of farmers in South Carolina is approaching 65. As a result, traditions, skills, and history are rapidly disappearing. And then there’s Nat Bradford.
According to Dr. David Shields, a renowned Southern Agriculture expert, the watermelon varieties we are familiar with did not stabilize until well into the 1800s. Watermelons are a Citrullus lanatus species and part of the Cucurbitaceae family; they are easily interbred In the 1800s, different varieties were often grown in the same field, causing mass interbreeding and led farmers to cultivate a different product each season. Interbreeding led to a great diversity of size, flavor, color, rind thickness, and shape. Still, amid the variety, there were two main identifiable species of watermelon: the Carolina Long, and the Mountain Sweet.
In the 1830s and 1840s, the Lawson Melon was brought to Georgia by commander Lawson in the American Revolution and named after him. The Lawson was flavorful but oblong and lumpy. Many farmers found it an unproductive crop and began to crave a watermelon with the taste of the Lawson but the smooth shape of the Carolina Long. So in the 1850s a man named Nathaniel Napoleon Bradford crossbred the lumpy Lawson melon with the Carolina Long and thus was born the Bradford melon.
The Bradford melon was a groundbreaking success. Its smooth and long shape appeared like a 20-40 pound cucumber. Its flesh was juicy, sweet, and so tender it could be eaten right to the rind. There was incredible demand for the Bradford melon. Dr. Shields explained that gangs of watermelon thieves traversed the countryside, forcing farmers to stand guard with shotguns or attach electric shock mechanisms to certain melons in their fields and poison others, posting signs that read “eat at your own risk.” Sadly, people died during the Bradford melon conflict. Nevertheless, the world’s tastiest watermelon, the Bradford, existed and was not one to be missed.
Unfortunately, the war between the States destroyed infrastructure, killed people, and ignited an agricultural blow. The South struggled to revive their land. However, watermelons seemed to be the answer. They were relatively easy to grow, in high demand, and farmers quickly planted large quantities.
But yet, there was a new hurdle to overcome. Shippability was vital since the North was the biggest buyer, and there was infinite demand. The soft rinds of the Bradford melon would be battered and bruised in a railway car long before a shipment arrived in the North. Desperate to make an income, farmers crossbred the Bradford and the Rattlesnake melons with the Rhinoceros melon, known for its hard, thick rind. This crossover essentially initiated Southern truck farming and the mass shipment of produce to the North. With this development, monocrop agriculture rose to fame, and with it, the lack of biodiversity created an environment for diseases that destroyed a vast majority of crops.
Watermelon breeding in the late 19th early 20th centuries was focused on cultivating strong fruits to ship and withstand disease. As a result, valuing flavor rapidly declined. The juicy, sweet, nutrient-dense Bradford melons were left by the wayside. What was left instead was hard, seedless, tasteless watermelons. In the words of Dr. Shields, as soon as people stopped breeding watermelons for flavor, they lost what makes food pleasurable and nutritious.
Food had lost its flavor. And therefore, had lost its meaning.
Nat Bradford set out to change that. Curiosity sparked his interest in the renowned Bradford melon and the melons he remembered his grandfather growing. On a call, Nat Bradford and Dr. Shields connected the dots and found a genealogical link between the Nathaniel Napoleon Bradford of the 1800s and Nat Bradford today.
Nat shared that his family has always been farmers. His father and brothers were the first generations to stray from the family vocation. When Nat discovered his connection with the Bradford melon, he decided to return to his roots and plant the first crop of Bradford melons in decades.
Once Nat realized the potential of reconnecting with the past through these melons, he switched entirely from the landscaping architecture business he built to begin a full-time farming career. The transition required him to learn quickly. As the father of five children, he needed to replace his income and provide for his family. Planting, tending, and harvesting watermelons soon became daily life for the Bradford family. Nat’s children are a huge help in the family business and help make deliveries to renowned restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, eager to put this piece of history on their plates.
The Bradford watermelon company now sells multiple watermelon-based products, including beer, brandy, seeds, pickled rinds, and molasses. One of Nat’s favorite projects has been developing and perfecting a watermelon molasses recipe from the 1800s. Through years of trial and error, he now has the process perfected and creates beautiful red molasses at the end of each season. While the watermelon products are an excellent way to share Bradford melons with the world, for Nat, it is not about creating a product. Instead, he says, making the molasses is a rhythm, a way of waving watermelon season goodbye and welcoming autumn with an old family recipe.
When asked about the future of the Bradford melon, Nat was clear that he does not intend to commercialize. Keeping it local and maintaining his family’s relationship to the crop is his main priority. He hopes his children will carry on his legacy with the intention that following generations will understand the value of farming. Bradford melons are not suitable for shipping because their soft rinds are easily damaged and bruised. But Nat encourages people to purchase the seeds he sells and bring a little bit of the Bradford Watermelon Company to their backyard. He said that farming has taught him about the earth, stewardship, and nature’s ability to provide for our needs when given space. According to Dr. Shields, “The food from the past that will be most meaningful to people in the present is the food that tastes good”. And the food that tastes the best is the food we grow ourselves. Nothing can replace the love, effort, and care that goes into planting and harvesting your own produce.
Today, Bradford melons are being grown as far as East Africa. Nat sent seeds to a small village in Tanzania with a missionary in 2016. This village did not have a well or access to clean water. Given limited water, the watermelon seeds were hydrated enough to germinate but soon went thirsty as dry season arrived. Despite the difficult conditions, the villagers harvested eleven watermelons. Watermelons are native to Africa and are known as the Tsamma. In the past, people would not cross the desert without the Tsamma in their possession. Depending on the size, one melon produces approximately four gallons of juice and due to its water content became known as nature’s canteen. Watermelons cannot replace clean water wells, but for villages that do not have access to clean water or cannot afford a well, these watermelons can be hugely beneficial in providing nutritious juice for the community.
A slice of Bradford melon is a slice of history. The story began in the 1800s but continues today and stretches far into the future. The Bradford melon is arguably the most delicious on the planet, but it is difficult to obtain due to the challenges of shipping. The best way for the world to taste these melons is to grow them locally or in people’s backyards. Nat Bradford hopes to continue to spread these melon seeds around the world. His impact on agriculture encourage individuals to think about stewardship, work with the earth, and cultivate native plants and crops. He says that noticing the bounty around us will be the answer to a lot of the issues we currently face in the age of industrialized agriculture.
When farmers protect biodiversity, they conserve and steward their seeds from one season to the next. When communities protect biodiversity, they establish seed banks to help both farmers and scientists. Each seed planted is a contract with nature to secure the genetic heritage of these crops for seasons to come.
Any food that has the pleasant taste characteristic of sugar or honey and is high in glucose. Many plants develop sweet-tasting fruits to attract animals that will eat them and then disperse their seeds.
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Providing best water quality conditions to ensure optimal living condition for growth, breeding and other physiological needs
Water quality is sourced from natural seawater with dependency on the tidal system. Water is treated to adjust pH and alkalinity before stocking.
Producers that own and manages the farm operating under small-scale farming model with limited input, investment which leads to low to medium production yield
All 1,149 of our farmers in both regencies are smallholder farmers who operate with low stocking density, traditional ponds, and no use of any other intensification technology.
Safe working conditions — cleanliness, lighting, equipment, paid overtime, hazard safety, etc. — happen when businesses conduct workplace safety audits and invest in the wellbeing of their employees
Company ensure implementation of safe working conditions by applying representative of workers to health and safety and conduct regular health and safety training. The practices are proven by ASIC standards’ implementation
Implementation of farming operations, management and trading that impact positively to community wellbeing and sustainable better way of living
The company works with local stakeholders and local governments to create support for farmers and the farming community in increasing resilience. Our farming community is empowered by local stakeholders continuously to maintain a long generation of farmers.
Freezing seafood rapidly when it is at peak freshness to ensure a higher quality and longer lasting product
Our harvests are immediately frozen with ice flakes in layers in cool boxes. Boxes are equipped with paper records and coding for traceability. We ensure that our harvests are processed with the utmost care at <-18 degrees Celsius.
Sourcing plant based ingredients, like soy, from producers that do not destroy forests to increase their growing area and produce fish feed ingredients
With adjacent locations to mangroves and coastal areas, our farmers and company are committed to no deforestation at any scale. Mangrove rehabilitation and replantation are conducted every year in collaboration with local authorities. Our farms are not established in protected habitats and have not resulted from deforestation activity since the beginning of our establishment.
Implement only natural feeds grown in water for aquatic animal’s feed without use of commercial feed
Our black tiger shrimps are not fed using commercial feed. The system is zero input and depends fully on natural feed grown in the pond. Our farmers use organic fertilizer and probiotics to enhance the water quality.
Enhance biodiversity through integration of nature conservation and food production without negative impact to surrounding ecosysytem
As our practices are natural, organic, and zero input, farms coexist with surrounding biodiversity which increases the volume of polyculture and mangrove coverage area. Farmers’ groups, along with the company, conduct regular benthic assessments, river cleaning, and mangrove planting.
THE TERM “MOONSHOT” IS OFTEN USED TO DESCRIBE an initiative that goes beyond the confines of the present by transforming our greatest aspirations into reality, but the story of a moonshot isn’t that of a single rocket. In fact, the Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong on the moon was actually preceded by the Gemini program, which in a two-year span rapidly put ten rockets into space. This “accelerated” process — with a new mission nearly every 2-3 months — allowed NASA to rapidly iterate, validate their findings and learn from their mistakes. Telemetry. Propulsion. Re-entry. Each mission helped NASA build and test a new piece of the puzzle.
The program also had its fair share of creative challenges, especially at the outset, as the urgency of the task at hand required that the roadmap for getting to the moon be written in parallel with the rapid pace of Gemini missions. Through it all, the NASA teams never lost sight of their ultimate goal, and the teams finally aligned on their shared responsibilities. Within three years of Gemini’s conclusion, a man did walk on the moon.
FACT is a food systems solutions activator that assesses the current food landscape, engages with key influencers, identifies trends, surveys innovative work and creates greater visibility for ideas and practices with the potential to shift key food and agricultural paradigms.
Each activator focuses on a single moonshot; instead of producing white papers, policy briefs or peer-reviewed articles, these teams design and implement blueprints for action. At the end of each activator, their work is released to the public and open-sourced.
As with any rapid iteration process, many of our activators re-assess their initial plans and pivot to address new challenges along the way. Still, one thing has remained constant: their conviction that by working together and pooling their knowledge and resources, they can create a multiplier effect to more rapidly activate change.
Who can enter and how selections are made.
A Greener Blue is a global call to action that is open to individuals and teams from all over the world. Below is a non-exhaustive list of subjects the initiative targets.
To apply, prospective participants will need to fill out the form on the website, by filling out each part of it. Applications left incomplete or containing information that is not complete enough will receive a low score and have less chance of being admitted to the storytelling lab.
Nonprofit organizations, communities of fishers and fish farmers and companies that are seeking a closer partnership or special support can also apply by contacting email@example.com and interacting with the members of our team.
Special attention will be given to the section of the form regarding the stories that the applicants want to tell and the reasons for participating. All proposals for stories regarding small-scale or artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, communities of artisanal fishers or aquaculturists, and workers in different steps of the seafood value chain will be considered.
Stories should show the important role that these figures play in building a more sustainable seafood system. To help with this narrative, the initiative has identified 10 principles that define a more sustainable seafood system. These can be viewed on the initiative’s website and they state:
Seafood is sustainable when:
Proposed stories should show one or more of these principles in practice.
Applications are open from the 28th of June to the 15th of August 2022. There will be 50 selected applicants who will be granted access to The Lexicon’s Total Storytelling Lab. These 50 applicants will be asked to accept and sign a learning agreement and acceptance of participation document with which they agree to respect The Lexicon’s code of conduct.
The first part of the lab will take place online between August the 22nd and August the 26th and focus on training participants on the foundation of storytelling, supporting them to create a production plan, and aligning all of them around a shared vision.
Based on their motivation, quality of the story, geography, and participation in the online Lab, a selected group of participants will be gifted a GoPro camera offered to the program by GoPro For A Change. Participants who are selected to receive the GoPro camera will need to sign an acceptance and usage agreement.
The second part of the Storytelling Lab will consist of a production period in which each participant will be supported in the production of their own story. This period goes from August 26th to October 13th. Each participant will have the opportunity to access special mentorship from an international network of storytellers and seafood experts who will help them build their story. The Lexicon also provides editors, animators, and graphic designers to support participants with more technical skills.
The final deadline to submit the stories is the 14th of October. Participants will be able to both submit complete edited stories, or footage accompanied by a storyboard to be assembled by The Lexicon’s team.
All applicants who will exhibit conduct and behavior that is contrary to The Lexicon’s code of conduct will be automatically disqualified. This includes applicants proposing stories that openly discriminate against a social or ethnic group, advocate for a political group, incite violence against any group, or incite to commit crimes of any kind.
All submissions must be the entrant’s original work. Submissions must not infringe upon the trademark, copyright, moral rights, intellectual rights, or rights of privacy of any entity or person.
Participants will retain the copyrights to their work while also granting access to The Lexicon and the other partners of the initiative to share their contributions as part of A Greener Blue Global Storytelling Initiative.
If a potential selected applicant cannot be reached by the team of the Initiative within three (3) working days, using the contact information provided at the time of entry, or if the communication is returned as undeliverable, that potential participant shall forfeit.
Selected applicants will be granted access to an advanced Storytelling Lab taught and facilitated by Douglas Gayeton, award-winning storyteller and information architect, co-founder of The Lexicon. In this course, participants will learn new techniques that will improve their storytelling skills and be able to better communicate their work with a global audience. This skill includes (but is not limited to) how to build a production plan for a documentary, how to find and interact with subjects, and how to shoot a short documentary.
The Lexicon provides video editors, graphic designers, and animators to support the participants to complete their stories.
The submitted stories will be showcased during international and local events, starting from the closing event of the International Year of Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 in Rome, in January 2023. The authors of the stories will be credited and may be invited to join.
Storytelling lab participation:
Applicants that will be granted access to the storytelling Lab will be evaluated based on the entries they provided in the online form, and in particular:
Applications will be evaluated by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
When selecting applications, the call promoters may request additional documentation or interviews both for the purpose of verifying compliance with eligibility requirements and to facilitate proposal evaluation.
Participants to the Storytelling Lab who will be given a GoPro camera will be selected based on:
The evaluation will be carried out by a team of 4 judges from The Lexicon, GSSI and the team of IYAFA (Selection committee).
Incidental expenses and all other costs and expenses which are not specifically listed in these Official Rules but which may be associated with the acceptance, receipt and use of the Storytelling Lab and the camera are solely the responsibility of the respective participants and are not covered by The Lexicon or any of the A Greener Blue partners.
All participants who receive a Camera are required to sign an agreement allowing GoPro for a Cause, The Lexicon and GSSI to utilize the films for A Greener Blue and their promotional purposes. All participants will be required to an agreement to upload their footage into the shared drive of The Lexicon and make the stories, films and images available for The Lexicon and the promoting partners of A Greener Blue.