OCEANSIDE — North County residents flocked to a South Morro Hills farm stand this past weekend to celebrate one of the most popular produces of summer: watermelon.
Located at 5750 North River Road, the Mellano & Company Farm Stand hosted its first-ever Watermelon Weekend Festival on July 17 and 18. The farm stand offered numerous kinds of produce, including flowers, honey, olive oil, herbs and three different varieties of watermelon.
The festival featured tractor rides through the Mellano Farm, a small petting zoo area where visitors can visit with and pet some of the farm’s animals, and about 10 local vendors selling various food products, crafts and accessories.
Patricia Gonzalez’s table was a popular stop for visitors interested in trying her homemade salsas. Gonzalez, whose business name is Mamacita’s Salsa Asada, said this was her second time at the farm stand.
“We really like it here,” she said. “We want to come back.”
Michelle Castellano Keeler said her family’s farm stand reached out to several local vendors that they knew who make handcrafted items to be part of the festival.
“We have more who are wanting to be part of our events now too,” she said.
The festival drew in at least one thousand cars, Castellano Keeler said, most of which carried anywhere from one to five people at a time.
The farm introduced watermelons to its list of crops last year after opening the farm stand to help provide more jobs during the pandemic.
“It’s been a fun thing to have keep going,” Castellano Keeler said.
The Mellano family has been farming in Southern California since 1925 after Castellano Keeler’s grandfather immigrated from Italy. The family has been farming in the South Morro Hills area since the 1960s.
Now with pandemic restrictions lifted and everything reopening, the farm stand hopes to host more festivals in the future. Castellano Keeler said the farm stand is scheduled to have a Fall Festival later this year with a pumpkin patch and a corn maze, but will also likely have a few more events pop up before then.
The Mellano Farm Stand is one of South Morro Hill’s emerging agritourism enterprises. The city has been advocating for growing agritourism, which is when working farms bring in visitors to enjoy various aspects of farm life, to help boost the South Morro Hills economy and help farmers create supplemental income for themselves.
“We’re big believers in agritourism,” Castellano Keeler said. “People like coming out and experiencing the farm.”