Queens of agriculture
It isn’t every day you visit a watermelon farm and packing house with royalty, but I recently did.
The visit was part of a project to film a series of North Carolina farmers sharing their story. The videos will be used in high school agriculture classes, bringing the farm to their classroom.
It was there I met the current North Carolina Watermelon Queen, who was making one of many farm visits during her reign.
She is one of several title holders representing agriculture commodities across the state. These young women become ambassadors and spokespeople for agriculture, representing the industry at events including parades, festivals, school programs, and more.
The Watermelon Queen pageant includes an interview, public speaking, evening gown, and my personal favorite, a watermelon seed spitting contest. The winner represents our state at the National Watermelon Queen pageant and receives not only the crown, but a college scholarship.
During her year-long reign, the Queen visits farms across the state and participates in many events at farmers markets, grocery stores, and other locations with the goal of promoting watermelons. This year’s Queen has been filming “Queen Behind the Screen,” weekly social media videos that include watermelon recipes, crafts, stories, field visits, and even a watermelon workout.
Some commodities have more than one ambassador. The North Carolina Strawberry Festival crowns not only a Queen, but a Princess, Little Miss, and Junior Miss. The pageant is a main event at the two-day festival promoting the official red berry of the state.
Agriculture queens don’t just promote the commodity they represent. Many also focus on community service.
The Miss NC Spot Festival Queen crowns eight winners between the ages of 0 and 24. Since 2014 the title holders have raised over $75,000 for various causes including local schools, teen suicide prevention, and hunger relief.
The Lincoln County Apple Queen contest is in its 42nd year as part of the Lincoln County Apple Festival. Each year the contestants choose a cause that is important to them and focus their work in that area. The reigning queen has used her crown to bring attention to domestic violence.
They may wear a crown but their message isn’t about beauty. They are raising awareness for crops grown or fish caught in their community and also issues affecting the people who live there.