Strawberry crop late, but looking good

Makayla Kelley, 5, picks strawberries at Homewood Farm in Blue Hill June 29. This year’s strawberry season started later than usual because of the cool, wet spring. PHOTO BY CYNDI WOOD

ELLSWORTH — Maine’s strawberry season is short and oh-so-sweet.

Over and done within roughly three weeks, the crop typically peaks around the time of highest demand — July 4. Bring on the strawberry shortcake.

Berries ripened a little later than usual this year due to the cool, wet spring, according to growers and David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist at the University of Maine.

Many farms opened last week.

Handley was optimistic about the crop statewide.

“I’m feeling very up about it,” he said. “The quality is good.”

Freshly picked strawberries at Homewood Farm in Blue Hill

The strawberries wintered well and the size of the crop is strong, Handley said. Individual berries might be slightly smaller than average. Strawberry plants set there buds in late August to early September of the prior year. Parts of Maine were dealing with drought conditions at that time.

The later ripening time can be a boon for farmers, Handley said. Families are more likely to go strawberry picking after school lets out.

There are about 200 strawberry farms in Maine. About 70 percent of the crop is sold as pick-your-own.

The late start is challenging for Jeff Beardsworth, owner of Homewood Farm in Blue Hill. His berries ripened about a week to 10 days later than usual.

The farm opened June 29.

Selling pick-your-own strawberries after Independence Day is “like trying to sell wreaths after Christmas,” he said Friday.

He was hoping for good weather and a good turnout this week. The farm is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week during the season.

As for the crop, he said: “Looks good. So far we’ve been lucky, missing some of the hard rain and hail.”

Not so lucky was Silveridge Farm in Bucksport, which is in its 40th season.

“We had fantastic picking for eight hours — then ‘boom!’” said owner Bob Chasse.

An inch of dime-size hail pummeled the crop in 10 minutes the afternoon of opening day, June 28.

Chasse said Friday that the season was “touch and go,” but that there were still berries in the field. The farm was open for picking Monday morning.

He recommended customers call ahead (469-2405).

The crop had been excellent prior to the storm.

“It’s quite disappointing, but it’s agriculture,” Chasse said.


Local pick-your-own strawberry farms

Homewood Farm

Where: 118 Ackley Farm Road, Blue Hill

When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Contact: 374-9903

More info: https://www.facebook.com/homewoodfarm/


Silveridge Farm

Where: 699 Silver Lake Road, Bucksport

When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. or as long as there are still berries

Contact: 469-2405 (Call ahead)

More info: https://www.facebook.com/SilveridgeFarm/

Cyndi is managing editor of The Ellsworth American. The Ellsworth native joined the staff of The American in 2007 as a reporter.