Wet spring hurts strawberry crop

BLUE HILL — It’s a bad news/good news situation if you enjoy locally grown strawberries and want to pick your own.

Thanks to a cycle of thawing and freezing last winter and a rainy spring, strawberry crops have not fared well.

“We usually have six acres and we lost 1.5 to two acres to winter kill,” said Jeff Beardsworth, who owns Homewood Farm in Blue Hill with his wife, Trudy.

Meanwhile, higher than average rainfall to date for spring and summer doesn’t help the crops.

Moisture is an enemy of the strawberry. If the berries stay wet, they’re likely to spoil faster.

The National Weather Service said Maine had more than 6 inches of rainfall during June, the wettest June since 2012. The most rain fell on June 20-21 when parts of the state recorded 1.61 inches.

The American’s weather data collector, Linda Penkalski of Lamoine, said locally, a total of 7.44 inches of rain fell in June.

Meanwhile, the rain keeps coming. Penkalski logged nearly ¾ of an inch of rain during a thunderstorm on Saturday.

“The next problem was they came late,” Beardsworth said, recalling only one other strawberry season that was worse than this one.

Beardsworth said he has been able to fulfill his market orders. However, the farm has only been able to open for one day of pick your own berries. That was Tuesday.

The couple said there may be more days for customers to pick but until then, there are berries available at the farm stand. Keep an eye on the farm’s Facebook page for updates.

You also can find Homewood Farm strawberries at Tradewinds in Blue Hill.

The season “could have been better,” Beardsworth said. “It could also be a lot worse.”

The good news is that Homewood Farm should have more berries next year.

Beardsworth said he planted an extra acre of berries for the 2020 season since the pick your own berry offering has gotten more popular.

Meanwhile, berry crops have been scarce everywhere, not just Blue Hill.

Tate’s Strawberries in East Corinth has been a major supplier of berries in years past.

However, the farm won’t have strawberries this year.

Fourth-generation strawberry farmer Jessica and her husband, Ray Hall, have bought the farm, which is now known as R.J. Hall’s Family Farm.

“We’re kind of starting from the ground up,” said Jessica Hall. “We planted six acres this year.”

Those plants, with the right weather conditions, should be ready for the 2020 berry season, she said.

Silveridge Farm in Bucksport has been offering pick your own berries for over 40 years. However, the farm didn’t open for picking last year and won’t offer open fields this year either.

But, Silveridge berries are available for purchase at Back Ridge Bee Farm and Supply in Orland.

Owners Mary Jo Norris and Shawn Kenney are working with Silveridge owners, Bob and Earlene Chasse, to harvest the berries.

Norris said the season has been late but the berries are “pretty sweet.”

“The sun the past week has helped ripen the berries,” Norris said. “We’re behind but our berries seem to be doing all right.”

From the retail perspective, Tradewinds Marketplace General Manager Bonnie Tokas said the strawberry season did get off to a slow start.

“It was slow in the beginning but we seem to be able to get what we order now,” Tokas said. “We also have been able to get berries from the Crown of Maine and also we can supplement from Taste of the North in Canada. The quality has been great. We have been told it might be a shorter season though.”

Jennifer Osborn

Jennifer Osborn

Reporter and columnist at The Ellsworth American
News Reporter Jennifer Osborn covers news and features on the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle-Stonington. She welcomes tips and story ideas. She also writes the Gone Shopping column. Email Jennifer with your suggestions at [email protected] or call 667-2576.
Jennifer Osborn

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