BLUE HILL — Strawberries from Homewood Farm have been described as the sweetest berries you’ll ever taste, says farmer Jeff Beardsworth.
Beardsworth and his wife, Trudy, own the farm, which is perched atop a hill straddling a wide ridge at the end of Ackley Farm Road.
Maybe it’s the fertilizer, which includes manure from the couple’s Black Angus cattle as well as plenty of lime.
“I try to keep the pH right where it wants to be,” Jeff said.
Maybe the sweetness is due to farm’s physical space.
The Beardsworths say the openness of the 200-acre property provides plenty of breeze. That keeps the strawberries from getting too moist. Moisture is an enemy of the strawberry. If the berries stay wet, they’re likely to spoil faster.
“You want to get it aired out quick after it rains,” Trudy said.
There are 25,000 plants total, which will yield about 30,000 to 35,000 pounds, Jeff said. You can purchase Homewood Farm strawberries at Tradewinds Marketplace and Hannaford as well as at their son and niece’s business, The Berry Huts.
Early on a sunny Wednesday morning, pick-your-own customers began arriving at 7 a.m., containers in hand, to pick this year’s varieties, which include AC Wendy, Cavendish, Honey Eye, Jewel, Mayflower, Sparkle, Brunswick and Cabot.
“We have some that start a little earlier and some that start a little later,” Trudy said.
Trudy is an Allen from Sedgwick and she has blueberries in her blood. Her family previously owned Allen’s Blueberry Freezer in Orland.
To that end, the couple also own 160 acres of blueberry fields elsewhere. They process that fruit commercially.
“Farming’s in my blood,” Jeff said. “I started down at C&G Growers long, long ago — mid-1970s.” Jeff is originally from Massachusetts. His grandparents had a camp on Toddy Pond, which is how he landed in Maine.
But, back to the red gems, Maine strawberries may be sweet but the season is brief.
Trudy said the season usually lasts three to four weeks but this year the berries started a week earlier than they usually do. That means, the season will be ending a week early. July 10 could be the end date this year.
“This year’s a good crop,” Jeff said. “It’s all about the weather.”
The farm is just Jeff and Trudy now. Their son and daughter are grown up.
Son Sydney, 22, owns a bustling retail berry and other local foods business called The Berry Huts with his cousin Cora Gray. The pair has locations on Route 3 in Ellsworth, on Route 1 in Orland and on Route 1A in Brewer.
Daughter Sadie is a dental hygienist and a new mom.
“It’s pretty much the wife and I run this place,” Jeff said.
The Beardsworths hire and house migrant workers every summer.
For the pick-your-own crowd, you can bring your own containers or you buy them from the farm. Trudy said to be sure and have your containers weighed before you start picking.
For new pickers, Jeff advises leaving berries that are not quite bright red yet overnight on a kitchen counter and they will finish ripening.
The farm has been especially busy this year because the other longstanding pick-your-own strawberry farm, Silver Ridge Farm in Bucksport, did not open this year.
So the Beardsworths also are looking for extra hands if you want a few days of work or want to put your teens to work. Call 374-9903.
At present, pick-your-own hours are currently 7 a.m. to noon. Those hours may change as berries continue to ripen.
Come fall, Homewood Farm will have corn, pumpkins, root vegetables, potatoes, onions and other crops available. The Beardsworths regularly update the farm’s Facebook page.