BUCKSPORT — Bob and Earlene Chasse of Silveridge Farm will open their strawberry fields for picking one last time starting this week.
The Chasses would like customers to call first to let the couple know they are coming and to make sure the Silver Lake Road farm is open and hasn’t been depleted of berries already. The number is 469-2405. Also, bring your masks and hand sanitizer.
Bob Chasse has a compromised immune system due to lymphoma and he has concerns about traffic flow and keeping customers safe amid the pandemic.
“It’s the last year for us,” said Chasse, a retired teacher. “I’m old and I’m retiring and I’m calling it good. It’s a goodbye crop. It’s not a huge one.”
Chasse says he currently has a clean bill of health. “Chances are good that it will reoccur. I was able to do immunotherapy and it worked like a charm.”
As far as the farm’s future, that’s unknown. Chasse and his wife still live there.
“I won’t sell the farm,” he said. “My kids would shoot me.” But, after 40 years, it will be good to give the fields a rest, Chasse said.
Chasse started farming during summer breaks from his career as a schoolteacher. His wife worked as a labor and delivery nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bangor so he was home with their children during the summer.
Strawberries seem to have fared well this year considering weather challenges.
“The strawberry crop looks pretty good considering the difficulties we’ve faced this year,” said David Handley, who is a vegetable and small fruit specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension at Highmoor Farm in Monmouth. “Things got off to a slow start with extended cold, wet weather early this spring. Then, as the plants started flowering, many farms got hit with one or two late frosts, which can damage or kill the buds and blossoms, unless they are protected. Now we have very dry and hot conditions, which can result in stress on the plants and will concentrate the ripening time, shortening the harvest season.”
Homewood Farm, on Ackley Farm Road in Blue Hill, will open to customers for picking on Monday, June 29. The crop was affected a bit by a late frost, said Trudy Beardsley, who owns the farm with her husband Jeff.
Trudy said Wednesday there are strawberries that still need a bit of ripening but nonetheless they will open Monday.
Handley said not to tarry if you want to pick your own berries. And this is not the summer to linger in the fields.
“My advice: get to the fields quick to avoid missing this season,” said Handley. “It is best to call ahead, so that you know what rules have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Farms will not be having playgrounds, concerts, picnic areas or petting zoos this year to avoid people congregating. Check outs will be set up similar to what people have been seeing in grocery stores to promote social distancing. Customers will be spaced further apart in fields and asked to stay in assigned rows. So, while strawberry picking should still be a fun part of your summer, you need to learn and follow new guidelines to keep everyone at the farm safe and healthy.”