Early strawberry season ends with a bountiful harvest on farms in central Maine
David Popp has never seen such a bountiful strawberry harvest in over 30 years at the Popp farm in Dresden.
“The berries are as big as plums,” he said, “and that’s no exaggeration.”
But business is slow. the Coronavirus pandemic was mean to the farm, which couldn’t afford a full-time seasonal employee.
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 103 Glasheen Road, Popp Farm offers pickable strawberries to fit most people’s schedules, but patrons don’t show up. The farm moved from Popp Road three years ago and has struggled to attract large numbers of customers.
“We can’t get people out,” Popp said. “We put all of our ads that we moved around a bit, but they don’t seem to understand that. “
Strawberry season has arrived early in Maine this year, one of the oldest, if not the oldest, seasons in recent memory. Last year’s season started late, but in 2021 Popp Farm started harvesting on June 14, according to David Popp. The season is expected to run until the second week of July.
The strawberry season arrived early this year due to the weather, local farmers said. There was little spring frost, allowing the berries to grow quickly and healthily. Local farmers said the berries were the best they had seen in years.
“This year has definitely been a bounty of fruit,” said Anson Biller, owner of Full Fork Farm in China. “Things obviously started early and felt a bit more condensed in terms of the picking window.”
Full Fork Farm has already completed its 2021 strawberry season, which ended on Sunday. The strawberry picking and wholesale strawberry picking lasted 3.5 weeks, a little shorter – but more abundant – than the previous four years of the farm’s strawberry harvest.
Biller said the strawberry season itself was not over on the other farms.
Maine is one of the best berry picking states, Tied for seventh in a ranking by Gurney’s Seed & Nursery, an Indiana-based gardening and plant company.
Maine’s ranking for strawberries alone came in fourth, behind Delaware, Vermont and Wisconsin. Rankings were calculated based on four factors: number of farms per 100,000 population, average annual temperature, average annual precipitation, and growing season in the largest city.
According to an outgoing message on Underwood Strawberry Farm‘s answering machine, Benton’s farm has not reopened this season after 24 years and the owners are retiring.
At Sites Farm in Athens, owner Luke Sites invites customers to choose from the nearly 70,000 plants spread over three acres at 98 Joaquin Road from 8 am to 6 pm daily.
The only exception to the schedules was on Monday, when the farm closed at 1 p.m. With temperatures reaching the 90s and a scorching sun, Sites wanted to make sure pickers were safe from the heat in the afternoon. On-farm picking opportunities began the second week of June, and Sites said they expect the season to last another week, or at least until Sunday, July 4.
Sites said his strawberry business was extremely busy and that he expects his blueberry season to start early – in mid-July as well – and do well.
“I would say the demand is pretty high this year (for strawberries),” Sites said. “I think people are looking for things to do after a year of not doing much, and going out and picking strawberries is a great thing to do with your family as a fun day out with the family.”
CMP customers could see double-digit rates increase in August