Amber Gillis of Sebago picks an apple at Thompson’s Orchard in New Gloucester this week. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

Although the weather has hampered progress, apple orchards in the area are up and running for the year.

“It was a cold spring and a hot summer with not much rain, which means the apples don’t grow as big,” said Robert Randall, owner of Randall Orchards in Standish.

Mike Thompson, owner of Thompson’s Orchards in New Gloucester, agreed, saying the apples are “a touch smaller. Things are a little touch behind, but they’re catching up nicely.”

The owner of Five Fields Farm in Bridgton said business has been steady so far, despite the weather setbacks.

“We’re a week or 10 days behind schedule,” said June Gyger. “Business has been all right. I hope everything will catch up to itself.”

Sherry Dwinnell, owner of Meadow Brook Farm in Raymond, said the weather has been too warm.

“We need fall weather,” she said. The warmth “just decreases the pick-your-own people that are coming here.”

The orchards are currently all open for pick-your-own apples and offer a range of varieties, including McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Honey Crisp, Golden Delicious, Ginger Gold and Gala. Most anticipate being open for pick your own through October.

Lots of apples are ready for picking in New Gloucester. Jane Vaughan / Lakes Region Weekly

The orchards also have a variety of other products for sale. Five Fields sells cider and pies and will soon have squash. Randall offers cider, pumpkins, peaches and squash. Thompson’s has cider, baked goods, including doughnuts, crafts and homemade gelato. It will soon begin offering pizza made from pretzel dough batter.

In addition to Mother Nature, these orchards continue to battle an age-old problem: labor shortages.

Dwinnell said the problem has been going on for over 30 years: “No one wants to work for under $20 an hour.” She and her husband run the farm without any outside help.

Thompson also said he does not have enough workers: “labor shortages are everywhere and yes, it’s a problem.”

Most of his work force is high school kids, and “kids are a lot more engaged in school than they used to be. They’re so busy. There just isn’t time for a real job.”

Although the crews he hires are always great workers, Thompson said, there are still never enough hands to fill all of the jobs that need to be done.

Gyger, however, said that she has no trouble finding labor. She has a steady crew of locals who pick and pack for her and who have worked with her for years. She leases most of her operation to another larger grower, who hires Jamaicans and Mexicans to do the harvest labor.

Meanwhile, at Meadow Brook Farm, business is winding down. There will no longer be cider, doughnuts or other products for sale this year, and Dwinnell and her husband plan to sell off the orchard and attached house next year.

“We absolutely loved it, but we’re tired,” Dwinnell said.

At the other orchards, the season is just getting started, and business “is starting to pick up,” said Randall.

Comments are not available on this story.