Dwight Ely repositions netting over the crops at his strawberry farm, Bradbury Mountain Farm, in Pownal on Friday to protect them from nighttime dew as well as hungry Cedar Waxwings. Berries are late in ripening this year because of all the rain. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Persistent cloudy, rainy weather has forced a late start to the strawberry season in Maine and partly damaged the crop for some strawberry farmers, though many still have a sunny outlook for the remainder of the season.

“This spring’s cold wet weather, starting with that late freeze on May 18, has had a very significant impact on our berry crop,” said Dwight Ely of Bradbury Mountain Berry Farm in Pownal. “If it was this difficult to grow strawberries every year, we wouldn’t be growing strawberries, because we couldn’t afford to grow strawberries.”

Ely said he was picking as many strawberries as he possibly could Friday ahead of a weekend of rain full of rain.

“Everyone knows what would happen to a box of berries if they sat out in the rain for a couple days. Every berry farmer’s berries crop has been sitting out in the rain for the last two weeks,” Ely said, noting that he expected to lose part of his early-ripening crop to the rain.

“Fortunately, there are more varieties yet to ripen, and next week’s weather looks promising, so we expect to have more beautiful berries with the second half of the season yet to come,” Ely added.

Strawberries are set out at a roadside stand at Bradbury Mountain Farm in Pownal. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

David Handley, a small fruit specialist at the University of Maine Extension in Monmouth, said a warm spell in April started this year’s strawberry crop growing quickly. But a frigid night on May 18 – some parts of the state saw ground-level temperatures as low as the mid-20s – threatened the strawberry flowers, though he said farmers were able to mitigate the problem through strategic irrigation.


Handley said he expected a later start to the season than usual for many Maine strawberry growers, particularly those in the central part of the state.

“But if we get good weather for picking, I think we’re looking at a really good season,” Handley said. “We just can’t seem to string more than a couple of sunny days together. We need some sunny days to ripen the fruit and get the pickers out in the fields.”

“It’s a struggle because the fields are wet, and there’s some mud,” said Walter Goss of Goss Berry Farm in Mechanic Falls, adding that some sunshine this week “would make a big difference.”

“You can’t pick a lot of the time because of the rain,” Goss continued. “But we’re still picking the crop and selling. There are a lot of berries to sell.”

Spiller Farm in Wells expects a smaller crop than usual this year, partly because its fields had some winter weather damage, and because one strawberry bed was lost to insects this spring.

Spiller opened its u-pick fields to customers Friday but had to close early because the visitors “cleaned them out in no time.”


“The strawberries are looking good, but ripening very slow,” farm owner Bill Spiller said.

Dwight Ely sets out baskets of strawberries for sale at Bradbury Mountain Farm in Pownal. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In a June 14 Facebook post, Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth echoed the sentiments of other area farms.

“The berries are on their way but taking their (oh sooooo) sweet time to ripen this year! They (and we!) are waiting for some much needed sun and heat!” the post read in part. Maxwell’s answering machine said Friday the farm might be open for picking in about a week.

Similarly, Chipman Farm in Poland posted on Facebook on Thursday that it’s picking limited amounts of strawberries for farmstand sales, but doesn’t expect u-pick to open for another week or longer.

Pineland Farms in New Gloucester opened its u-pick fields Saturday, despite the rain. Assistant farm manager Ariel Provencal noted that the May frost wiped out some of the farm’s early berry crop.

“Things are a little bit later this year than last, but so far, it’s looking mostly good,” Provencal said. “We have a lot of blossoms out there, so (by) early July, we’ll be really slamming.”

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