Maine’s wild blueberry growers expect a good harvest this summer, despite weather challenges that ranged from late frosts to excessive rains. Michele McDonald/Photo Editor

Maine’s commercial blueberry harvesters are anticipating a strong season despite an inauspicious start.

The state’s signature fruit has proven resilient. Last year’s drought conditions stressed the plants in the first year of their two-year cultivation cycle, slowing and stunting the growth of some.

Then, several frosts, including one in mid-May, wiped out several lower-lying blueberry fields entirely.

Some worried that heavy rain in June and July would be another strike against blueberries and that growers could face the same disappointing start to the season as strawberry farmers.

And while the rain did delay some blueberries from turning their eponymous hue, the rain has primarily been a boon for both the thirsty berries and their farmers.

“This was perfect timing for the blueberries, they love rain,” said Lily Calderwood, wild blueberry specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.


Following a strong bloom, Calderwood said she expected a bumper crop this year until the spring frosts threatened to upend the season.

But with all the rain, the berries, which could have been small after last year’s drought, plumped right up. Heavier berries mean more money in the per-pound business.

“I think the rain we had made up for some of the loss we had from the frost event,” she said.

Wild blueberries are grown in a two-year production cycle that alternates between a “prune year” and a “crop year,” according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Following the harvest in late summer, plants are pruned to the ground by mowing or burning.

The following year the stems, leaves and buds grow. Then in the second year, the plants bloom and produce berries. Then the cycle repeats.


Wild blueberry farmers typically split their acreage between the two cycles in order to harvest a crop every year.

It’s too early to say just what will happen next year, but Calderwood said the rain bodes well for the next harvest. It will likely give the growing blueberries enough energy and resources to make more healthier and fuller buds, she said.


Bruce Hall, director of agroecology at Wyman’s, was skeptical heading into the harvest season, but he’s been pleasantly surprised by the high quality of fruit he’s seen, both from their own fields and from the approximately 450 farms they buy from.

With 18,000 acres, Wyman’s is the second-largest wild blueberry grower in the state. They lost a few fields to the frost, but it won’t have a substantial impact on the business, Hall said.

The June rains helped with fruit sizing and the recent cooling temperatures and lower humidity will help the blueberries stay in peak condition – their quality deteriorates as it gets hotter.


While the rain has ultimately been positive, Hall stressed that in farming, nothing is ever black and white.

The hot, wet conditions in June and July introduced a significant amount of leaf disease to the crop, which can increase the plant’s vulnerability to drought conditions if weather patterns change and the current drier spell continues.

Wyman’s will harvest through mid-September and in the meantime, Hall said they will focus on plant health.


For Sonja Howard, whose family owns Brodis Blueberries in Hope, the saving grace this year was a sunny pollination season.

“The bees worked hard during that time, so the blossom was good,” she said. “We got a lot of rain but the berries had already set.”


The real challenge was that late frost, which killed about 15 acres of blueberry fields. Howard says they were lucky – the 15 acres are only a fraction of the 162-acre farm and they were insured. Other farmers with lower-lying fields lost a lot more.

Brodis was still able to turn things around in time for the harvest season, which started July 22 and will likely wrap up by Aug. 6.

Overall, Howard is optimistic.

“Our yield is average and … the weather has been cooperating. It’s coming along pretty well,” she said.

Lisa Hanscom, who owns Welch Farm in Roque Bluffs, has had a love/hate relationships with the rain this year.

Welch Farm was lucky to escape the frost, but Hanscom said the rain and subsequent lack of sun set back the ripening.


“They were growing but they weren’t turning blue,” she said.

Because of this, Hanscom won’t start harvesting until Wednesday, more than a week later than usual.

But last year’s drought was the bigger problem – last season’s berries didn’t grow well, and while customers enjoyed the more intense flavor of the smaller berries, their weight didn’t add up to much.

On the heels of that, she’s been happy to see the rain.


Maine is one of the world’s hubs for wild blueberries and the only U.S. state where they are commercially harvested. There are approximately 480 wild blueberry farms that range in size from 20 acres to thousands of acres.


The size of Maine’s wild blueberry harvest dropped by 26%, or 27.5 million pounds, in 2022 after hitting a near-record harvest the previous year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Last year’s crop was valued at $55.5 million, down from $80.3 million in 2021.

Experts expected similar results to the 2021 bounty of 104 million pounds. But following a perfect storm of poor weather conditions, harvesters eked out just 77.6 million pounds last year. The state’s all-time peak was 110 million pounds in 2000.

Last year’s drop isn’t necessarily a harbinger of a declining blueberry industry – harvest data has been all over the map in the last 10 years, with a low of 47.4 million pounds in 2020 and a high of 104.4 million pounds in 2014. Over the last decade, the weight has averaged out to about 82.1 million pounds.

Still, blueberries are especially dependent on weather, and for some farmers, basing their livelihood around the colorful fruits is becoming more challenging in the face of climate change. More droughts, late frosts, the disappearance of pollinators like honey bees, heavy rain and other changes in weather patterns make the growing season hard to predict.

The vast majority of Maine’s wild blueberries are frozen. The fresh market fetches a much higher price per pound, but only about 5% to 10% of the harvested berries are sold in the fresh market, said Calderwood, the UMaine blueberry specialist.


Both Hanscom and Howard have had to diversify their income streams and are working to increase their fresh market and retail offerings.

Welch Farm has been in Hanscom’s family since 1912.

Over the years, she’s boosted the farm’s involvement in agrotourism, adding rental cabins and farm tours. The farm is right on the ocean, with a picturesque view and stunning sunsets from one of the fields, so Hanscom is toying with the idea of renting the space for marriage proposals and intimate weddings. She’s also working to increase their retail offerings like jams, jellies and wreaths.

Brodis Blueberries is also a longtime family-run operation, with nine generations working in the fields, Howard said. She hopes to see more.

They have a distillery in the barn, where they make spirits out of blueberries and other fruits. They offer cocktails Thursday through Saturday and bottles of the alcohol are also for sale.

“What we’re working on is more value-added products like jams and pies to increase the overall profits of the farm so that hopefully this generation doesn’t have to be the one that sells it,” she said.

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