Kristen Yanarella, of Saco, passes a ripe strawberry to her son Luca, 4, at Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth on Thursday — the farm’s opening day of the season. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

CAPE ELIZABETH — The first day of pick-your-own strawberries at Maxwell’s Farm began with a line forming an hour before its 9 a.m. opening Thursday.

“At 8 a.m., there were people lined up all the way down the street,” Joy Twillmann, a ninth-generation member of the Maxwell family, said between helping customers Thursday morning.

This week marks the opening of several pick-your-own strawberry farms in southern Maine, including Spiller Farm in Wells, which also opened Thursday, and Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, set to open Saturday.

At Pineland, employees were feeling hopeful about the season ahead, especially compared to last year, when wet weather resulted in low sales.

“This year should be terrific compared to last year,” said David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist and professor of horticulture at the University of Maine. “It was a rainy year last year, and we had drought for three years before that.” The milder winter was also helpful for growing, he said.

Luca Yanarella, 4, of Saco, shows off the strawberries he picked at Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth on Thursday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“Hopefully the pickers are ready to go out and enjoy this crop,” he said. “It’s the best I’ve seen in quite some time.”


Last year, it rained in Maine for almost all of June. The constant dampness led to mold that damaged the strawberry crop for many farms. The season is only about a month long, so good weather for a few weeks is important to yielding ripe berries.

Still, Twillmann said, Maxwell’s did have customers come out to pick strawberries last year through drizzle and cold for the farm’s 50th anniversary season, which included activities and events to celebrate.

“Mainers are hardy,” she said. “We have wonderful, loyal, very enthusiastic customers.”

One of those loyal customers is Sarah Marshall, of Portland, who comes several times during strawberry season and was there for opening day Thursday. She said she’s usually there with her children, and they bring Cheerios and milk to eat with the berries while they pick.

Sarah Marshall, of Portland, picks her own strawberries at Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth on Thursday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

“Smelling the ocean and picking berries is pretty great, and the family tradition of the farm is special, too,” she said.

The Maxwell family has been growing strawberries for 51 years and has always had pick-your-own available. On its busiest days, the farm gets over 1,000 customers, Twillmann said.


Twillmann credited much of their success to the members of Rodriguez family, who have been coming from Puerto Rico to work at Maxwell’s for three generations. Maxwell’s also employs high school and college students for the summers, many of whom come back year after year.

Many families came out to the farm Thursday, and the excitement extended beyond the strawberry fields to cyclists passing by, one of them saying, “Look at all the berries!”

Remi Gilbert, 4, plucks a strawberry as her nanny Savanah Wales and brother Asa Gilbert, 1, look on at Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth on Thursday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Savanah Wales, nanny for Asa and Remi Gilbert, brought the children to the farm for the first time, and they sat giggling to each other with berry-stained fingers and faces. They planned to use their haul for strawberry shortcake.

“We were nervous it would be too early in the season, but I think we got the first wave pretty good,” Wales said.

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