WILTON – Last year, 22,000 pounds of highbush blueberries were harvested at the Wilton Blueberry Farm.

“I think we’ll do even better this year,” said Irv Faunce, who owns the 6-acre farm and its more than 4,000 bushes with his wife Jan Collins. “We’re already ahead of where we were at this time last year.”

Berries were ready to be picked a few days earlier this year. And while the branches are already drooping under the weight of so many blueberries, the peak of the season won’t come until mid-August. They’ll pick until the first hard frost, Collins said.

With beautiful weather Monday and the local Blueberry Festival less than one week away, the farm was busy with pickers. Ann Ibarguen of Wilton said she comes every season.

“I have bushes of my own, but I still come here,” she said, adding that she will freeze some berries while also using them for cooking and to top off her breakfast cereal.

“I think it’s good,” she said of the blueberry crop. “I don’t see any Japanese beetles, which is a problem where I live.”

Grace Firth of Firth’s Fruit Farm in New Sharon said her blueberries are a week to 10 days ahead of schedule. “I’ve never seen it this early,” she said, adding that the farm planted its highbush blueberries 25 years ago.

This year is shaping up to be as good as 2005, which was a “super-duper” year. “But it’s still early. We’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

David Bell, executive director of the Maine Wild Blueberry Commission, said he’s anticipating a better than average year. “We’re quite hopeful, but we’ve still got another good month to go before we can really tell,” he said.

After 38 years in the business, Carol Henrickson knows how quickly a good season can turn into a bad one. Her family’s farm in Oxford features wild blueberries.

“When we went through the fields last week, we knew it would be a light crop, but when we went out this morning to rake, it was startling,” she said.

Torrential rains on Friday knocked berries off the bushes.

“When they’re ripe, they easily fall off,” Henrickson said. “It’s one of those things. It’s happened once before, but thankfully it doesn’t happen very often.”

Hail has been an issue for some blueberry crops along the mid-coast and farther Down East in recent weeks, Bell said. The closer it is to time to harvest, the more damage that hail can do, he added.

Especially gloomy, rainy weather in May, the season for pollination, also slowed the growing process for some and caused some disease in plants.

“But overall, the rain has been beneficial,” Bell said. “It’s better to have a little too much rain than not enough.”

Too little rain is often the biggest threat blueberries face this time of year.

“All in all, as far as the state goes, we’ve got a good crop at this point,” Bell added. “Some places that have not had enough sun at the right time or have had hail, they’re not doing as well.”


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