Blackie Labbe of Blackie’s farm stands in Lewiston and Auburn was planning to pick pumpkins Tuesday morning. A whole month early.

Wallingford’s Fruit House in Auburn opens for pick-your-own season Saturday. Two weeks early.

Jill Agnew’s peaches and pears over at Willow Pond Farm in Sabattus? Eleven days early.

It’s a summer of happy growers and happy fruit.

“The weather’s been hot and it rains every night,” said Labbe, whose pumpkins are likely destined for some very early decorative fall displays. “It’s excellent for farmers.”

Tori Jackson, extension educator for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Androscoggin and Sagadahoc counties, said an early spring emboldened some gardeners to plant long before Memorial Day. Seasonal crops — strawberries, blueberries — benefited from snow’s early exit and steady sun since April, she said.

Apples are running several weeks ahead of schedule.

“Unfortunately with the frost and the hail damage they’re tending to be a lighter crop (in some areas),” Jackson said.

Gail Cutting, organizer of the River Valley Farmers’ Market in Mexico, got her beets, carrots and lettuce planted in April. She remembers having her skeptics.

“In Maine, you have such a short growing season, you do everything to make it last,” Cutting said. “You take that risk when it’s presented to you.”

This year, it worked. She’s been hearing “You’re selling this now?” at her farm stand.

“Our real hope is these sunny, dry weekends last through the fall,” said Peter Ricker, owner of Wallingford’s. He’ll open his stand and bakery Wednesday with a new corn maze and farm animals to pet.

Agnew said she’ll open her farm stand Sept. 6, a little early. Meanwhile, her CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers have been enjoying the bounty.

“We have a constant flow of recipes and tips knowing five pounds of beans is probably more than they’re going to go through in a week,” Agnew said. “They’re getting way over their money’s worth this year.”

That’s in sharp contrast to last year’s wet weather and poorer crops, but it’s also good to experience the contrast, Agnew said, because that’s how farming is: Never a sure thing.

Barbara Murphy, a cooperative extension educator for Oxford County, said every crop has been running ahead. Hay is also having “a great season.” Her work garden is loaded with zucchinis and cucumbers. Homeowners who find themselves in a similar pickle — way more than they can eat — can turn to any county extension service, she said.

“All extensions will help you find a place for your produce to go,” Murphy said. “It’s too good (to go to waste.)”

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Lots to Gardens is looking for harvest volunteers.

The program has 10 gardens communitywide, both for Lots’ cooking program and residents, said Sherie Blumenthal, food access coordinator for Lots and St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.

“It’s been a really, really good year. It’s so refreshing because last year was so terrible,” she said. Broccoli, kale and collards did well, but they’re not the garden’s stars: “It’s not what people get excited about.”

Blumenthal is after help weeding, watering and harvesting.

The Nutrition Center is also holding a class on Wednesday afternoons, a how-to on canning and pickling to handle garden extras. A $5 donation is requested.

To volunteer or for class sign-up, 513-3844


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