FARMINGTON — Maine’s late winter likely will mean locally grown crops will be available later than usual at farmers markets.

Many farmers, like David Pike in Farmington, are still planting crops, while others like Annette Marin in Rumford haven’t even started yet. The ground’s been too cold.

“We usually try to get the first corn in the 20th or 25th of April, and then you hope it’s going to warm up, which it really hasn’t,” Pike said.

Pike, 78, and his wife, Verna, have owned and operated Pike’s Strawberries & Corn for 40 years.

Marin owns No View Farm on South Rumford Road. It has been farmed using natural and organic practices since 1983 and is certified by Certified Naturally Grown and is transitioning to certified organic vegetables, according to No View Farm’s website.

“I haven’t got anything in the ground yet,” Marin said on Friday. “We still have the potential to have a frost. I don’t plant until after June 1. I go by the ground temperature on when to plant.”


Instead, she keeps her plants inside a greenhouse.

“My greenhouse was a month behind in warming up, so I figure the ground will be a month behind, also,” Marin said.

Pike said the weather hasn’t been advantageous for farmers this spring, giving them pause to either go all in or wait like Marin.

“It’s either been cold or it’s been windy,” Pike said. “Like this year, I put in my irrigation pipes May 2. Two years ago, I put them in down there April 2. But things are weird this year, and you don’t know if you’re better doing things early or you better wait.”

He said one of his strawberry plots closer to the Sandy River went underwater last month when the river overran its banks.

“I can’t remember what year, but two to three years ago, May 10, strawberries over here in that field were in full bloom and that’s when we got the freeze and people like down in southern Maine, they lost peaches, and a lot of people lost their strawberry crop,” Pike said.


“Full bloom — May 10 — and I’m just starting. So the thing is, this may be a normal year — but we’ve had so many abnormal years, it’s hard to remember what a normal year is.”

Farmers are dependent on the weather. On Thursday, Pike was setting up several lines, preparing to protect his crops from frost.

“But if I look (at the forecast) for the next 10 days, I don’t see any threat,” he said.

Indeed, that forecast is calling for eight to 10 days of rain, which is why Pike was waiting for the wind to die down on Thursday so he could spray the foliage of his strawberries to protect them.

Pointing to very healthy-looking, short-daylight strawberries, he said they over-wintered very well, but they have yet to produce flower buds.

“The strawberries are going to be late this year; corn maybe, I don’t know,” he said.


Pike said he planted the first corn crop on April 28 or 29 and covered the plots with long, wide white sheets of plastic to keep the ground warm.

“That cover works good if you have sunlight,” he said. “It raises the soil temperature so you would get the corn one or two weeks earlier than if you didn’t cover it.”

They have one more planting remaining, because they try to stagger the plantings, he said.

Pike said it took two weeks for some of the corn seeds to germinate, because nighttime temperatures have been in the low 40s.

“It was a long time,” he said.

“Many times when we plant early, I tell people we put it in ‘cold storage.’ So it’s a crap shot. You’ve got to be early today.”


Pike said the late winter didn’t really affect his corn-planting schedule.

“We planted pretty close to what we normally do,” he said. “We would plant the 20th sometimes, and the ground — God, we just spent a lot of time trying to prep it to dry it out.

“That’s time and money to do the prepping, and you don’t want to work the ground too early, because then it will be lumpy and mean stuff,” Pike said.

He said he doesn’t try to get his strawberry plants bearing fruit too early now, because he doesn’t have migrant workers to pick them, just local schoolchildren and college students.

For strawberries, Pike grows three-quarters of an acre of short-daylight or June-bearers and day-neutral plants.

“In other words, I planted those (June-bearers) last June and no harvest at all last year, and then in about late August or September, when the days start getting shorter, those start sending up their fruiting buds for this year,” Pike said.


“So that’s why they call them ‘short daylight.’ Whereas these are day-neutral. In other words, the length of the day has nothing to do with it. The only thing that stops them from producing in the fall is freeze.”

The June bearers had yet to bloom or even produce buds by Thursday, whereas the day-neutral plants were rather scrawny-looking, but in full bloom.

“These plants look a little bit scrawnier, because they really gave me the crop last year and they’re still in the building up (stage), but we should be picking these until, oh probably the middle of June,” Pike said. “And about the time they start petering out, those (June-bearers) should be coming in.”

He planted the day-neutral strawberries May 1, 2013, started harvesting them in July and continued harvesting them until the end of October.

He believes he’ll get some berries by the end of May from day-neutral plants growing inside a long, low greenhouse tunnel of plastic sheeting.

“This will be just a few, but it’s a good crop,” Pike said.


On the season outlook, Pike said he believes they will have a good strawberry crop, because he planted more last year, but only a few this year.

“They wintered, I think, very well,” he said. “I’ve always said, ‘The deeper the snow, the better the crop.'”

Marin said she expects her growing season will be “just fine.”

“I already have fresh greens, so I hope to have a good growing season,” she said.

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