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June 16. 2014 8:50PM

Slow but sweet start for strawberries and most other NH summer crops


Siena Hardy, 8, of Brookline, picked strawberries Saturday afternoon at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis. Siena's grandfather, Rick, operates the 400-acre organic farm. The farm will open its pick-your-own stands this week, once more berries turn red. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

A cross the state, early summer berry crops are running behind schedule, meaning folks might have to wait slightly longer for their strawberry shortcakes and blueberry pies.

“Everything is coming in late this year,” said Maureen Duffy, spokesman for the New Hampshire Farm Bureau. “This past winter was pretty rough on everyone, especially the farmers.”

At Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, farm owner Rick Hardy said pick-your-own strawberries would be ripe for plucking later this week, followed over the summer by cherries, blueberries, several varieties of raspberries and blackberries.

“I’d say everything is about two weeks late this year,” Hardy said on Saturday. “It’s been a cool, cloudy springtime and right now there are plenty of berries out there, but a lot of them just haven’t turned red yet.”

The long winter also damaged fruit trees.

“We had to prune a lot more,” Hardy said, “which is more of a maintenance issue than a production issue.”

As one of the area’s larger organic farms, Brookdale Farm uses state-of-the art technology. A 70-foot portable greenhouse can be moved around the fields to promote plant growth in the areas that need it most, while irrigation lines target crops in need of more immediate watering.

Bob Goodrich, owner of Saltbox Farm in Stratham, said his blueberry and raspberry crops, like others around the region, would be arriving somewhat later than usual.

With fluctuating temperatures throughout winter and spring, some of the berry bushes at Saltbox Farm were still blooming this month, unusual for this late in the spring.

“We’re off to a slow start,” Goodrich said on Friday. “The cold winter we had meant the bees were late to arrive. That’s not a good thing.”

At Sunnycrest Farms in Londonderry, the spring rains have been a wonderful thing for this year’s strawberries.

“We have a huge strawberry crop coming in,” farmer Dan Hicks said on Friday. “The berries are enormous this year.”

The farm’s pick-your-own stands will be open for business later this week, somewhat later in the season than usual but well worth the wait, Hicks said.

With the costs of fuel and everything else a little higher this year, Hicks said he expects a slight increase in fruit and vegetable prices this season. He said the pick-your-own prices would be set today, the day before public picking begins.

Early summer vegetables are also coming in slowly but surely.

“The weather definitely affected our veggies,” Hicks said. “We’re just starting to pick our lettuce right now, which is unusual this time of year.”

Will that trend carry over into the fall apple season? New Hampshire Farm Bureau’s Maureen Duffy said it’s too soon to guess.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” she said.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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