MAINE, Maine — Wild blueberries are one of the most beloved crops in Maine and New England.
"They are just chock-full of antioxidants, that's sort of the word that everybody hears, but in particular they are full on anthocyanins. That's what makes the berry that deep blue color," Ashley Field, owner of "Fields Fields" Blueberries in Dresden, explained.
This weekend, 14 farms across the state are opening their doors for all sorts of activities and, of course, wild blueberry products.
It’s a chance for visitors to check out local farms and learn more about the history of Maine wild blueberries.
There are also 43 local businesses in southern Maine offering special foods and beverages with wild blueberries.
Ashley and Jesse Field say their blueberry farm in Dresden has had very little rain this year, making the berry even smaller than usual.
Their farm has been certified organic for over 20 years.
"We are looking at about 30% of our normal harvest," Ashley said. "I know there has been a lot more rain Downeast. For some reason, we've just missed all the little rain that has come through. I think we are experiencing it here in Lincoln County a little bit more than other places."
University of Maine wild blueberry specialist Dr. David Yarborough says, generally speaking, drought will limit the crop size this year. He says larger wild blueberry companies in Maine have irrigation, which is saving some of the crop.
Many small farms like "Fields Fields" don't count on irrigation but rather on mother nature to do the work all year round.
"The crop is expected to be at an average of about 90 million pounds, but it depends on how much rain we get in August. If the drought continues, it will be less," Yarborough added.
"They love the harsh environment; they love the harsh winters. That's what makes these fruit thrive," Ashley Field said.
"What we are finding this year is that it's very thin," said Jesse Field.
Jesse Field says their farm is finding that this year's berries are smaller and thinner, but that doesn't mean the fruit is not tasty.
"The fruit this year tastes great! As a result of not being a very big berry, all the good nutrients and stuff are all there [and the berries are] more dense," he explained.
"We pick our field all at once. We don't rake it; we harvest it with mechanical harvesters. We flash freeze our crop. It's frozen within 24 hours of coming out [of] the field, and that way we have a product year round that we can work with," Ashley Field said.
Besides selling frozen wild blueberries, Ashley Field makes some unique creations with the nutritious fruit.
"We do some dehydrated products like blueberry powder and blueberry chips, and then we also have a food cart where we make blueberry crisp. And we go to different events and festivals," she said.
This weekend, "Fields Fields" in Dresden will be one of the 14 participating farms opening its doors for people.
"They can see where wild blueberries grow; they can learn about wild blueberries; they can just experience it first hand," Ashley Field said.
Click here for a list of the 14 farms participating in the annual Maine Wildblueberry Weekend.