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Lack of sun stalls strawberry season

For the first time in more than a decade, strawberry picking will not be open to the public during this weekend's Cape Elizabeth Strawberry Festival.

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — "It's like having another child." 

Bill Bamford says growing strawberries is a year-round endeavor and the berries require care and attention. It's a lot of work but he says he loves it.

"We got tons of berries, we just need some warmth!"

Bamford is the owner of Maxwell's Farm in Cape Elizabeth. He says the crop this year is good, but they need the sun and warmth for the berries to ripen. 

"It's been cold and wet and not much sun and fog and strawberry plants don't really like that any more than we do."

It's the opposite of last year when there was a lack of rain. Southern Maine had the third driest May through early June on record.

RELATED: It's been very dry, but it may be good news for strawberries this month

While the lack of sun has slowed the ripening process this year, Bamford says it's not the latest he's ever opened for the season.

"I think one year we opened July 4th or 5th," he said. "And I think we've opened as early as the 10th of June."

Bamford says he's hoping to open his two fields for public picking by early next week. He also sells his strawberries to local businesses like The Good Table, Local 188, and Rosemont Bakery and won't be able to do so until they're ripe for picking.

This weekend, though, is the Cape Elizabeth Strawberry Festival. It will still be held and visitors can still get treats like strawberry ice cream, but for the first time in more than a decade, strawberry picking will not be open to the public.

The strawberry season stall is impacting other farms across the state. If you call Levigne Strawberry Farm in Sanford, you'll hear a recording which says in part, "strawberries this year are really late and we'll have a better idea around the 30th as to when we might be opening."

You'll also come across a similar phone greeting for Chipman Farm in Poland: "Our strawberries are not ready yet. We are hoping to open at the very end of June."

If you live near Levant, you're in luck. Treworgy Family Orchards opened for strawberry picking Thursday.

Berries by the numbers

In 2018, Maine produced 4,500 pounds of strawberries per acre according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those numbers are down from 2015 when Maine produced 6,000 pounds per acre. Of the New England states, New Hampshire has the highest yield with 5,900 pounds per acre.

Maine's strawberry industry is valued at $4.5 million. That's according to 2017 yield, acreage, and price data from the USDA.