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Maine's fall harvest impacted by summer drought

As folks flock to pick apples and pumpkins, fall festivities may look a little different this year.

CORINTH, Maine — As the air gets a little cooler, it's no surprise that many are flocking to pick apples or search for the perfect Halloween pumpkin. But parts of Maine are still recovering from a severe summer drought.

This year marks Tim Chesley’s ninth year growing gourds and pumpkins for his business, Country Pumpkins, in Corinth.

"I had a couple of varieties that just didn’t do well," Chesley said. "Some didn’t set off as many fruit as typical, or I have some that just didn’t get the size.”

Chesley said he staggers the planting of his crops in case Mother Nature doesn't cooperate. But that doesn't mean there won't be casualties.  

“If an early maturing apple or pumpkin is needing that water at that time but doesn’t come in time, it’ll make that pumpkin or apple, but [it] just won’t get the size that it should," Chesley explained. 

It's a similar story next door at Sullivan's Orchard. Owner Kenneth Sullivan said they have a wide variety of apples to choose from, which means some varieties can drop too quickly because of drought stress while others will grow later into the season.

"There are some that are small because we had a bumper crop, and there are some that are starting to size up good now -- the later varieties," Sullivan said. 

If maple products are your go-to for the fall, you shouldn't have a problem getting your fix this year. However, Len Price of Nutkin Knoll Farm said next fall might also be affected because maple trees create sap during the summer months. It's collected in the spring and saved for the fall. 

"A droughty summer typically means a low sugar content sap the following spring," Price explained. "So that means a lot more boiling, a lot less syrup produced in the end, and a lot more work to be done."

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