Rain puts a damper on pick-your-own blueberry pickers, despite abundant crop

  • Paradise Farm in Lyndeborough has loaded blueberry bushes for their pick-your-own business. Courtesy photo

  • Paradise Farm in Lyndeborough has loaded blueberry bushes for their pick-your-own business. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/26/2021 3:34:38 PM

With the second half of summer comes blueberry season. While pick-your-own farms are reporting good crop yields this year, business has still been hit by an unusually rainy season.

July usually ranks as the hottest month in New Hampshire, but this year, it seems to be vying for a different title – the wettest. With the month not yet over and more rain predicted for this week, July has already topped the record for rainiest July on record in southern New Hampshire since recordkeeping began in 1868, with a total of 11.03 inches recorded in Concord this month, nearly an inch over the record set in 1915.

The unusual amount of summer rain has resulted in a bumper crop of berries – even contributing to an earlier-than-usual season, one grower said. But when outdoor businesses rely on good weather to entice pickers, the rain has put a damper on business.

“[The berries] came in about a week early, and we have a bumper crop,” said Gordon Webber, who manages Patten Hill Farm in Antrim,  “It’s a great year, we have lots of berries. But business is way down because of the rain.”

Webber said business is normal on fine weather days, but those have been in shorter supply than usual this July.

John Garneau, who owns Smith’s Blueberries in New Ipswich, said the rain has caused some issues, including some crop damage, and at least one short-term shut down to allow fields to dry out, but also reported bushes full of pickable berries.

“There’s plenty of berries still out there to pick, but it’s a real weather-related business,” Garneau, who said he’s seen the same drop-off in customers. “With all the rain, we didn’t have the amount of pickers we usually do.”

Wayne Colsia, owner of Paradise Farm in Lyndeborough, grows a variety of produce, including pick-your-own blueberries. Earlier this month, on a week anticipating yet more rainfall, Colsia put out a call on the farm’s Facebook page, asking for paid pickers to help clear the bushes.

“We have to pick when we can,” Colsia said. “We’re loaded with them, but there’s a lot we’re not getting to.”

Farmers said there is still opportunity to make up the any July losses, as blueberries come in a wide variety of breeds, which ripen at different times, making blueberries a crop with a longer season, with late varieties expected to be ready to be picked and sold through August. Despite the rain causing berries to be ready a little early this year, farmers said the expectation is still that berries will be ripe and pickable through the end of next month.

Patten Hill Farm in Antrim is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Smith’s Blueberries is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Paradise Farm is open from sunup to sundown. All three farms are likely to be open through August while varieties last.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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