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COVID-19's impact on Maine's wild blueberry industry

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, wild blueberry farms are experiencing a number of challenges this season.

MAINE, Maine — It's almost wild blueberry season in Maine! August is typically the month where blueberry farms across the state harvest their wild blueberry crop.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, blueberry farms are experiencing several challenges this year.

Many restaurants don't need the same amount of blueberries they used to order, some migrant workers won't be making the trip to help out with the crop this year, and many customers from out of state won't be making the trip to pick their own blueberries at U-pick farms or to buy Maine's delicious freshly picked wild blueberries.

"Restaurants have been very challenged in this pandemic, and they won't have the need for our wild blueberries as they have in the past," said Denise Alexander, she with her husband own Alexander's Wild Maine Blueberries.

Despite all the challenges, growers are hopeful locals will consume wild blueberries and support local farmers.

"The crop itself looks very good, there is a good quantity, the plants had a great pollination, and we are looking forward to a good crop this year," said Alexander.

Alexander's Wild Maine Blueberries in Greenfield will have freshly packed blueberries ready for customers to pick-up the first and second weeks of August.

Remember that fresh wild blueberry seasons only last two weeks; after that, they will freeze the blueberries, which will also be available for purchase and are as tasty as the fresh-picked berries.

"This year, I didn't know what to expect, but I have gotten a great response from our local customers," said Alexander.

"Wild Blueberry Commission and other agricultural organizations have been working diligently with our state government to ensure that we'll have the immigrants and visas and the migrant labor workforce," says Patricia Kontur, the director of programs for the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine.

Because of the pandemic, different state agencies and farm associations recently introduced #FarmingForME.

"To offer potential opportunities to Maine workers who may be laid off, to do some fieldwork for Maine agriculture," said Kontur.

Alexander's blueberries will be freshly packed only in the first two weeks of August and ready for customers to pick-up.

Denise is optimistic that it'll be a good season despite the different challenges.

"Maine people are resilient, so I count myself as one of those resilient people who we will find a way," said Alexander.

Alexander's Blueberries will have ten workers this season, they will be wearing masks at all times, taking temperatures at home and when they arrive in the fields, and will social distance while packing the product.

To order fresh blueberries from Alexander's Wild Maine Blueberries for pick-up, you can place your order at their website here.

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