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Blueberries are early and plentiful in Harford

Fresh blueberries, a popular summertime treat in Harford County, have arrived early this year, and two local farms which feature blueberries say it's a bountiful crop.

John Rigdon, owner of Rigdon Farms in Jarrettsville, says that "everything is early this year, two to three weeks early."

His wife and business partner, Andy Rigdon, agrees. She manages the farm's "pick your own" blueberry patches and said that she opened the patch for business about 10 days earlier this year than in years past.

The blueberry harvest season typically begins in late June and dies down in mid-August, the Rigdons said. This year, blueberries across Harford County were ready for harvest by the second week of June, with production expected to end in mid to late July.

For farmers like the Rigdons, who market their berries as "pick your own" and rely more on repeat customers than advertising, the early blueberry season has adversely affected business.

Andy Rigdon said many of their loyal customers weren't expecting blueberries this early, and those who show up later in July expecting the small juicy fruits may be disappointed.

Meghan Donohue, who works at Shaw's Orchards in Stewrtstown, Pa., just across the Mason-Dixon Line, says that while their blueberries have also come in early, they aren't overly concerned about the success of their pick-your-own blueberry patches because of the variety they offer

"We have two different patches and three different varieties," Donohue said, "so we'll have berries all throughout July."

Both the Rigdons and Donohue agree that the early blooming of the blueberries was caused, as Andy Rigdon said, by "the crazy warm-up in March, and then the fact that it was a mild spring, that we didn't have any late frost to kill the blossoms or the berries."

According to Donohue, the blueberries' early season has not affected the productivity of the bushes.

While Andy Rigdon doesn't think the excellent quantity of berries is strictly connected to the early timing, she added, "There's so many factors that go into making a good crop, so that's just my guess."

"It's been outstanding," she said. "A real bumper crop."

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