For central Maine farmers who struggled through bone-dry conditions last summer, this spring may offer an embarrassment of riches.

April showers have been mightier than normal, helping to end Maine’s drought officially. But they’ve also challenged farmers in another way, limiting their harvests this early in the season.

“It’s been cold and rainy,” said Harmony Dillaway, who grows fruit, vegetables and mushrooms at 47 Daisies, a farm in Vassalboro. “Everybody is late.”

Dillaway manages the Augusta Farmers’ Market at Mill Park, which opened Tuesday afternoon for the season. Despite the wet weather, which is expected to continue for the next three weeks, she was still bullish about the season. So far she has been harvesting most of her produce from high tunnel greenhouses at her farm, but she said the wet weather could pay dividends over the rest of the season.

“It’s so hard to complain about rain after last year’s severe drought,” she said. “We planted more this year to make up for the dryness, so if it rains more, we’re going to be buried in cucumbers, which is a good problem to have.”

On Tuesday, Dillaway had greens, carrots, seedlings, pickled vegetables, shiitake mushrooms and other goods for sale.

Though it was damp and chilly out, other farmers, vendors and shoppers who came to the market on its opening day were cheerful.

“I was surprised by how much stuff there was,” said Augusta resident Anne Amadon, who walked to the market. “It’s kind of a cold, dreary day, and everyone has everything.”

Amadon had just finished buying salad greens from Dalziel Lewis, of Dig Deep Farm in South China.

Lewis’ other offerings included eggs, lettuce, onions, radishes and buckwheat. She also grew kale throughout the winter under a specially made cover, so the hearty green was ready for sale this week despite the snow that was slow to melt this year.

“Every spring is different,” she said of the foul weather. “Patience is a virtue. Diversification is also important.”

Other goods also were on sale during the opening day of the riverside farmers’ market, which was sheltered from the elements by a pavilion. Newcomers to the market included Brittany Burbank and Tim Johnson, of B&T Baked Goods in Whitefield; and Carrie Whitcomb, of Springdale Farms in Waldo, a dairy farm that sells cheese and meat.

Neither of those operations has been hurt by the rain. If anything, Whitcomb said, her cattle produce more milk during colder weather.

“They just eat more,” she said. But in summer, she added, “they’ll be happy to be outside.”

Using plants, flowers and herbs that she grows at her home in Readfield, Jessica Gorton makes natural oils, cleaning supplies and other products that were for sale Tuesday.

Like the vegetable farmers at the market, Gorton said the weather has slowed the start of her season. She’s waiting for plantains and a flowering plant known as yarrow to come up so she can make certain oils.

“We’ve had such a cold spring, things are definitely behind,” she said. “But we’re farmers, so we’re used to it.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

 

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