MONMOUTH, Maine — David Handley, a vegetable and small-fruit specialist, said Wednesday that Maine’s 2011 strawberry crop is looking juicy.

Handley said his berries at the University of Maine’s Highmoor Farm in Monmouth look to be of good quality, size and number. Across the state, farmers are also smiling at the prospect of large, high quality crops.

“The combination we need for great berries is a good fall followed by a good spring,” he said, “and we hit it on the nose.” Handley said last fall was really nice, with a late warm trend that allowed the strawberry plants to produce this year’s blossoms — large blossoms. “That set us up for a good crop this year,” he said.

Handley said berry size should also be good. “We surely can’t complain about the amount of rain we’ve been getting,” he said, since rain plumps the berries.

Geography plays a key role in just when those berries will be ready for picking, however. Some farms in southern Maine started picking last weekend while northern and eastern Maine farms are still 10 days away from harvest.

Kenny Tate at Tate’s Strawberry Farm in East Corinth said early varieties will be ready at the pick-your-own fields on June 29. “These are very early varieties,” Tate said. “The rest of the berries won’t be ready for another 10 days.”

Beverly Tate said that occasionally berries may be available at the Tate farm stand because early berries must be picked to keep the birds from swarming the fields and ruining the crop.

“If we don’t pick those early berries, the cedar waxwings will flock in,” she said.

Kristi Goughan of Goughan Farms in Caribou said this week, “They are not ripe here yet. We are looking for a bit more sun. They should be ready within 10-12 days.”

At Frank McElwain’s Strawberry Farm, also in Caribou, the plants are just past full bloom, McElwain said. “But they are looking very, very good. They wintered well and it is nice to have the sun so the bees can work the blossoms.” McElwain expects his berries to be ready by July 1.

Silveridge Farm in Bucksport and Barton’s PYO Strawberries in Albany Township also expect to be ready in another week.

“The next couple of days are expected to be cool,” Handley said Wednesday. “That should slow down the ripening.”

Information about individual pick-your-own farms may be found at the Maine Department of Agriculture website at