A closed notice hangs from the Pietree Orchard sign in Sweden, a popular U-PIck location in western Maine for raspberries, strawberries and apples. Tabitha King still owns the orchard, which did not reopen to the public in the spring of 2023. Credit: Lori Valigra / BDN

SWEDEN, Maine — Two hopeful strawberry pickers on bicycles looked perplexed when they read the “closed” sign on the door and saw the papered windows of the fruit stand at the popular Pietree Orchard here on Saturday afternoon.

The couple, who live nearby, had come annually to pick raspberries and strawberries in the spring and apples and peaches in the fall. The orchard also offered homemade pizza. Part of the draw is that Tabitha King, a novelist like her husband, Stephen King, owns the orchard.

There was no explanation for the closure, and no workers in the vast fields of the 105-acre property. Tabitha King still owns the orchard, the Kings’ lawyer, Warren Silver, said on behalf of his clients.

“Pietree has been closed to the public but remains an operating orchard,” he said, adding that is all Tabitha King wanted to say.

The orchard in this town of 400 residents lies amid rolling hills and is a little-known piece of the empire of the Kings, who have a home in nearby Lovell. Tabitha King is the CEO of the operation. She bought the orchard in 2007 to keep it from being turned into a housing development. The orchard was previously owned by the McSherry family for about 70 years.

Visitors pick apples in the fall of 2022 at Pietree Orchard in the western Maine town of Sweden. Credit: Lori Valigra / BDN

The Kings tend to keep to themselves, but Tabitha King reportedly bought the orchard after taking a countryside drive down Waterford Road in Sweden and seeing the untended apple orchard nestled between the western Maine mountains and the White Mountains of New Hampshire in the distance, according to the  Midlife in Maine blog.

A sign on the property read “Now Selling. Sweetwater Estates.” King bought out the 42 prospective homeowners and the land became Pietree Orchard, the blog said.

Naomi King, Tabitha and Stephen King’s daughter, went to work at the farm in 2012 as a business manager after she was diagnosed with a progressive muscular disorder, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported in 2015. Naomi, who needed a cane to walk, soon focused on making the farm accessible to others like herself, the newspaper reported.

It is not clear why the popular orchard, which drew droves of U-Pick lovers from spring through late fall, has closed to the public. Part of the orchard is being leased, Stephanie Leonard, who administers the Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation, the couple’s Bangor-based charity, said.

Lori Valigra, investigative reporter for the environment, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...