- Associated Press - Monday, August 14, 2017

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - With the blueberry crop going great guns, peach crop starting up and a very good apple crop on its way, the pick-your-own season is doing a lot better than last year.

For some crops, that isn’t too hard to do.

“Peaches are, I don’t know, 150 percent better - seeing there were no peaches at all last year,” said Bob Pollock, an employee at Carter Hill Farm in Concord.

The 2016 peach crop was devastated by a warm spell in winter that led trees to blossom early, only to have the buds all killed by a very hard frost. No such problem happened this year.

“We have a banner peach year,” said George Hamilton, field specialist for UNH Cooperative Extension. “The wet weather makes the job a little bit tougher for diseases, but farmers are on top of that.”

It’s a good year for berries, as well, he said. Cane berries, such as raspberries and blackberries, have done well, and blueberries are peaking now.

At Thompson Farm in Pembroke, owner Harold Thompson is holding hit first-ever sale this weekend: Pick blueberries for $1 a pound.

This reflects not just a good crop but some unfortunate weather timing - very hot or rainy on weekends - that has kept people away from picking.

That issue reflects a drawback pick-your-own poses for farmers: Harvesting the crop is dependent upon amateurs rather than professionals, making it harder to control.

Still, pick-your own sites have grown from a handful of apple orchards two decades ago to scores of farms featuring a half dozen crops. Along with other direct-to-consumer sales outlets such as farmers markets and farm stands, fruit picking has helped fuel a small-farm renaissance in New Hampshire.

A 2010 study from UNH researchers said a whopping 12 percent of farm income in the state came from director-to-consumer activities, compared to 0.5 percent nationwide.

As for New England’s poster child for pick-your-own crops - apples - all signs are pointing to a good season there, too. Apple picking doesn’t generally begin until Labor Day.

“The apple crop is looking great, although customers may have to work with their local orchards. Some were hit by hail - they may have some cosmetic problems,” Hamilton said.

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Online: https://bit.ly/2w53byL

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Information from: Concord Monitor, https://www.concordmonitor.com

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