June 19, 2018
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Summer drought causes challenge for new Charleston farmer

Katie Marshall | BDN
Katie Marshall | BDN
Jason Osborne, owner of the Osborne Family Farm in Charleston, stands next to one of his tractors.
By Katie Marshall, Piscataquis Observer

CHARLESTON, Maine — Recent rain showers have brought some much needed relief to farms such as the Osborne Family Farm in Charleston, which delivers fresh produce from Greenville to Bar Harbor.

The farm was previously owned by Gordon True and operated as True Farms. It received a new owner and a new name this January.

The new owner, Jason Osborne, has had his hands full with trying to adapt to the harsher weather this year as a drought has affected areas across the entire United States.

Osborne explained that the difficulties started with an early spring and a wet spell that set crops back weeks. Then a drought set in, causing crops’ life cycles to end sooner and plants to yellow. Although an irrigation system is in place, there is still a need for the natural rain, which has been in short supply in various places, including central and northern Maine.

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, an information network connected with the National Weather Service, Maine is on the lower spectrum of a drought, categorized as “abnormally dry,” in comparison to states in the Great Plains and Midwest such as Kansas and Missouri, whose severe dryness have put them in the “extreme” category and have left them in danger of widespread fires.

For Maine farmers such as Osborne, the drought and shorter plant lifespan have affected overall sales.

“I’ve had to turn away sales because I didn’t have enough of the product,” Osborne said.

He has had the most trouble with larger-leaf plants — such as zucchini, pumpkins, and cucumbers — that need excess amounts of rain.

“Not having enough rain has taken a toll on the quality of product,” said Linda Thompson, one of several Osborne Family Farm employees.

Thompson has worked at the farm for more than 25 years, continuing her farming tradition with its new owner. Thompson works in packaging, where she weeds out the inconsistent products from those of better-quality in foods such as summer squash, peppers and zucchini.

Thompson said she has noticed she has had to discard more products due to more abnormalities in shape, especially in cucumbers, something that is often seen when there is a lack of moisture.

Thompson believes the rain showers last weekend will help the plants in season right now, such as pumpkins. “Of course it will help,” she said. “It would help anyone’s garden.”

The dry weather has not been a problem for other crops such as corn, which requires little rain, and dry beans, which Osborne says “seem to do well under some stress.”

As a first-year owner, Osborne has done nothing to assist the crops this year, but he’s already preparing for next year’s season.

Osborne said he intends “to start irrigating earlier and plant smaller amounts at one time so that the plants are at varying stages of life and won’t end all at the same time.”

For information, call 285-0065 or go online at osbornefamilyfarm.com.

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