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Amish farm brings ‘U-Pick’ strawberries to Hodgdon

HODGDON, Maine — On a quiet stretch of farmland along Lincoln Road in Hodgdon, Jethro Yoder hopes his family’s farm can help usher in a new wave of organic produce in Aroostook County. 

Judy Leveille picks strawberries at the U-Pick on Rainbow Gardens farm in Hodgdon. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

“As far as the produce thing here is, and as far as organic produce especially, there’s just not much going on in The County,” said Yoder, who moved to Maine from Wisconsin with his family in 2016. 

Though the farmers have been growing organic produce since 2002, the change of scenery has been an adjustment for them when it comes to selling their products. 

“We ended up shipping a lot of our produce to Boston and we’re looking into all kinds of options for selling local produce,” Yoder said. “So I said, well listen, why don’t we just go ahead and do some U-Pick and see how much interest is out there?” 

And thus Rainbow Gardens — the Amish farm that Yoder’s family runs — opened its inaugural “U-Pick” strawberries stand on July 4, where customers can come and pick their own organic strawberries right from the field. Customers are given boxes to fill with strawberries and small flags to mark where they have stopped picking. 

Three strawberries about to be picked at the U-Pick at Rainbow Gardens farm. (Alexander MacDougall | Houlton Pioneer Times)

“It’s a good way to meet our neighbors,” said Yoder, who said that on opening day the U-Pick had 25 customers and sold more than 100 quarts of strawberries. In addition, Rainbow Gardens is selling strawberries to local grocers, such as Seiders Variety and Redemption Center in Hodgdon and County Yankee Grocer in Houlton. 

“Ordinarily, if I wanted to pick fruit I would go across the border,” said Judy Leveille of Cary, who visited Rainbow Gardens on Monday, filing several small boxes of strawberries. “But I’m not sure if the strawberries there are ripe yet, and besides, I can’t even go there now anyway,” she added, noting Canada’s border closure due to COVID-19. 

For now, Rainbow Gardens is only focusing on doing U-Pick for strawberries, and not any other types of fruit. But Yoder hopes that one day the farm will expand beyond what it’s doing now. 

“It’s kind of too soon to tell what we’re gonna be able to do,” he said. “But the strawberries are definitely encouraging enough. I would say we hope to possibly expand sometime.”

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