October 07, 2012

Cranberry Harvest Festival

Saturday we were back to our "home" in Massachusetts, following our 6 day, 1000 mile journey through New England, and all we wanted was to stay home and relax. We were completely wiped out and really tired of being cooped up in our coupe. (ha!) BUT, we came home just in time for the Cranberry Harvest Festival and I really wanted to see a wet cranberry harvest in person.

Ever heard of a wet cranberry harvest? No? Well, you're probably seen pictures of it on TV in the Ocean Spray commercials. You know the one where the men are standing knee deep in floating cranberries?

In fact, Ocean Spray's headquarters are in Middleboro, our "home" town. The town motto here is that it's the "Cranberry Capitol of the World". The state of Massachusetts used to be the leading producer of cranberries in the US, but was overtaken by Wisconsin in the early 1900s, making it the second largest producer today. The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, established in 1888, is one of the oldest farmers' organizations in the country. In 2010 the association, consisting of 330 growers, harvested 13,000 acres and 1.86 million barrels of cranberries. At a 100 pounds a barrel that's a lot cranberries!! If you look at the nearby farmland using Google Maps Satellite View you can actually see the cranberry bogs! Here is a screenshot of the maps, the dark red fields are the cranberry bogs:

Google Maps Satellite view of Wareham, Massachusetts to see cranberry bogs
Google Maps Satellite view of Wareham, Massachusetts
So Saturday morning we, and half of Boston, set off to the Harvest Festival. Here is a quick lesson on how cranberries grow and how they are harvested (I had no idea about any of this until recently!). Cranberries grow on low lying vines. The vines are placed in a bog, so when it comes time to harvest the berries, the bog is flooded with water. The farmers then take a water tiller and till the standing water to knock the berries off of their vines. The berries float to the top because of air pockets inside them. The berries are then rounded up with floating plastic or wooden booms, and pumped up onto a conveyor belt where they are washed and dumped into a truck for transport. From the bog they are transported to a further processing facility where they are made into juice, cranberry sauce and other products. This is what is known as the Wet Harvest. The wast majority of cranberries are picked using the wet harvest, but because the berries get wet during the process, they can't last long and must be further processed.

A Massachusetts cranberry bog ready to be harvested
A cranberry bog ready to be harvested 
Ripe cranberries on the vine in the bog
Ripe cranberries on the vine in the bog
A farmer using a water tiller to knock the cranberries off the vine
A farmer using a water tiller to knock the berries off the vine
A farmer using a water tiller to knock the cranberries off the vine
A trail of floating cranberries behind the till
A sea of cranberries during wet harvest in Massachusetts
A sea of cranberries!
A sea of cranberries during wet harvest in Massachusetts
Floating cranberries
Corralling cranberries for wet harvest in Massachusetts
Corralling the berries
Cranberries being pumped onto a conveyor belt to be washed during wet harvest
Then the berries are pumped onto a conveyor belt where they are washed
Freshly harvested cranberries being loaded onto a transport truck
Finally, they are dumped onto a waiting truck 
A truck full of freshly harvested cranberries
A full truck of cranberries!
There is also a Dry Harvest. Dry harvesting cranberries allows the berries to stay fresher a lot longer, but it is also a lot more labor intensive, therefore more expensive for the farmer. To dry harvest the berries a mechanical rake is ran over the vines by manually pushing it in front like a lawn mover. The berries are collected into a burlap bag attached to the machine and then dumped into wooden boxes for transport. For harder to reach sections farmers use a comb like collector called the Crandler. :o)

A farmer pushing a mechanical rake on the bog during dry cranberry harvest
A farmer pushing a mechanical rake on the bog 
A burlap sack full of freshly gathered cranberries
A freshly gathered bag of cranberries
Wooden crates filled with freshly picked cranberries
Ready for transport
A Crandler, used for manually picking cranberries off the vine
A Crandler!
I really enjoyed visiting the festival because we got to see everything up close. We got to walk on the bogs, and see both harvesting processes in person. I even got to bug a few farmers with questions about what they were doing. I almost asked one of the nicer boys if I could borrow his coveralls so that I could go stand in the middle of the bog with cranberries floating around me. I only didn't because I didn't know if he had other pants under them, and I didn't want to ask him to stand around in his underwear while I played out in the pond. :o)

On our way out of the festival we purchased two cups worth of fresh cranberries for $1. Num!

Package of freshly harvested cranberries
Freshly harvested cranberries
To see more pictures of the cranberry harvest festival, click here.

Happy Harvesting!


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  1. Ok your step by step of cranberrying really makes me want Ocean Spray. This looks sweet! Your blog is pretty freaking awesome Lannings! --Caro

    1. Thanks Carolina! Seeing the wet harvest in person was pretty awesome. If you ever get a chance to check it out, I'd definitely recommend it!