Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Visit to the Cranberry Station

By Katrina Brink

A small group of 5 of us Friedman students, plus one intrepid medical student, drove down to the UMass Cranberry Station in East Wareham, MA. We were soon to find out it is the only one of its kind in the world.

We were welcomed by the Integrated Pest Management Specialist, Hilary Sandler, who taught us that there are only about 55,000 acres of cranberry production worldwide, with about 14,000 acres in Massachusetts. Our guide taught us about the typical pest management and harvesting techniques used for cranberries. We also learned about some of the difficulties organic growers face in the humid climate of New England and the competition they encounter from newly minted organic cranberry growers in Quebec.

Hilary informed us that the average cranberry farmer is about 58 years old, but that fortunately there has been a recent resurgence of interest from young people getting into growing cranberries. The Director of the station, Carolyn DeMoranville, explained to us how the Ocean Spray Cooperative works and which berries get packaged fresh in bags, which get dried, and which ones are used in concentrate.

After we learned all we could about cranberries we followed Hilary out to a bog to get a first-hand look. The growers had already left for the day, but we got to enjoy the results of their work, knocking all the berries loose from the vines, so they float on the surface of the water.  It was a beautiful scene of a field of floating red berries. The growers will return another day to harvest the berries by gathering them with a large boom to contain them and scoop them up so they can be packaged and/or processed. 

Ms. Sandler suggested we come back next year over Columbus Day Weekend for the Cranberry Harvest Festival, so we can enjoy all the fun festivities associated with this delicious, tart fruit that is native to New England!

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