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Anna Waclawiczek

Anna Waclawiczek

Chief of Staff, Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR)

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Reggie pic Reginald Zimmerman

Assistant Press Secretary, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)

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High above the bogsOn a beautiful autumn day in late October, we set out to learn more about Massachusetts’ largest commodity crop and Thanksgiving must-have side dish, the cranberry!

The cranberry is a native plant to North America – a small tart berry which has long established its versatility as a food, drink, fabric dye, and healing agent.

Having finally outfoxed our errant GPS, we arrived just in time to the helicopter launch area at a cranberry bog in Rochester to be transported high above expansive bright red swirls of cranberries floating in the bogs below. We could also see tucked between bogs the cranberry processing plants of Ocean Spray, Inc. and Decas Cranberry Products, Inc.

To harvest the fruit, the bogs are flooded with water.  Water reels (nicknamed egg beaters) then gently dislodge the berries from the vines. The floating berries are corralled and air-pumped into a truck and taken to nearby processing facilities.

Harvesting Cranberries

Massachusetts is home to about 400 cranberry growers who grow cranberries on approximately 14,000 acres of land located primarily in Southeastern Massachusetts. The harvest and processing of cranberries is a waste not, want not enterprise. In recent years many farmers have invested in bog renovations to improve water efficiency. In the processing facilities themselves the seeds, skin, and pulp are all processed to make different products such as juice, cranberry oil, and dried cranberries.

Cranberry BogIn touring the cranberry facility, we especially loved the bounce test.  Premium berries will bounce along specially-constructed conveyers and get tagged for the market. But even they still have to jump another hurdle as they pass through color detectors that distinguish ripe from unripe berries. The less bouncy berries go the juice processing route whereas the no-bounce berries are used for composting.

Many cranberry farms are open for visitors to purchase fresh cranberries or other products at their farm stands. Many allow visitors to watch the harvest operation up close, while a few offer tours and even the chance to get into the cranberry bog.

Touring bogsWe’d definitely recommend this great outdoor adventure. Visit the MassGrown & Fresher website to find cranberry bogs you might like to visit.  Before you make plans to visit a farm, be sure to contact the grower directly. In the meantime, get your hands on some local cranberries and try out some delicious cranberry recipes from the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association Recipes page!

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