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Photographer's Note

This may be way more information about cranberries than you want to know but it is very interesting. The machines in these three pictures drive around in the bog and break the berries loose so they can be collected as in yesterday's shot. The men walking in the bog near the machines and the small flags are preventing the machines from getting into a hazardous situation.

Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, as well as in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Quebec. According to the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, with nearly half of U.S. production. Massachusetts is the second largest U.S. producer, with over one-third of total domestic production.

Historically, cranberry beds were constructed in wetlands. Currently cranberry beds are constructed in upland areas that have a shallow water table. The topsoil is scraped off to form dikes around the bed perimeter. Clean sand is hauled in to a depth of four to eight inches. The surface is laser leveled with a slight crown in the center to facilitate drainage. Beds are frequently drained with socked tile in addition to the perimeter ditch. In addition to making it possible to hold water, the dikes allow equipment to service the beds without driving on the vines. Irrigation equipment is installed in the bed to provide irrigation for vine growth and for Spring and Autumn frost protection.

A common misconception about cranberry production is that the beds remain flooded throughout the year. During the growing season cranberry beds are not flooded, but are irrigated regularly to maintain soil moisture. Beds are flooded in the Autumn to facilitate harvest and again during the Winter to protect against low temperatures. In cold climates like Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and eastern Canada the Winter flood typically freezes into ice while in warmer climates the water remains liquid. When ice forms on the beds trucks can be driven onto the ice to spread a thin layer of sand that helps to control pests and to rejuvenate the vines. Sanding is done every three to five years.

Cranberries are harvested in the Fall when the fruit takes on its distinctive deep red color. This is usually in late September or early October. To harvest cranberries, the beds are flooded with six to eight inches of water above the vines. A harvester is driven through the beds to remove the fruit from the vines. For the past 50 years, water reel type harvesters have been used. Harvested cranberries float in the water and can be corralled into a corner of the bed and conveyed or pumped from the bed. From the farm, cranberries are taken to receiving stations where they are cleaned, sorted, and stored prior to packaging or processing.

Although most cranberries are wet-picked as described above, 5-10% of the US crop is still dry-picked. This entails higher labor costs and lower yield, but dry-picked berries are less bruised and can be sold as fresh fruit instead of having to be immediately frozen or processed. Originally performed with two-handed comb scoops, dry picking is today accomplished by motorized, walk-behind harvesters which must be small enough to traverse beds without damaging the vines.

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Additional Photos by Greg Davis (Greg1949) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1443 W: 102 N: 2512] (9011)
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