Cranberry Growers are a Determined Bunch
Beginning in 1872, four hopeful entrepreneurs bought 1600 acres of boggy land in Washington's southwest peninsula suitable for cranberry growing. Aside from ships who took on barrels of cranberries to keep the crews from getting scurvy, there was not much market for the tart little berry. All the cranberry processors were on the East Coast where growers there filled the demand for holiday berries. Invasive weeds and insects continually threatened to over-run the farms. But by the end of WWI, JD Crowley had arrived on the scene. He was the first WSU researcher to tackle crop problems confounding the Washington growers. By sheer tenacity the growers overcame obstacles and slowly a stable cranberry industry grew.
Crowley's family still remains in the area raising cranberries.
Cranberries, by nature, are not an easy crop to grow. They are produced on small vines that prefer cool, sandy, boggy land. Too much dry weather can cause the perennial vines to die, so they must be irrigated on hot summer days. Growers with limited water supplies must decide when to irrigate and when to hold back
Cranberries are pollinated by bees. Native bumble bees can do the job if a small farm is near a forest where bumble bees live. For larger farms, commercial beekeepers contract with growers to bring their hives to the bogs. Cranberries are not a favorite food of bees. They produce only small amounts of nectar and do not release their pollen easily.
Bog boots with tall pegs
Bringing in the Berries Along Washington's "Cranberry Coast"
It is difficult to harvest cranberries, which ripen for six weeks between September and November. However, because they contain pockets of air, cranberries will float. Some growers flood their bogs, churn the vines and then rake the floating berries together. These berries are destined for the juice market.
Most cranberries in Washington are harvested dry, using a machine called a Furford Picker invented in Grayland, Washington. Workers walk behind the machine which clips berries and pieces of vine that are later shaken out before being shipped in totes to Ocean Spray. These berries fill the demand for fresh berries.
Meet a Cranberry Grower!
Importance of Cranberries to the Local Economy
The tight-knit community of growers has faced challenges
together for generations. Over 95% of the Washington cranberry crop goes to the
Ocean Spray co-op which is made up of member farmers. The Ocean Spray
plant in Grays Harbor County is the seventh largest primary employer in the
county. It produces dried cranberries called Craisins®. W orkers employed by the cranberry growers and Ocean Spray
support secondary employers in the area such as retail stores and hospitals.
The industry contributes to the social, educational and government employment
sector as well.
Great Ways to Enjoy Cranberries!
New Directions for Cranberries
Cranberries contain naturally occurring compounds that have anti-oxidant and anti-microbial properties. They are well known to benefit the urinary tract, but did you know they improve cholesterol, fight cancer and assist with Type 2 Diabetes?