Some say fall is the most beautiful time of year in New England, as the forests show their brilliant colors and the crisp air brings with it everything pumpkin and apple. This quintessential New England scene is not to be outdone by the imagery in Southeastern Massachusetts of crimson cranberries floating against the backdrop of blue skies and green pines.
Here at the A.D. Makepeace Companies, we look forward to fall for a number of reasons, the beautiful scenery is just one of them. The middle of September marks the first of our over 1,700 acres of cranberry bogs being flooded, kicking off the 8-week harvest season. The agricultural team will move from bog to bog harvesting cranberries in the communities of Carver, Plymouth, Rochester, and Wareham, based on their variety, color, and readiness. As a member-owner of Ocean Spray, all the company’s fruit is delivered to the cooperative for processing and distribution.
Cranberries can be harvested dry or by utilizing water. Each of the two methods have their own advantages and uses. Traditionally, dry harvested fruit is utilized as fresh fruit and can commonly be found in bags or boxes in farm stands and grocery stores across the country. Wet harvested fruit is most often used for processed products including juice, cranberry sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries.
Dry harvesting involves using walk-behind machines to rake the berries off the vines into boxes or bags. Berries are removed from the bogs by either bog vehicles or helicopters. The fruit is delivered to fresh fruit receiving stations where it is graded and screened based on color and ability to bounce (soft berries will not bounce). Dry harvested cranberries are used to supply the fresh fruit market. These cranberries are most often used for cooking and baking.
All of Makepeace’s cranberries are harvested by the wet harvest method, as are most cranberries these days. There are three stages of water harvest: picking, racking, and loading. Cranberries have pockets of air around the seed chamber. Because of this, cranberries float in water, and thus, the bogs can be flooded to aid in removal of fruit from the vines. Picking machines make a single pass over the bog’s surface. The machines are equipped with either tines that comb through the vine, or water reels, nicknamed “egg-beaters,” that stir up the water enough to dislodge the berries from the vine.
Next, plastic “booms” are used to corral or rack all the berries into one tight circle which is brought to one edge of the bog for loading. The loading process consists of the berries being pushed over a suction pan and pumped up to a wash bay where they are cleaned, separated, and then loaded into the back of a tractor trailer for delivery to the Ocean Spray receiving station for cleaning, sorting, and packaging into large containers which are sent directly to the freezer.
In a typical year, thousands of visitors and locals alike would tour our grounds to view the spectacular harvest scene and learn everything about cranberries from our growers. This year, to ensure the safety of our employees, the public, and the fruit, we are not holding tours or public events. If you are interested in viewing a roadside cranberry harvest this season, visit Makepeace Farms for a daily posting of viewable harvest areas on our property. In addition, the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association offers a map and other grower opportunities here.
September 30, 2020