As the largest grower in North America, the A.D. Makepeace Company is the first to arrive at the Ocean Spray receiving station in mid-September, and the last to depart in early November.
And as the developer of Redbrook, the new village in south Plymouth, the company is able to offer a unique perk to residents only: pick your own cranberries.
“Anyone can go apple-picking or select your own pumpkin in the fall, but this is truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity,” said Daniel Gorczyca, vice president and Redbrook project executive for the A.D. Makepeace Company.
According to Jennifer Maynard, Redbrook’s director of resident services, some 700 Redbrook homeowners and renters were expected to participate in the pick-your-own event on September 23.
ADM harvests about 1,700 acres of bogs in Plymouth, Wareham, and Carver, and with the exception of that special Redbrook bog, all are wet harvested.
Here’s how wet harvest works: Cranberries contain pockets of air, and as a result, they can float in water. For the past 70 years or so, cranberry growers have taken advantage of this by flooding the bogs, then using picking machines to knock the berries off the vines. The berries then float to the surface of the flooded bog.
Plastic “booms” are used to round up the berries, which are then lifted by conveyor or pumped into a truck to take them to the receiving station in nearby Carver for cleaning.
From there, the fruit is sent to various processing plants. Wet harvested cranberries are used for juices, sauces, sweetened dried cranberries, or as ingredients in other processed foods. Dry harvested cranberries are found in bags in the produce aisle during the holiday season.
At this time of year, the growers are hoping for cool nights – needed to cause the berries to turn red – warm daytime temperatures, and a little rain. Hail, excessive rain or heat, and other weather extremes can damage the crop at this stage. Harvest activities are typically put on hold during very windy conditions.
For those not fortunate enough to live at Redbrook, the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association offers cranberry bog tours showcasing the native red berry. Information about public tours is available on their website, cranberries.org.
They also offer self-guided tours. On the CCCGA website, click “Visit a Bog” and you’ll find an interactive map of growers in the region that welcomes visitors to their property. Most growers don’t mind if you pull over to the side of the road to take photos of the picturesque harvest. Just please remember that it’s a working farm and you need to stay clear of truck traffic, hoses, and other potential hazards.