Thursday, June 24, 2010

NJ Cranberry Harvest Festivals 2010

OCTOBER 2nd & 3rd • Saturday & Sunday 11-5:00pm
Fine arts & crafts; vintage vehicle show; music & entertainment for everyone!
Questions? Contact Jackie Reed  at (609) 298-8066.

OCTOBER 9th • Saturday 10:30-4:00pm
Featuring the sounds of the Jersey Pines, traditional crafts of the Pines, nature and history programs, kids' programs and Piney Vittles!
Questions? Contact Wells Mill County Park at (609) 971-3085.

OCTOBER 10th • Sunday 11-4:00pm
This daylong event, held at historic Whitesbog Village in Browns Mills, celebrates all aspects of the Pine Barrens. This year expert speakers and tour guides will bring visitors on real and virtual tours of the ecosystem and its history. Musicians celebrate the region in song and exhibitors proudly show their wares. Releasing a rehabilitated wild bird marks the official start of the festivities and the importance of this region as a haven for wildlife. Great food and children's activities round out the day. Parking is $7.
Questions? Contact or call (609) 893-1765.

OCTOBER 16th & 17th • Saturday & Sunday 9-4:00pm
The Cranberry Festival is a celebration of New Jersey's cranberry harvest, the 3rd largest in the United States, and offers a tribute to the Pine Barrens & Culture.
The main attraction is the diverse showing of many artists & craftsmen, some of whom will be demonstrating their crafts as well as displaying them for sale.
Admission to the festival is FREE.
A donation of $5.00 will be accepted if you use our highly recommended parking area at the school located off of Second Street
Questions? Contact

Yes, It's Hot

Temps are in the mid to upper 90s, so we're running sprinklers to keep the vines cool and healthy.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Burlington County Earth Fair 2010

With the exception of 2009, the American Cranberry Growers Association has had a booth at the Burlington County Earth Fair for a few years now. The booth was never as busy as it was yesterday! I seriously underestimated the amount of interest there would be in our "Bog in a Cup" project and in our recipe books.  The 720 packages of sweetened dried cranberries disappeared in four hours. The recipe books, "Burlington the Beautiful" magazines, and festival information sheets were all gone by lunchtime.
I brought enough materials to build 35 mini-bogs, and they were gone 90 minutes after the Fair opened. I hope some of the families who brought bogs home with them will let me know how well they grow--especially the family of the Boy Scout who was looking for indigenous plants for a badge (glad I could help!). I had a lot of fun with the kids!
I met Jon Runyan and invited him out to see the harvest. He looked skeptical when I said we have waders that will fit him. I met a couple of people who work with the Rutgers University Ag Extension and a couple who work with the Whitesbog Preservation Trust. Visit the Whitesbog blogs if you're interested in history: Whitesbog Village and Whitesbog: The Life and Times. They've inspired me to devote a couple of future blog posts to some ACGA history.
I always enjoy talking with teachers and nurses and hearing their perspectives on our materials. One teacher in particular gave me some great insights into the design of our activity sheets--very helpful, as we're in the process of designing a booklet to compile them!
Of course, my favorite part is always showing people something they didn't know about cranberries. Quite a few people enjoyed looking at the plants that I brought, as they had never seen them before. There were a few people who thought cranberries grow in water. Some people had never tried sweetened dried cranberries--but after tasting them, they came back for seconds! Several people told me they love putting dried cranberries in salads; one person likes them with sunflower seeds. How do YOU like to eat cranberries?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A lot of bees and a little chicken

Apples, sweet cherries, blueberries, peaches, and, of course, cranberries are among the many crops for which colonies of honeybees are typically rented while the crop is in bloom. Pollinators, such as honeybees, bumblebees, and wild bees, carry grains of pollen from the male parts of a flower (the anthers) to the female parts of a flower (the stigma). When the pollen reaches the stigma, seeds develop and then become fruit.

We have the beekeepers place their colonies throughout the farm, usually along the edges of intersections of the dams that separate our bogs. Different growers use different densities of honeybees, but our rule of thumb is to use about two colonies per acre. The bees start coming in early June and will be removed around the fourth of July.

We go out and walk the bogs to observe and measure bee activity, and I have no problem walking around in the vines while the bees are there. However, I would very much like to photograph some bees in action, but to get close enough I'd have to lie down in the bog--and I just know I'd end up getting stung! So far this year I've chickened out photographically and this is what I've got:

Our esteemed colleagues in Massachusetts at the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association have an excellent slideshow that makes up for my cowardice.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Where did cranberries get their name?

Since the blossoms are beginning to appear, this is a great time to answer this question. Early European settlers named the fruit of Vaccinium macrocarpon "craneberries" due to the resemblance of the stem and flower to the neck and head of a crane. Before long, the "e" was dropped and they've been cranberries ever since.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Since the water was taken off of the bogs, we've had to keep one eye on the development of the buds for this year's growth and the other eye on the weather forecast. Because the air temperature in the bogs tends to be lower than the temperature outside the bogs at night, our guys are frequently on frost watch during this time of year.

How it works is this: depending on the forecast--if it's going to be clear, cool, and calm--the farm manager sets a time for someone to go out and monitor the thermometers that we have set in the vine canopy all over the farm. When the temperature gets close to cold enough to damage the developing buds (the more the buds open, the more susceptible they are to cold--the buds are those dots in the middle of the leaves in the picture), the frost crew is called in to start the sprinklers.

When water freezes on the vines, it maintains the buds at a warm enough temperature to keep them from being damaged. The sprinklers are run until the ice melts in the morning.
Some growers use more high-tech methods than we do. There are temperature sensors available that can be monitored via computer, some that call the grower when the frost temperature is reached, and some that will start the pumps automatically. (We're investigating our options, but because we need to have people out to handle the water for the pumps, we'll probably never eliminate the human element at our place.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Planting Vines

We're in the middle of taking the water off of the bogs to begin the growing season, and planting is underway.

Cranberries are perennials and don't need to be replanted every year, but on our farm, we renovate a few bogs each year to improve yield (by planting new varieties) and  to minimize water use (by leveling the ground and replacing inefficient irrigation systems). We also use the opportunity to improve drainage.

There are two ways to plant cranberry vines. One way is to mow or rake vines from other bogs and spread them on the ground, then press them in with discs. They root in about a month. It's less expensive than the other method, but the vines don't always establish as quickly as we would like.

Since we're planting a new variety right now, we're planting a different way. We purchased rooted stolons from Integrity Propagation and are planting them with a rig that we pull behind a tractor. Four workers sit facing backwards and drop individual plants into a carousel. Each carousel feeds two chutes which drop plants at pre-determined intervals into a little trench that is opened up just before the plant falls. Two tires set at angles behind the chute push the soil back around the plant and close the trench.

We currently plant about an acre a day this way, and if the plants establish well, we'll be able to get a small crop off of them after two growing seasons.