White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Cranberry Harvest, Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company, Carver, Massachusetts, USA

The annual harvest of cranberries is underway in Massachusetts right now. I had the opportunity to visit and observe one such harvest event recently with some members of the Plymouth Digital Photographers Club.  (Panorama - click image to view in full width).

The cranberry harvest is a ritual that plays out annually in thousands of sandy bogs in southeastern Massachusetts at this time of year. Massachusetts is second only to Wisconsin for total cranberry production within the United States.

If you combine the fall foliage with millions of floating red berries, you have a setting as predictable and beautiful as magnolia blossoms  in spring.

So how do you end up with cranberries for your Thanksgiving dining table, and every other day of the year for that matter?

Gary Garretson, pictured above, is the owner of the Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company. He was kind and generous to permit a couple dozen photographers to wander around and watch and photograph his operation.  The company is one of the 700 grower members of the Ocean Spray Cranberry cooperative which was formed in 1930 by three growers who loved cranberries. They have a strong focus on preserving the family farm concept and the practices of sustainability.

So how do you end up with a big circle of floating cranberries?

After flooding the bog with a foot or so of water, you drive this fancy machine around.  It stirs up the water enough to separate the cranberries from the vines so they float to the surface. (Cranberries grow in the rain watered and/or irrigated sand, not underwater. The bogs are only flooded in fall to facilitate harvest and in winter to prevent damage - the growing season is not under water).

So the floating berries are corralled into a circle using special containment booms.  They will all be floated/dragged over to that little speck of a red truck on the distant shore (green arrow).

Here's the red truck.  Once the berries are here they will be pumped/suctioned out of the water with this big white hose.

Here are a couple of men who do the work here - they were good sports and didn't seem to mind the endless requests from photographers to pose and smile.

Even the cold water and chilly air didn't seem to dampen their spirits on this fine fall morning.

And they had to be alert because the photographers were pretty much anywhere and everywhere to get just that perfect angle of view.

So, back to the process....... the berries are encircled by a floating containment boom.

And the circle of berries is dragged by the men over to where the pump truck is waiting.

As the berries are pumped out, this man is slowly tightening the remaining circle -  like a big lasso. 

As the circle shrinks, the boom is loaded back into the trailer for the next usage.

The berries are rinsed to get rid of leaves, sticks, twigs, etc.after being pumped up into this conveyor/washer/loader. 

These are the high pressure spray nozzles at the end of the conveyor.

And then the berries drop into the empty bed of a tractor-trailer.

One big circle in the water makes a mighty big pile of berries!

In fact, it more than filled this "18-wheeler" tractor-trailer which promptly left for the warehouse/processing plant to unload them to become your Thanksgiving dinner, daily fruit juice, or any of the other many products involving cranberries.

It is a fascinating visual scene - floating millions of small berries into a big circle and then vacuuming them up into a big truck. 

A bright sun shining, a chill in the air - it was simply one of those great days to be outdoors and alive among friendly people on a beautiful fall New England day.

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