The annual harvest of cranberries is still underway in Massachusetts. I had the opportunity to visit and observe one such harvest at a bog owned by the Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company in Carver, Massachusetts.
Gary Garretson, the owner of the company, was most kind and generous to welcome a few dozen photographers from the Plymouth Digital Photographers Club to wander around and observe and photograph his operation.
If you combine the fall foliage with millions of floating red berries, you have quite a visual feast for the photographically inclined. It is a setting as beautiful as magnolia blossoms in spring.
Massachusetts is second only to Wisconsin for total cranberry production within the United States.
So how do you end up with cranberries or juice or any other cranberry products for your consumption?
Well, after the berries ripen, the bog is flooded with water, and then these machines drive through the bog and dislodge the berries from the vines. The metal reels shown above are lowered into the water.......
.....and they rotate briskly over the vines loosening the berries which then float to the surface.
Back and forth, row after row, marked by the gray spears which the operators periodically throw as place markers, the machines systematically dislodge the berries.
These men have executed this harvest year after year and work together smoothly and efficiently.
Once all the berries are floated, the wind will generally drift them together at one side or the other of the bog. Next, it is time to corral them with floating booms to concentrate them in one place to be suctioned out of the bog and into waiting trucks to take them to the distribution /packaging facility.
The workers pull the booms in an ever tightening circle to facilitate the suction process.
Hip-waders are standard uniform for this job.
It is hard work work pulling the booms around the berries.
It is, however, quite a beautiful outdoor location to work on such a fine fall New England day.
Using the first image again for orientation, the boom trailer is at lower-left, the suction/washing machine at middle right at water's edge, and the truck to take the berries to the distribution/packaging facility is parked beside the suction/washing machine.
This is the bird's eye view from atop the suction/washing machine. You can see my shadow near the center of the image above making this picture.
This man makes sure the berries keep flowing toward the suction inlet using a rake-like tool.
The suctioned berries are washed and most debris such as twigs and sticks are removed.....
....and the washed berries quickly fill the truck bed for transport to the distribution/packaging facility.
Gary Garretson, the owner of Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company, is the third generation operator of the farm that his grandfather started back in 1919. Today, the farm comprises 2000 acres of which 200 acres are planted in cranberries. Those acres of bogs will yield 4 million pounds of berries in a typical year. That's a lot of full truckloads, one of which is passing behind Gary in this image.
The company is one of the approximately 700 grower members of the Ocean Spray Cranberry cooperative which was formed in 1930 by a few growers who loved cranberries. They have a strong focus on preserving the family farm concept and the practices of sustainability.
Next time you enjoy a cranberry product, you can think fondly of Gary Garretson and the generations of his family who bring this delicious product to your table.