How Do Farmers Harvest Cranberries

How do farmers harvest cranberries? If you've seen the juice commercials with the farmers standing around in hip waders, you might have a clue. Cranberries are native to North America and are grown commercially in the northern US and southern Canada.

How Do Farmers Harvest Cranberries? That Depends

Cranberry vines can live grow indefinitely and some farmed vines are known to be over 150 years old. Cranberries grow in a very specific environment called a bog. Bogs are marshy areas with soil that is a mixture of peat, sand and clay.

A cranberry bog is a low area surrounded by a dike. Cranberry bogs can be naturally occurring or artificially enhanced by farmers. Cranberry bogs are found near naturally occurring bodies of water or man-made reservoirs.

Cranberries ripen in the fall and most harvesting is done in October. Cranberries are harvested by one of two methods: dry (for fruit to be sold whole) and wet (for fruits that are to be processed into jams or juices).

A Flood Of Cranberries

Dry harvesting is a straightforward, automated process, but wet harvesting is much more involved. Here are the steps:

  • Getting wet. A cranberry bog prepared for wet harvesting will feature a dike that surrounds the bog and a canal or spillway to provide water. At harvest time, water is directed into the bog and allowed to reach a level that just covers the tops of the cranberry vines. The flooding process typically takes a day.
  • Shake it up. After the field is flooded, farmers use special thrashing machines called water reels to literally beat the bushes. As the cranberries are knocked free of the vine, they float to the surface of the water. The thrashing process can take another full day, depending on the size of the bog.
  • Get along, little doggies. The floating cranberries are gathered together using long, floating tubes called booms. As harvesters push the booms together, cranberries are collected into piles, which are carried by conveyor or suction tube into waiting trucks.
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