Back to top

How Cranberries Grow: Dry Harvest

Dry harvested cranberries represent the fruit that is sold as fresh fruit at farmer's markets, road-side stands and grocery store shelves. This traditional method of harvesting now represents about 10% of the Massachusetts cranberry harvest. The other 90% of the crop is picked wet and is used to make juice, sauce, sweetened dried cranberries, among other products. Even though fresh fruit represents a small fraction of the total harvested crop, it nevertheless is an important aspect of the cranberry industry and for many growers, a way of life.

In order to pick the fresh fruit, the vines must be completely dry. Even a slight shower the night before, heavy dew, or damp conditions from a frost night is enough to delay harvest until the conditions improve on the bog. Depending on the harvest season, these conditions can provide more than enough challenges to growers.

Today, dry harvested bogs are picked using mechanical pickers with styles named Darlington, Furford or Western. These self-propelled harvesters all work in a similar manner, combing through the bogs and the fruit is then conveyed into a burlap bag or wooden box. In previous generations, wooden boxes were the collection device of choice but today most growers utilize burlap. Once the bag is full, the operator stops the machine, removes the bag and sets it on the bog, places an empty bag onto the machine and continues harvesting. After a sufficient amount of bags have been filled, the bags are then generally transported into larger containers. Some growers carry the bags off of the bog by hand, some by tractors with trailers, while others empty the bags into large plastic bins that can hold about 300 pounds of fruit. They they stack two more bins on top of the original bin, filling each bin as they proceed. The stack of three bins is then flown off of the bog via helicopter and onto waiting flatbed trucks for delivery to the screening plant or storage barn.