Weston Hill Cranberries
Weston Hill Cranberries
When your family has a history in the cranberry industry that dates back to the 1800s, there is a lot of ground to cover when someone asks you to talk about ‘how you got started’ as a cranberry grower. Such is the case with Mark Weston of Carver, a 4th generation cranberry grower.
Back in the 1800s, Mark’s family tree had cranberry growers on both sides. T.T. Vaughan, owned cranberry bogs in the late 1890s in Carver. Mark’s paternal great-grandfather, Seneca Weston, was the first Weston to grow cranberries having 8-10 acres built for him in the Pope’s Point area.
Mark’s father, Homer, operated Weston Bros. Inc. with Mark’s three uncles and they did construction (both bog and highway), trucking and cranberry growing. Together the four brothers had approximately 60 acres in Carver and Duxbury. These bogs are where Mark got his education on being a cranberry man.
Growing up on the bogs, Mark always swore he’d never own bogs. He spent his days after school and during the summer working on the bogs and cleaning ditches. He was always there to pick during harvest and drive the sander in winter. His father and uncles hired local kids who needed jobs so there were always plenty of kids to hang out with. The life of a teenager growing up on the bogs was a great way to grow up. He learned to drive at age 12. He remembers as a 15 year old, playing tag with his Chevy and a neighbor’s Model A which then resulted in a smashed automobile. Mark remembers having basket fights on the bogs, where they’d balance weeding baskets on their heads and try to knock each other’s off. They’d also, as teenagers, have contests to see who could bring the most empty boxes back from Hanson (after dropping off the harvested berries). He laughingly told CCCGA that they would literally have boxes tied to the fenders in attempting to one up each other and win. Mark also told us about helping build the first water wheel Weston Bros. used for harvesting in the 1960’s.
Mark was drafted out of college into the Army and served in Vietnam. Following his military service, he married Patricia in 1968 and they recently celebrated 50 years of marriage! Mark also worked for the Carver Fire Department and served as Deputy Fire Chief until he retired in 2009. The Westons owned a construction business and built bogs and then, in 1980, they took on the business of growing cranberries with their first bog of 2.5 acres. Mark says they would buy a piece of land at a time and kept building bogs. One such piece was Mutton Island that he bought from Bates College.
Mark and Patricia are Ocean Spray growers and currently own 35 acres in Carver. They grow Early Black, Ben Lear and Stevens varieties and all bogs are water picked. Mark says during harvest he and Eric, his son who has his own bogs also, hire a couple local people to help out but it is mostly family working the bogs to bring in the harvest. He says on weekends all the family comes and works on the bogs. His grandkids keep track of their work time and Mark pays them for it, which they get excited about.
Being a grower is something Mark has enjoyed over the years. Being independent and working for yourself is something he enjoys. He told us he especially likes the quite times when he can work on equipment. Mark says the one thing people don’t realize about cranberry farmers is that “you have to be very, very self-motivated”— like getting up to check for frost when you’d rather be sound asleep on a cold night! It also affects the family as a whole. It’s also not easy to go away when so many things need to be done throughout the year.
Looking toward the future, Mark acknowledges the challenges Massachusetts growers face. He says we need to teach people that we have agriculture in this state. Growers are keeping upland to create a buffer from ever-increasing neighbors and that becomes a challenge to hold on to or make the decision to sell. Those growers without their own equipment, in the current industry climate, could find it challenging to get funding for refurbishing old bogs. Despite the challenges, he feels a new product introduced to the market would get people building and refurbishing bogs.
Mark believes the beauty of the business has been the comradery among growers over the years. It didn’t matter if you were an Ocean Spray or independent grower or how much you grew, the tight-knit community of growers has always been there to help.