Our Cranberry Growers

Adrienne Kravitz is ‘all in’ when it comes to cranberries and the challenges of creating a sustainable future in the industry. Together with her father, Stanley, they own and manage properties throughout the region. On a gorgeous spring morning, CCCGA recently met with Adrienne at one of her relatively new Middleboro properties.

Growing up as a 4-Her, Adrienne has always had ties to agriculture. While she started off with animals in her 4-H projects, she has definitely made the transition to horticulture and it is obvious she enjoys her current lifestyle. Adrienne and her father, Stanley, have been working together in the cranberry business since she left her job after 14 years to come home and help after he had some health issues. Stanley started with just 4 acres on his own in 1989 and together they have built up their acreage over the last 20+ years. In 2019 they will harvest approximately 130 acres.

Adrienne has found that she really enjoys the challenge of taking bogs that may not be perfect and fixing them up so they can reach their full potential. This has been the case for most of her years in the business. At the property we visited, the newer bogs were large rectangles in stark contrast the older polygon-shaped bogs indicating a change to more efficient bogs.

Figuring out how to make the bogs more energy efficient and sustainable is part of what makes the business exciting for Adrienne. The quality of life cranberry farming offers and the opportunity to see something long-term are what she likes best. She sees agriculture as being part of the solution to a lot of problems as it contributes to a healthy environment. All the bogs they farm make use of a closed tailwater recovery system which ensures they know where their water comes from and its quality. Automated irrigation has been installed on all their properties as well. While they grow an assortment of the standard Massachusetts’ varieties throughout their bogs, Adrienne and her father are trying out some of the hybrids to see how they produce in different bogs instead of going ‘all in’ on the new varieties in any one location.

In addition to the changes to the bogs themselves, Adrienne says they are putting in pollinator habitats on bogs as well. They mostly use their own bees but also have a local beekeeper who brings his bees to their bogs.

Adrienne believes the current challenges of the industry are forcing people to think creatively. Thinking outside the box, working more effectively, reflecting on why you are passionate about this way of life and developing a long-term plan is what will bring growers through the downward turn. There is also the challenge of how to help new generations understand why cranberries should be part of their daily diet—that it is good for you and for the environment.

Her involvement in cranberries is not tied just to the bogs. Adrienne is active on several committees and boards including CMC, CCCGA’s Marketing & Promotions Outreach Committee, CEF and previously served on Ocean Spray’s Grower Council for 6 years.

There are not many cranberry growing families having their 8th generation still actively growing cranberries. However, the Halls of North Harwich are one such family. We spoke with Alan Hall recently, who ran through the generations for us. The Hall family settled in a part of Dennis around 1630s, and are descendants of John Hall, the same John Hall that Capt. Henry Hall is a descendant of. Their cranberry growing story begins with Nathan Hall of North Harwich who, according to the town register, was listed as a ‘farmer’. His son, John W. Hall, who married Almira Robbins (another notable cranberry family on the Cape) in Harwich. Next in line was Emulous Hall who was the father of John W. Hall (yes, another one) whose son was John E. Hall, Alan’s grandfather. The 6th generation grower in the family was Alan’s father, Arthur H. Hall Sr., then we have Alan and his son Benjamin who brings up the 8th generation. All the Halls worked cranberry bogs along with many extended family relatives who were also part of the cranberry growing industry.

From right to left: son Nicholas J. Hall, son Benjamin A. Hall, friend and cranberry grower Wayne Coulson , older brother Arthur H. Hall Jr, Alan J Hall, younger brother Aaron L. Hall, and friend Chris Johnson, great grandson of cranberry grower Vern Johnson.  

Alan Hall is the 7th generation of the Hall family farming cranberries on Cape Cod. The rich history of his family and that of cranberry growing on the cape is something he holds onto. He has always loved cranberries and grew up working alongside his grandfather and father on the bogs. His grandfather would always say to him “forget the cranberry industry, go get an education!” Well, unfortunately for his grandfather, Alan soaked up all the cranberry stories and history he’d been told about his whole life, and it became part of who he is. His childhood experiences of family picnics during harvest, sorting & screening berries at night, and making forts out of cranberry boxes instilled the love of the industry in him.

Growing up, every morning at the family breakfast with his father and grandfather visiting, Alan recalls them talking about the different bogs and growers in the area. His grandfather “lived and breathed cranberries” and was a charter member of Ocean Spray when they were on the cape in North Harwich. John E. Hall was a treasure trove of knowledge of the cranberry industry and knew all the ‘old-timers’. During his time, he owned around 100 acres of bogs, always trading up for better bogs. One such bog is the Depot Bog in North Harwich. This bog dates back to the 1850s. Its unlimited source of water and plentiful amount of sand, as well as adequate drainage, have kept it a viable bog for over 170 years. The work was mostly done by hand and John would often say, “if we had bulldozers like we have today, back in the 30s & 40s, the whole Cape would’ve been one big bog.” When the ’57 cancer scare came along, it changed the grower outlook and people started to sell off land. Some of the best bogs went for low prices. Alan’s grandfather acquired the Great Swamp bog on Robbins Pond, and he would often say that it would produce “a barrel to the rod” and continued to farm it for 25 years.

Alan's grandfather, John E. Hall, Alan’s father, Arthur H. Hall Sr., managed 35 acres in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. In the 1970s, Arthur and his wife Carolyn started Halls Cape Cod Cranberries. They screened cranberries and sold retail to the public for $0.25/lb. along with shipping boxes across the country. Arthur was diagnosed with MS in the late 70s and recently passed away at the age of 80.

Alan’s parents Arthur H. Hall Sr and Carolyn Hall packing and shipping 5 lb boxes of cranberries.Alan began his own grower journey in 1990 when he was motivated to be an active grower. He built his first bog in 1994. Despite the urging by his grandfather to stay away from cranberry growing, he has continued to carry on the Hall family legacy. After building his first bog, Alan got a picture of his grandfather on that bog “and that was a proud moment”.

The Halls currently farm 7 acres with a goal of increasing to 10-12 acres. They have Howes and Stevens varieties, but Alan would like another section of Early Blacks. In the late 90s he had a store and is currently working to bring that back. He misses the roadside selling like his family used to do. His goal is to have a center and museum of the cranberries on Cape Cod in North Harwich. Recently, the Halls had a float in the Harwich Hometown Parade and are active on social media—all ways they are keeping their name and history of cranberries out in the public. Additionally, in 1999, Alan sponsored Bill Elliot’s race car at the New Hampshire NASCAR race and, also, made a connection with Sammy Hagar. Every year since, Alan sends cranberries to Hagar’s business office and gets to go backstage whenever he’s in concert nearby.

Alan told us “Cranberries brought a lot to our family: pain, good times, sacrifices, and many unknowns...but what in life doesn’t?” The cranberry industry is a great community and significant to New England, Cape Cod and our history going back to the Pilgrims. “Everybody’s kitchen should have some sort of cranberry products at Thanksgiving and during the Holidays.”

Alan is committed to preserving the history of his family and the cranberry industry on Cape Cod. He has worked as the Facilities Director at Harwich Public schools along with Sandwich Public schools for 23 years. He currently serves on the Harwich Conservation Commission. He was the chairman of the Town of Harwich Agriculture Commission when they passed the “Right to Farm bylaw” in 2009 and says, “you have to have a voice.” Using that voice as he looks to the future, Alan says he would like to be involved on the CCCGA board to serve as a representative of the growers.

The 8th generation of the Hall family continues the cranberry growing tradition. Alan says that his son, Benjamin, has a different perspective on growing and is up to date with all the technology that is now available. If only the 1st generation of Halls could see how far the industry has come!

Meet Alison Carr and get a look into why our MA growers love this life of growing cranberries!

Nestled in the historic village of Dennis lies a hidden treasure not commonly known to the general public. Down side streets touched by streams of dirt and dust, through arches of beautiful trees and bushes, if you look closely you will see something beautiful, something like stepping back in time. 

Driving up a narrow sand covered entry way, a lovely, rustic wooden barn catches your eye to the right. To the left, a sea of green floods your vision as you stare into the large blossoming cranberry bogs. At first glance, you may believe the glorious growing space may be that elusive prize previously mentioned, but the real paragon is Miss Annie Walker, owner of Annie’s Crannies.

From the second you step onto her farm, Annie Walker invites you into her world where history comes alive through her advanced knowledge, kind heart, and irreproachable passion for the cranberry industry. 

Annie’s Crannies, aside from being a beautiful bog, is also rich in history and at the center of “Hall Town” as Annie affectionately refers to it. The Hall family is an essential piece of the puzzle in terms of Massachusetts commercial cranberry growing. In 1816, Henry Hall accidentally discovered the process of cultivating cranberries when he noticed the crops increased when sand blew over his bog, and thus began the historic tradition of cranberry growing in Massachusetts. 

Henry Hall saw the results of his happy accident and decided to test out different cultivation processes for his cranberries. He had one bog that was not producing cranberries to the same caliber as his other bogs, so he moved his cows to this area which he named “Molly’s Pasture”. The bog remained in the Hall family until 1911 when Annie’s grandfather, Ben Walker, bought the bogs and worked them from 1911 to 1959, which is how it received its name of “Ben’s Bog.”

While Annie may spend her days now out in the sunlight, she made her start behind the scenes. Annie pursued her passion for the arts as a production wardrobe supervisor on Broadway. After years of the city life, she was looking to get back to her roots and make her start in the cranberry industry, following in her grandfather’s footsteps. In 1994, she traded yellow taxis for tractors and purchased Ben’s Bog and Molly’s Pasture where she has been cultivating cranberries ever since. 

Alongside Annie is her lifelong friend, Dean, who also owns historical cranberry bogs himself. Dean is the owner of the bog where the cultivation of the cranberry began in Massachusetts which belonged to Henry Hall. 

Dean and Annie share a passion for growing, history, and a simple way of life. Not to mention, the pair are also avid bee lovers. Dean mentions his favorite part of the bogs are getting to see the native bees in the summer pollinating and making their way through the berries, so much so that he has a chair firmly planted along the ditch surrounding his bog to get a front row seat. Dean and Annie offer one another companionship, support, and certainly another set of hands out on their properties. 

Annie’s Crannies has been a huge success, all while keeping a simple, organic mindset at the foreground. Annie does not advertise her bog tours, as she believes that the experience of finding her bog is an adventure in itself for those who choose to accept it. She finds that that those who take her tour reap more benefits from discovering something no one else knew about. Annie also integrates little computer use in her business, preferring the pen, pencil, and clipboard method. Despite this approach, Annie’s Crannies secured a large account as the supplier of cranberries for Whole Foods market in Hyannis, in addition to her overwhelming amount of orders throughout the harvest season.

Annie is quite modest about her success as a grower, and contributes her achievements to the rich history of her bog. On Molly’s Pasture, the same bog Hall had little success with, Annie was able to cultivate 457 barrels of cranberries, an impressive feat noted by those who take her bog tour.

“When people on tours say, ‘Wow! And what do you do? And it has nothing to do with me,” Annie humbly says, “It’s all about the native bees and pollinators and those up above thanking me for preserving a piece of agricultural history.”

As if she was not busy enough growing cranberries, Annie also uses the native bees on her bog to produce several varieties of honeys, each delicious and containing a sweet bit of cranberry. The remaining wax from the bees she uses to make beautiful candles in various molds and shapes.

Although she is not on Broadway anymore, Annie’s outgoing and charming personality still shines through during her bog tours and even just in conversation with her. She brings history to life with her passion and knowledge of her bog and the Hall family tradition, all with the biggest smile on her face. The simple joy of her work is apparent to all who find their way to her bog.

As a cranberry grower, Annie faces the same hardships that many others in the industry are all too familiar with, but her love of growing and preservation of the roots of the industry never fade despite circumstance. Annie is a brilliant representation of tenacity, ingenuity, and provides a firm reminder of living out the phrase “do what you love, and love what you do.”

Bill Russell was already a 30-plus year corporate veteran when he departed former roles in the aerospace industry, plastics manufacturing and automotive sensor technology companies in 2018 to devote his future to his own businesses. At 52, he was ready for change, and looked forward to spending more time on his personal interests.

Equipped with the knowledge built by earning two master’s degrees (business and engineering), Bill’s technical vision, work experience and diverse life experiences inspired his rich, multi-faceted second careers.

Tammy Russell, Bill’s wife, has served as a caterer and chef for more than two decades, while together they co-parented their three now-grown children. Tammy was inspired to diversify her talents and invest her skills in the Russells’ launch of Pineapple Caper Café in Osterville on Cape Cod, together with a parallel catering company and a food trailer. Simultaneously, Bill also serves as a real estate agent at Sotheby’s International Realty. Their story brings a whole new definition to the term “power couple.”

In 2016, the Russells purchased a farm featuring a six-acre cranberry bog set on a 12-acre parcel, bolstered by a 24-tree orchard and a beautiful garden, established as Hollidge Hill Cranberry Company. The Marstons Mills property invigorated Bill’s sense of wonder and curiosity.

“I bought a bog without the generational connection that many families have in our region, and it had no equipment,” he said. He had so much to learn, but approached the challenges with courage and aspiration.

Hollidge Hill AlpacasToday, the Russells have really expanded their farm’s “residents.” In addition to five alpacas, Hollidge Hill is home to four miniature donkeys, three golden retrievers, one black Labrador retriever, 10 chickens, one cat and thousands of bees that help to pollinate their living landscape. The couple recently launched a farm store, where they take pride in retailing local product lines, including canned goods, honey and even fleece products sourced from their alpacas’ fiber.

With all of these animals on board, and a farm to operate, the Russells sustain their budget to span their collective entities by sharing their finances across board. Their solar field installation, a modern and now familiar addition to agricultural farms, supports their income. “It was a big investment,” shared Bill, “but since it will realize a long annuity, we’re very thankful we made the commitment.”

With all of these responsibilities, it’s hard to imagine the Russells making time for fun while enjoying their next-level careers. “I traveled extensively during my former corporate career,” Bill reflected. “My current work is truly my play time.”

Now seven years deep into this lifestyle, Bill is embracing his farm aspirations while bolstering the cranberry growing industry with his grower peers. He plans to become involved with committee participation at Massachusetts Cranberries’ industry organization meetings and has leadership plans to benefit the community of growers statewide.

With all this farming at the heart of their careers, lives and household, the Russells naturally have many recipes that have become favorites in their family and across Cape Cod, many featuring their own farms’ cranberries.

The couple frequently prepares bulk batches of this chutney recipe at their Pineapple Caper Café. The cranberry-infused condiment lends itself as a spread for turkey sandwiches and a “cranberry sauce-style” side dish but loaded with texture. This recipe quantity is family-sized recipe, but can be divided or multiplied to suit smaller or larger batches.

The Pineapple Caper Cranberry Chutney

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon (about 3 ½ lbs.) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar

Directions:

  1. Place fresh or frozen cranberries and diced onion in a pot on a stove set over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally (add a little water to coat bottom of pan if using fresh berries). Cook until cranberries start to pop and break down and onions are transparent.
  2. Add sweetened dried cranberries, raisins, cinnamon and brown and white sugars to the pot. Lower heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until cranberries are fully softened. A rich sauce will begin to develop.

  3. Using a potato masher or similar tool, mash most of the cranberries into a thick paste, leaving some whole for added texture. Stir constantly, and lower the heat if needed, to ensure the fruit doesn’t burn.

  4. Remove from heat and set the pot aside until the heat decreases to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours until chilled. Store in pint or quart containers in the refrigerator or freezer until ready for use. Chutney makes an excellent topping for toast, sandwiches or as a stand-alone side dish.

Tucked off Glen Charlie Road in Wareham are the bogs owned and farmed by Bill and Louise Scott. These bogs have been in Louise’s family since they were built in the early 1900s when her great-grandparents, Benjamin and Sarah Westgate, first acquired the land. The original handwritten deed for the 24 total acres of land was made out to Sarah for $1.00 and is still in the Scotts possession. At the time Benjamin was building his bogs, Agawam Light & Power maintained the water that flowed to the bog. A dam was created on the Agawam River which formed Muddy Pond and Glen Charlie Pond. This is currently the source of water for Glen Charlie bogs.

From the outset, Benjamin farmed and hand-picked Howes and Early Black cranberry varietals. The berries from Glen Charlie have always been sold to Ocean Spray. Louise told us they have one of the earliest Ocean Spray Cranberry stock certificates.

Benjamin handed down the business to his grandson, Walton Earle Westgate, Louise’s father. Walton Earle worked at the Carver Cotton Gin Mill as a shipper & receiver. He and his wife, Norma, used to travel in their motorhome during the summer months up and down the east coast. They kept a photo album handy during these trips with all their cranberry pictures to show people and educate them about cranberries. During the early 1950s, the Westgates used wooden scoops for harvesting. One day in 1952, Louise recounts, they went in for lunch leaving the scoops by the side of the road and came back out to find the scoops were gone! Apparently some passerby must’ve wanted one for a decoration. Walton moved the operation away from a hand-picked to a machine picked harvest. He bought a Darlington Cranberry Dry Harvester which the Scotts still have. He built a ramp to the barn where the empty bins would be waiting and they would dump the bags into the bins and then move the bins onto the trucks to transport to Ocean Spray in Middleboro.

Louise and Bill were married in 1963. In talking to Bill, he is clearly a man that can tackle any situation and a virtual jack-of-all-trades. Bill grew up in Hanson and was neighbors with Alton Smith, a foreman for United Cape Cod Cranberry Company. This is where Bill got his first taste of cranberry farming. He remembers the 3am wakeup calls (that is, Alton tapping on his window) when the wind died down, the two would go out with a trailer and spray the small bogs where the bi-wing planes couldn’t get in close enough to spray the pesticides on the bogs. Working in construction when they were married, Bill changed careers in 1966 when he joined the Hanson police department. He has now been a public servant for 51 years. He served as a police officer in Hanson, Hanover and Halifax where he retired as Police Chief in 1990. After his retirement, Bill served as Deputy Sheriff and then chief of security at South Shore Plaza before eventually moving out of law enforcement and into sales of police equipment. There were no set hours, so Bill had the opportunity to work the bogs in conjunction with his job. Since his retirement he has also served as a Selectman in the town of Hanson and remains a member of the Plymouth County Police Chiefs Association.

Bill is thankful for the help he received from his fellow growers throughout the early years running the bogs. He worked for 2.5 years helping John Ridder build bogs and that gave him valuable learning opportunities. He took over management of Glen Charlie Cranberries in 1996 and switched to water picking. The Scotts like to say they “sold the wheelbarrow and bought a truck” to make the business more productive. Bill bought a decaying Peterbuilt flat-bed and transformed it into a cranberry hauling truck. The truck could hold 300 barrels and he used to haul barrels for other growers as well.

Due to the nature of the business, saving money and supplementing a grower’s income tend to be a way of life. Glen Charlie Cranberries has a sander and Bill can make his own screened sand so they can save by not buying sand. The Scotts have looked into solar and even a cell tower. Their younger son, Ron, has installed solar along a defunct bog.

The future looks bright for Glen Charlie Cranberries. Bill and Louise are the proud parents of two sons, Steve and Ron. Steve is an Insurance Adjuster and is the defensive coordinator for Curry College football. Ron, a mechanical engineer, is quite interested in the workings of the farm and will probably take over when Bill feels the time is right to let go of the reigns. The Scotts have three grandchildren (Kyle, Ryan and Haley) who love to drive the Gator utility vehicle around the bogs. They are always there to help at harvest time and are getting a great foundation as the youngest generation of Glen Charlie Cranberries.

Cass Gilmore of Benson's Pond considers himself to be a 3rd generation farmer. His grandfather, Steven, was a dairy farmer until the 1950’s when that market necessitated a change and he began working for Edgewood Bogs. In 1978, Steven became an investor in his sons’ future and helped Cass’s father and uncle, Kirby and Ben, purchase their first bogs. The brothers expanded their bogs and farmed together until the 1990s when they split their equity. In 2012, Cass joined his father and since 2013 has been a full time cranberry grower.

Benson's Pond is 50 acres of cranberry bogs and supporting upland and the Gilmores are members of the Ocean Spray cooperative. Cass explains that each year since 2013, Benson’s Pond has seen a 1% renovation per year using Rutgers University (New Jersey) varieties. Efficiency is what Cass sees as a key to the future. He experiments with automation with their sensors and looks towards a day when every bog is fully automated which will require less man hours.

Cass enjoys the life of a cranberry farmer. He says what he likes most is that every day is different and things around the bog are always changing. And, unlike cows, cranberries can’t kick! In his spare time, Cass and his wife, Erin, also have a livestock farm that they started in 2014, Bogside Acres. They raise grass fed beef, pigs and chickens.

This year, Cass and Erin began pivoting Benson’s Pond towards agritourism. They had their first ‘Bogger for a day’ event, including a farm-to-table dinner, which was a success and they plan to do it again next year. They are also converting their 1940s screenhouse into a wedding and event venue.

Looking at the cranberry industry as a whole, Cass sees one of the biggest challenges to be competition among global growers. But, he says, Massachusetts has a lot going for it. He’s traveled to farms of all types around the country and believes the irrigation systems found here in MA to be the best. Cass also believes agritourism can be a great benefit to farmers. The fact that MA bogs are within an hour’s drive from two major cities keeps them close to the population and easy to visit, which is different from growing regions in other parts of the country.

When Cass is not busy at the bogs, he also serves on several committees within the farming industry. He is on the Board of Directors for the Plymouth County Farm Bureau and also serves on its Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. CCCGA also receives the benefit of Cass’s time where he serves on the Environmental and Government Affairs Committee and the Research Committee.

Clark Griffith is a 3rd generation cranberry grower, farming in the town of Carver. Growing up in the business of farming cranberries, Clark has a wealth of knowledge and stories to share. Besides growing cranberries, Clark has been active in numerous boards and committees within the industry, helping to shape its place as Massachusetts' number one agricultural food crop. In this video, Clark talks about other industries supporting the cranberry business.

A former CCCGA board member, Dom Fernandes of Fresh Meadows Farm in Carver is a 3rd generation cranberry grower who, somewhat unexpectedly, has found himself following in the footsteps of his father and grandparents for the last 37 years.

As a kid, Dom spent his childhood working with his family on the bogs. Reflecting back on those days, he sees that his parents created an environment of fun for him and his siblings on the bogs. They used to have campouts for four or five days out in the woods where they would work on the bogs picking weeds, pick blueberries, spend time at the swimming hole and sleep in a tent at night. At the time, Dom said it didn’t really seem like work. Now he feels it was a clever strategy by his parents to instill a good work ethic in their children.

Dom had moved away and didn’t expect to come back and get involved in the industry. When his father became sick, he came back temporarily to help out. He likes to say that he is still here temporarily 37 years later! Initially his involvement was money driven. During the 80s, when it was very easy to get into the business, he started working full time on the bogs. At some point he realized he was hooked on the lifestyle that being a grower provided. He enjoys opportunity to work for himself and put the values he grew up with to work. There have been tough times along the way but Dom feels he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and has found a niche for his farm growing organic cranberries.

Fresh Meadows Farm has been certified organic for about 10 years. They started with just 3 acres certified and just completed the 2017 harvest on about 13 acres. The organic market Dom finds to be both challenging and rewarding. Growing the amount of fruit required to keep the business sustainable, finding locations that lend themselves to growing organic fruit and finding the outlets to sell his fruit all can be seen as challenges. Dom has targeted the heirloom varieties, smaller Early Blacks and Howes, with his organic farming. He finds it rewarding to be keeping these varieties viable amidst the competition from other growing regions.

Dom has converted an old barn to a screenhouse. The 100 year old building he had originally planned to knock down, has now been restored to a functioning sorting facility. He found restoring the old barn to be rewarding. The old wood and character of the barn has been preserved along with its sense of history while making it useful for his business today.

On a larger scale, Dom sees the biggest challenge to the industry is creating a succession plan for the next generation. He remembers coming into the industry as a 25 year old grower when there were many other young farmers. Now, looking around the industry, he feels he is kind of at the median age. He says he is not seeing the growth in the younger growers which will impact the future of the industry.

While Dom has his organic cranberries marketed under Fresh Meadows Farm, he also sells conventionally grown fruit to Ocean Spray. He has bogs spread over three towns and says without the auto systems available to growers, it may not have been possible to expand the way he has.

As a final thought, Dom shared that what he has found most rewarding with his organic operation is really being able to promote the Massachusetts tradition of growing berries. The positive parts and aspects of Massachusetts cranberries, specifically the heirloom varieties, are being preserved. The dry picking of the berries, which is hard to do and sustain, is a tradition started with family farms of Massachusetts and Dom enjoys being able to continue that tradition.

Three generations of Rickers, spanning over 100 years, have been farming cranberries in Massachusetts. Earle B. Ricker, known as Rick to most people, is the current owner of approximately fifteen acres in Duxbury but the family business got its start in Pembroke with his grandfather, Clarence.

The Rickers came from Maine and settled in Pembroke, MA. Clarence began growing cranberries there and had a screenhouse on High Street. In the mid-1920s, they moved to Duxbury. Clarence sold his berries with the “Land of Bays” label and marketed under C.A. Ricker. Buyers would look for the label and know it was good fruit. The family was a charter member of Ocean Spray Cranberry Company.

Rick’s father, Earle A. Ricker, helped out around the bogs but worked outside of the cranberry industry until the 1940s. During the war, Earle took over the business from Clarence. Earle’s sister, Beatrice, also enjoyed helping with the family business.

During the 1950s, Earle, bought two of the original mechanical pickers from Hayden Separator and tested them on the bog. His father, Clarence, brought a Marcus Urann and a few other growers to watch the pickers in action. Rick remembers going with his father on an old Dodge Powerwagon and would help unload berries using rolling pallets at the Hanson plant—no forklifts back then!

Rick really got involved during his teen years. He went to Duxbury High School then switched to, and graduated from, South Shore Voc Tech and was drafted and then went into the Air Force Reserve. He took over the bogs and bought them from his father in 1971, during the industry over-supply. He remembers other cranberry guys telling him not to go into the business.

Rick now has about 15 acres in Duxbury that he farms and grows Howes and Early Blacks. A fresh fruit grower for 40 years, in recent years, he has harvested only a few acres with dry picking. He uses the same tractors they have had for many years and still does not us a GPS. Rick believes technology is nice but is not the whole answer for the industry.

Cranberry farming is a wonderful occupation, according to Rick, but he believes one needs a sense of business and needs to have an idea of what’s right. His family has had a wonderful history in this business and he has gotten to know a lot of wonderful people.

Recently, Rick joined the Duxbury Agricultural Commission and in past years worked with the UMASS Cranberry Station and was involved with CCCGA during discussions on rural electrification and using electric pumps. While he doesn’t view himself as ‘highly political’ he does have his opinions. He believes they need to let famers have more control to be innovative in their businesses.

Looking toward the future, Rick believes that locally grown fresh fruit is a salvation for the small grower. Farmer’s Markets provide an outlet for this type of grower. In his opinion, it’s like the industry has come full circle from his grandfather’s time when buyers would look for that “Land of Bays” label as a sign of good fruit.

Meet Jeff Kapell and get an inside look at the unique relationship between growers and wildlife.

Charles Hayward, known as “Jim” to virtually everyone, has been a self-proclaimed ‘bog rat’ since 1976. A lifelong resident of Halifax, Jim is married to Deb and has five children and two grandchildren. 

His entry into the cranberry industry was working for a company on the bogs in Duxbury and Marshfield. Jim did all sorts of jobs during that time and was hooked! He continued working there through the ‘80s right up until the crash of ’99.

After the industry crash, Jim decided to go out on his own as C.J. Hayward Cranberries. He has consulted, managed and leased cranberry land ever since. An independent grower, he currently leases 30 acres on which he grows Ben Lear, Stevens & Early Black varieties. In addition to that, he also manages 30 additional acres.

Clearly one of Jim’s passions is building equipment. Back in the ‘80s, Jim was an Associate Member of CCCGA and recalls being the recipient of an award for a piece of equipment he had built. This interest continues today. He still works on equipment for area growers. When CCCGA caught up with Jim recently, he was working with Van Johnson (the two have worked together for 10 years) and his Terra Gator where they were dry sanding. Jim has helped customize this piece of equipment, primarily used in the mid-west for fertilizer and chemical application, to be used as a sander on the bogs. As cool as that is, Jim told us his favorite items to build are berry pumps. He has built many over the years, including some really large ones for fellow growers.

A grower member of CCCGA since the early 2000s, Jim joined the Board of Directors in 2017. He is also chairman of the Marketing and Promotions Outreach Committee. While, still early in his board terms at CCCGA, Jim is no stranger to committees. He has served as President of the Plymouth County Farm Bureau for 12 years and, with that, is on several boards right up to the state level. He enjoys working with the other people involved and getting to work with the staff at CCCGA. J Jim said what he likes most about serving on the various boards is being able to get information and working with legislators. Jim told us that working to ensure new legislation isn’t created that hurts the industry is sometimes more important than filing new legislation. 

A humble man, Jim will pitch in wherever there is a need. Need something built, repairs made or are short staffed—call Jim!

John Decas is the former CEO of Decas Cranberry. John grew up in the family’s cranberry business, working on the bogs as a child, continuing into his adult years where he helped guide Decas Cranberry into a modern, innovative cranberry manufacturing company. In addition, John has served on numerous boards and committees, providing years of experience and guidance to the cranberry industry. In these video segments, John has stories to share of innovation within the industry.


As children, few people REALLY know what they want to be when they grow up. That was not the case with John Mason. John knew from a very early age that he wanted to be a cranberry grower. As a young boy, he loved everything about being on the bogs with his dad, Austin.

Austin Mason, a forester and horticulturalist, began farming cranberries in 1978 in South Carver. John would help his father dry pick the native varieties on their nine acre farm. His favorite thing as a kid was dry harvesting. He found it labor intensive but rewarding. During the harvest, it was common for tourists to stop on the side of Tremont Street to take pictures and John remembers setting up a roadside stand with a “Tours” sign to educate them about what was going on. One memory he recounted was when friends brought over a visiting relative to see them harvesting and after telling them all about the harvest, the relative remarked on how much John knew about it. John, then somewhere between 8 & 10 years old, responded with “I’ve been doing this my whole life!”

Growing up on the bogs always makes for interesting memories. John told CCCGA about falling into a drainage canal as a child and his dad had to scoop him out. John had to keep it a secret from his mom so he could still go out on the bog. And then there was the time he stuck his hand on the bog buggy muffler and got burned…

As he grew older, John’s father tried to push him away from the cranberry industry. After graduation fromCarver high school, John began working for John Mathias doing excavation and site work. He was never far from the cranberry industry however, and in 2009 he began working for Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company Inc. This would be the start of a career in the cranberry industry. Today, John assists Gary Garretson in managing bog operations.

The opportunities and guidance John has received from Mr. Garretson have propelled him further than he ever imagined. His work at Slocum-Gibbs Cranberry Company includes conducting tours for politicians, regulators, environmentalists, customers and neighbors to teach them what they do with the land. He also does a lot of promotional work with Ocean Spray Cranberries during the harvest season.

John sees himself as a young advocate in the industry. He is the youngest member of the CCCGA Board of Directors and serves on the Environmental & Government Affairs Committee as well as the Research Committee. He recognizes the importance of the Association in terms of governmental and environmental issues and, this past June, John gave testimony on the hill for a renovation tax credit. He educated lawmakers on the background of the industry, what bog renovation is, why it’s needed and how a tax credit could assist growers in renovating plus the benefits to the commonwealth. He sees the value of membership in the Association as an important piece in keeping the industry aligned regardless of where each grower markets their fruit in order to tackle government and environment affairs together.

What John likes most about the cranberry farming industry is the fact that no two days are the same. Working outdoors and being around wildlife is something he enjoys greatly. As he told CCCGA “some days I drive on the bogs and don’t hit the pavement again all day”. When asked, John said his favorite part of the harvest is the early morning when he drives down to a bog loaded with fruit that is ready to pick.

Away from the bogs, John and his wife, Stephanie, have an 11 month old son named Blake and are expecting a baby girl in January. John is an outdoorsman and enjoys salt water fishing and duck hunting. He is an avid Patriots fan and attends a lot of games during the season. While he admittedly does not like to cook…one of his favorite cranberry recipes is for sweet cranberry meatballs.

Looking toward the future of this industry, John foresees the challenges of marketing our product on the state level and dealing with and adapting to weather extremes. In the bigger, regional picture, becoming more efficient to keep up with other regions is the top challenge he sees. Given the current industry landscape, John remains optimistic that it will bounce back. He takes pride in being a young farmer and being involved behind the scenes with CCCGA to protect his livelihood for the future.

In December of 2016 he purchased the family bogs from his father and Tilson Brook Cranberries began. John is excited to raise his family on the same farm he was raised on and hopefully teach them the same values he learned as a child.

Jordan and Equus Trundy of Red Meadow Farm in Carver are relative newcomers to all things cranberry & agriculture, but have taken to farming life with gusto! 

Growing up in Maine, Jordan  does have a little ag in his background. He worked for Williams Family Farm and tended to their blueberries for a time. Equus, on the other hand, was more involved with horses. Fast forward through attending Wheaton college, where they met, and moving into IT careers, a visit to the Cranberry Harvest Celebration one year sparked an interest which has helped change the course of their life.

The Trundys were living in Hull but were interested in getting into farming, so they ventured to Carver to look at the property and loved it. Set on 17 acres, their home looks like a little retreat planted among the scenic land of cranberry bogs. They have 7 acres of bogs consisting of Early Blacks, Howes, and Ben Lears. Further back, they have a large garden planted and another area currently being prepped for pumpkins. They also have Katahdin & Painted Desert sheep and beehives—all creatures which serve a purpose on the farm.  All of this combines into a small working farm with big goals which we’ll get to later.

Back to the sheep for a minute though. They are a piece of story that falls into our question of “what surprised you the most in your first year.” Equus told us that the number of wild animals that appear was surprising. From the muskrat that wants to chew through irrigation lines to the heron, turtles, and frogs everywhere they always seem to have company on the bogs. But the one thing Equus never thought she’d have to figure out is how to get a snapping turtle off her sheep’s face when the curious animal got too close to the reptile. Never fear, it all ended well, and the sheep is fine.

2021 was the Trundys’ first full year and the first harvest they tackled themselves. They have found it to be challenging, yet truly rewarding. The biggest challenge faced is the maintenance and upkeep of equipment. Having no background in motors, Jordan said figuring out how everything works and how to repair it has been an education right down to the irrigation pump. Learning through the advice of other growers has been a huge help. As Jordan told us, there is no YouTube video, guidebook, or Google tutorial on how to grow cranberries. Also surprising to these newbies, was learning that stores don’t sell most of the big equipment used for cranberry growing and harvesting but instead it’s built within the industry by talented growers.

Speaking of their first harvest, they learned quite a bit this past fall. They learned that lots of people want to come volunteer and help with harvest and that “bogs love eating little boys” which they discovered when some little ‘helpers’ got too close to the flooded ditches. They experienced the sun up to sun down harvest day where they ended up corralling berries by the light of headlights. They also dealt with a broken picker when they were almost finished and a trip to the ER for stitches when Equus got hit in the face by a metal tube from the pump. Through it all, however, they found it to be a rewarding and scientific experience where they use modern technology to do an old-fashioned job--farming!

Now for the goals. With the addition of beehives earlier this spring, the Trundys plan to continue to grow out their bee operation.  This year they will be adding a farmstand (so look for it on Meadow St.) to sell seasonal items and cranberries. Their vision for the farmstand is to have it be 3 seasons and invite other farmers to contribute so they can use it as a vehicle to tell the story of the family farm in New England.  The ultimate plan is to have a wine, mead, and cider operation. Additionally, they would like to have the fruits of their labor on the menu at restaurants.  

The things they’ve learned this first year will serve them well moving forward. Everyone they have met in the cranberry industry has been super friendly, kind, and welcoming. No one has turned them away for asking a silly question and everyone has been helpful. Their membership in the Association has provided important resources like frost alerts, information tracking with BOGS Online, general advice and networking with other members. Additionally, both Jordan and Equus have joined the Marketing and Promotions Outreach committee and have an interest in becoming more involved as the years progress.

Big things are coming from Red Meadow Farm, and we are excited to see where they grow!

Nantucket Strong

2016 is the year three generations of Nantucket cranberry-men walked through fire to bring the bogs they’ve worked into the next era. Tom Larrabee Sr, Tom Larrabee Jr and his son Nick Larrabee had already transitioned the Windswept Bog to organic production for the better market, growing berries to make people well. Now they had taken an enormous challenge as they began the transition process at Milestone Bog located on the pristine moors of Nantucket, once the largest and arguably one of the oldest cranberry bogs in the world.

No one could have predicted the tragedy that would come in the spring and just how difficult the year would slog on for the Larrabee family. On April 16, Tom Larrabee Sr. died after being rescued from the mud of Hummock Pond. An outdoorsman, he was doing what he loved, exploring with his dogs looking for freshly exposed arrowheads and artifacts around the newly drained salt pond. He was 83 years young, had farmed on Nantucket all of his life and steered the good ship Windswept and Milestone for over 50 years having come onboard as a teenager in 1950.

Tom Larrabee Jr, his son Nick, foreman Hristo Krastev and with great support from the owners of the property, Nantucket Conservation Foundation (NCF), moved ahead with their ambitious plan for the farm. Although the loss of their mentor is profound his imprint is everywhere.

The Larrabee Legacy
Tom senior grew up on his family farm, and continued to farm adjacent to the moors while he worked on Milestone Bog as a kid. He was on those bogs through the post war years when they were all but forgotten and guided them through a series of owners. Finally in 1969 island residents Roy Larsen, Walter Beinecke and Arthur Dean purchased the Milestone Bog for the NCF as a way to generate money to support the foundation. In 1980 the foundation was able to purchase the Windswept bogs and became the owner of all of the 232 acres of producing cranberry bogs on Nantucket.

In the years that followed the bogs were leased to off-island cranberry growers including Northland Cranberry Company who abandoned the lease in the cranberry market crash of 1999. The constant figure throughout those challenging years was the stewardship of Tom Larrabee Sr., steady hands for the changes ahead. Without those steady hands, and the heads and hearts of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation the Nantucket cranberry heritage might have faded in the mist.

In 2003 Tom Jr. came home and took the helm for his father. After 13 years he says he is “a cranberry grower, mechanic, carpenter, and plumber” and he learned it all from his father. He can manage a crew and learned discipline and leadership from the Marines. He is grateful to both. And when he needs council he visits the beautiful overlook to the expanse of Milestone Bog, where a memorial dedicated to Tom Larrabee Sr. and NCF visionary Roy Larsen now sits. It is the place he and his father visited together often.

Protected by the Godfathers
It should be said at the outset that the rescue mission for these bogs would not have been possible without the vision of Roy Larsen and the continued dedication of the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. In the building boom of the 1960s Roy Larsen, Nantucket resident and retired vice chairman of Time Life saw the need to preserve the unique character of Nantucket and organized his friends and wealthy donors to purchase and protect farms and wildlands to be tucked under the protective wing of an established foundation. He also had the vision of acquiring the cranberry bogs on the island to conserve this unique Nantucket cranberry heritage despite the difficulties of commodity marketing and use the cranberry expressed at the purchase and gift of those bogs to the foundation. “Roy’s total fascination with the cranberry bogs was a mystery to me”, he admitted, then added his own home grown obsession with all things cranberry. There is something so alluring about those particular bogs that figure so prominently in the natural heritage of the island. “Roy loved to drive out to that overlook on Milestone and enjoy a good cigar.”

Today, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation and its board of 12 directors protect over 9,000 acres of unspoiled beaches, moors, wetlands, cranberry bogs, sprawling farms and grasslands for everyone. The conservation lands are used to support environmental and wildlife research, sustainable farming and recreation. Over the years NCF has raised over $37 million for land acquisition and management and employs 18 people including 4 full time scientists. It takes full time fund raising and an army of members and volunteers to continue the NCF vision.

A Heritage in Crimson
In truth, cranberries have always been something more to Nantucket than on the mainland. They were life sustaining to Native Americans, to the first English settlers in 1659, through the blockade years during war, through long whaling voyages and the last surviving industry following the whaling and fishing decline. In 1880 Eastman Johnson painted the very famous “Cranberry Harvest on the Island of Nantucket” of a wild berry harvest that has come to symbolize the heart and soul of the New England industry. The print is featured on the cover of the Spinner Publication of “Cranberry Harvest” a history of Cranberry growing in Massachusetts; the original hangs in the Timkin Art Gallery in San Diego, CA.

Upon the moors, cranberries grew naturally and were collected by Native Americans and later by settlers, to eat, preserve food and for medicinal purposes. Even then the healing properties of cranberries were recognized. The soils were generally poor and game animals at that time, according to historian Amy Jenness, were no bigger than a rabbit. During both the revolutionary war and the war of 1812 shipping to and from Nantucket was disrupted by the British and the Patriots. Jenness reports the islanders were close to starvation at the end of those two wars sustained by fish, poor crops as well as nuts and berries collected from the wild.

On Nantucket and Cape Cod, emerging cranberry sales were associated with the nutritional deficiency of sailors at sea. By 1683, settlers were making juice from cranberries and realizing the benefits, by 1820 they were shipped to Europe and by 1850 they were widely used by long voyage whalers to prevent scurvy at sea. The collection and packing of berries in empty whale oil barrels was the well paid work of women and girls prior to the first ‘cultivated’ cranberry bog on Nantucket in 1857. As whaling came to a close, cranberry cultivation became the surviving island industry.

In 1904 William T. Makepeace planted a 10 acre “cultivated” cranberry bog on Nantucket and later expanded to include Gibbs swamp and what was to become the largest continuous cranberry bog in the world, Milestone Bog at 300 acres. Through much of the history of cranberry growing, the supply of berries has exceeded the demand and cranberry bogs have vanished from the landscape. Not however on Nantucket where moors, meadows and cranberry bogs remain indelible features of natural and human heritage, protected from the vagaries of fortune.

Marketing Challenges
The cranberry market disaster in 1999 was followed shortly by a delayed aftershock that has lasted much longer, depressing cranberry prices for many growers at below cost of production, depending on market affiliation. Nantucket drew the short straw. Challenges for cranberry growers on the mainland are ever more acute on Nantucket where the high cost of transportation, 40 miles off-shore, raises the cost of farming exponentially. If that weren’t enough, the cost of housing on the island is too high to support a traditional farm labor pool.

Tom Jr. came home on the heels of the cranberry crash. In three years of neglect, parts of the bogs were overgrown with trees and his father was struggling with the help of a young assistant, newly arrived Hristo Krastev, an engineering student from Bulgaria. It was immediately evident that in order for the bogs to continue, big changes were required. There had to be a better way to get that better price and so they made the decision to grow organically…and develop a better marketing strategy.

That was 13 years ago. October 8th Nantucket Cranberries celebrated their 13th annual harvest festival at the Milestone Bogs with an estimated attendance of 8,000. Attendees enjoyed bog tours, hayrides, family games, music and food. For islanders it was a chance to revel in the uniqueness of their place in time and future.

Vision for Tomorrow
When Tom Jones retired from Ocean Spray he saw cranberries in the rear view mirror. Then he met a man from Nantucket on a Florida golf course. The story of the Nantucket Bogs, 230 acres of soon to be all organic cranberries supported by a Conservation Foundation and stuck in a lousy market position was a compelling challenge to Jones. All of his marketing instincts told him this offered an incredible opportunity for niche marketing and idyllic branding, Nantucket Organic Cranberries.

Jones already knew all the uniquely great things about cranberries and he also knew that with a focus on the beverage industry, processors had largely neglected the emerging global interest in nutraceuticals. Even better, the heirloom varieties of berries with maximum health benefits, were just the varieties that are grown on Nantucket and now organically.

In 2012 Tom Jones took over the marketing of the berries on Nantucket for that particular brand development. They now market Nantucket Organic Cranberries fresh and organic cranberry sauce distributed in the Pacific Northwest under the Costco band and continue to develop market commensurate with the progression of organic production. He commented “cranberries are the best value of any of the super fruit, still underutilized by food formulators.” Tom Jones met a man from Nantucket and is bullish again on cranberries; Nantucket Strong!

Linda Rinta and the Rinta Family Farm of West Wareham have been selected by the Sand County Foundation as the recipient of the 2020 Leopold Conservation Award® for New England.  Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care. Rinta, an esteemed cranberry grower among the Association’s 300+ membership across the Commonwealth, is the first cranberry grower to be so honored.

“This award demonstrates the lifetime of work that Linda has achieved while growing cranberries and simultaneously making a positive impact on the land,” shares CCCGA Executive Director Brian Wick.  “From her work as a conservation farm planner, establishing pollinator habitat, working on creating our agricultural practices in the state’s Wetland Protection Act regulations to helping countless growers maintain and improve their farms, Linda has been a tireless advocate.  Her passion for cranberries and the environment are genuine. She is not afraid to stand up for both causes and embodies the viewpoint that agriculture and conservation go hand in hand. The award is a worthy recognition of her life’s work.”

The Leopold Conservation Award recognizes and celebrates extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation by private landowners, inspires countless other landowners by example and provides a prominent platform by which agricultural community leaders are recognized as conservation ambassadors to citizens outside of agriculture. The program helps strengthen the relationship between agriculture, government, environmental organizations, industry, and academia to recognize and advance the cause of private land conservation. The Sand County Foundation is named after one of the country’s most preeminent land conservation thinkers, Aldo Leopold, who wrote “A Sand County Almanac” in 1949 in rural Wisconsin. Leopold’s Book is considered the most influential conservation book ever written and is still a best seller today. In the book, Leopold writes that it’s an individual responsibility for private land management and recognized that a landowner’s profitability and economic growth are tied to conservation success.

The Leopold Conservation Award is presented annually by the Sand County Foundation, with support from a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations. Applicants for the award included owners of forestland and farmland throughout all of the New England states. Submitters were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and forestry conservation leaders. This year’s award was made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, American Farmland Trust-New England, The Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative, Farm Credit East, David and Ann Ingram, Yale School of the Environment and Whole Foods Market.

“What distinguishes Ms. Rinta is not only her long history of sustainable land stewardship but also her achievements in educating others and making it easier for other stewards to follow their dreams and connections to the land,” said Bob Perschel, Executive Director of New England Forestry Foundation. “It’s also wonderful to see this award going to a conservationist who farms cranberries, a crop that’s strongly associated with New England, in a way that protects the New England environment.”

For more information on The Leopold Conservation Award, visit leopoldconservationaward.org.

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 1960s.

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. 

Mary and Billy McCaffrey own Spring Rain Farm.  Billy bought the farm in 1980, before the two were married, and put in the first bog in 1984.  Why did he decide to start farming cranberries? Mary said when surveying the land for possible uses, Billy’s uncle said there were cranberries nearby and water available, so why not?  After the first bog, he put in more bogs in ‘84, ‘85, ‘92 and ’97.  During this time, Mary came into the picture and they were married in 1986.

Billy and Mary have two children, William and Sarah.  Mary remembers having bonfire parties down on the bog when the kids were young. They’d invite the entire 1st grade to go for hayrides and ice skating.  Through the years they’ve also hosted big pot-luck parties after the harvest was complete.

With no agriculture or business classes in their background, Mary and Billy have blossomed their one bog operation into 11.5 acres of cranberries, 1.5 acres of strawberries. The strawberries were Billy’s idea when the price of cranberries fell in 2000 to help supplement their income. They started with 6,000 plants the first year and now have approximately 25,000 plants on 1 ½ acres. In 2007, they made use of a renovation grant to renovate their original Howes bog and planted Mullica Queens. Now they currently have 11 ½ acres growing Early Blacks, Ben Lear and Mullica Queen varieties.  

In addition to the cranberries and strawberries, they raise Belted Galloway cattle for grass-fed beef sales, sell hay and have some of the biggest rhubarb we’ve seen. They also do some ag tourism and school tours to the farm. Through the years Mary has gone into the schools and done presentations on cranberries as well. Their most notable event was when they were filmed for a day during the 2008 harvest for a video which plays at the New England Patriots Hall of Fame which, as a season ticket holder, was quite exciting for Mary.

Away from the bog, Mary was on the CCCGA Board of Directors for many years. She is currently on the Environmental & Government Affairs Committee and feels it critical to have a presence on Beacon Hill.  Being able to educate all legislators on farming is important as most have no background in the industry. This year she joined the Frost Committee and loves it.  Learning about how it’s all calculated and what goes into that message growers receive is so interesting to Mary.

Looking toward the future, Mary and Billy see scientific research and promotion of the health benefits of cranberries being a focus of the industry. They also believe their children will eventually be “the farmers” with new ventures such as free range pork, fruit trees and other new products to continue the work of Spring Rain Farm.

Matt Beaton, a fifth-generation cranberry grower, owns and operates Sure-Cran Services in Wareham, Massachusetts. Managing 550 acres of cranberry bogs, with 330 being his own, Matt remains completely submerged in the industry on any given day.

It may come as a surprise to hear that Matt was not always as keen about cranberries as he is now. As a youngster, he worked on his family’s bogs on the weekends, which eventually spilled into the summer months. However, despite doing so much work on the bogs, he never actually wanted to grow cranberries. All of this changed one summer when he was about 15 or 16. According to Matt, “it all kind of clicked.” After that moment he started to become more involved in pest management. He worked for three summers at the Cranberry Experiment Station doing plant pathology work one summer, integrated pest management the next, and then working with plant nutrition. He continued to study Fruit Science at Cornell. When he graduated in 1989, he received a grant to teach IPM to cranberry growers in Oregon and, upon returning, he became fully engaged in the family business. 12 years ago Matt decided that he wanted to go off on his own to make a career of cranberry farming, and Sure-Cran Services was born.

From Matt’s perspective, the importance of technology within cranberry farming lies primarily on its ability to improve efficiency on the bogs. Whether it be harvesters, berry pumps, or other types of specialty equipment, Matt believes it is “not necessarily about building the next best thing, but rather making things that are faster and cheaper”. And so, Matt’s hope with any piece of technology is that it allows him and his team to work faster and more efficiently. With 550 acres of cranberry bogs to grow and manage, the ability to harvest twice as fast as could be done fifteen years ago, has drastically changed the efficiency of farming his bogs.

For Matt, the biggest challenge to cranberry farming is “the things you can’t control.” Weather plays a major role here, keeping any grower on their toes 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Regulations also serve as a challenge, but Matt emphasizes the importance of compliance. Every season presents its own struggles, and Matt believes that a big part of innovation is being on the same page as the people you work with. Without communication and cooperation, there would not be nearly as much efficiency as needed to run a smooth operation.

Aside from growing and managing, Matt takes up several other roles within the industry: he is the second vice president of the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, he is on the Ocean Spray board of directors, and is a chair officer on the Farm Credit East board of directors. The key to success in the industry, though, relies primarily on the time and effort put in by everybody involved. According to Matt, if it were not for the men and women who contribute to his work and throughout the industry, its success would greatly falter.

Speaking about CCCGA, Matt notes that “you do not realize how much value [they] provide you until you go through some adversity.” For Matt, value correlates with loyalty, and for that reason he feels he will always be a member of CCCGA. “On the local, regional, and national level, if you can speak with one voice you have a lot more power,” and Matt wholeheartedly believes that CCCGA speaks with one voice on behalf of all of Massachusetts’ cranberry growers.

Matt is married with three kids and an adorable rescue pup named Fishbone. When he is not ankle-deep in a ditch or romping through a trove of berries he is, without fail, either at his youngest son’s baseball games or traveling to The Happiest Place on Earth, Disney World, with his family.

Raymond Fava is a 3rd generation cranberry grower from Wareham, Massachusetts. Raymond grew up working on his grandfather’s bogs and still has his own bogs today that he continues to farm. Raymond has a rich background in the industry, relishing us with days of years gone by and what it was like to be a cranberry farmer. In this video, Raymond explains what the old labels on fresh cranberries were all about and how as a child it was his job to mount these onto cranberries destined for market on the nearby rail lines.

James, Jarrod and Patrick Rhodes from Edgewood Bogs LLC and Cape Cod Select are three brothers who are also 4th generation cranberry growers from Carver.

As in any family, each brother has his own strengths which have helped guide them into working in different areas of the company. James, 29, studied business in college and is in charge of growing, scouting and pesticides. Jarrod, 27, has an economics degree and handles excavation, building and site work. Pat, 24, has a degree in marketing and works on the selling end of the company.

Growing up on the bogs as part of a cranberry farming family, the brothers have many unique memories which brought laughter as they shared them. Jarrod remembers swimming in the ditches, frog catching and being reprimanded for walking the wrong way on the vines. Pat recalled the chatterbox calling all hours of the night and James told of frost nights with his dad. Jarrod and James laughed as they told us about getting ‘promoted’ to pulling maples on 40 acres for a whole summer.

When asked about the changes they’ve seen over the last 10 years, automation is what they view as the biggest and most useful change. They started using automation at their Queen property in 2004 and at the time it was the most technologically advanced in the nation. The advancement of chemicals for pest management and not killing bees is also seen as a plus for the industry.

Technology plays a big part in the Rhodes’ business. To them, it all comes down to efficiency. Ten years ago they downsized quite a bit to redesign and make things run more efficiently. Machinery is always evolving and the evolution of fertilizer is making a big change. All water is recycled and they are lucky to have spring fed ponds. Additionally, they started using a drone last year. They find it useful in scouting bogs and it comes in handy on the marketing end of the business.

Looking toward the future, one of the big challenges they see is the next generation workforce. Finding skilled labor and people who want to do it will be the challenge. Even today, people who can build and fix machinery just on their own are scarce. They envision Agriculture schools being a big deal for the future and the Rhodes brothers are very willing to help with teaching kids about the cranberry farming industry. 

CCCGA met up with Roseann DeGrenier of Willows Cranberries at her processing plant in Wareham. It is here, in the early 1980’s, that the DeGrenier story picked back up in the cranberry industry when Roseann and her brother, John, purchased approximately 14 acres with 10 acres of abandoned bogs situated right off the Cranberry Highway.

While the siblings took up the business together here, it was not the beginning of the family’s history in cranberries. Their grandparents had bogs in Onset, MA during the early 1900’s but due to Roseann’s uncles not having an interest in the business, and the other siblings still only children, they did not continue.

Living next door to the bogs as a child, Roseann remembers skating on the bogs, jumping ditches and catching frogs with her brother. She always thought she’d find watercress growing along the sides and continually brought home all sorts of weeds to her mother hoping that’s what they were. George Briggs, a local grower from Plymouth who was close with their family, paid Roseann and her brother 75 cents a box for picking (everyone else was making 29 cents per hour so they were making big money!) during the harvest.

When John approached Roseann about purchasing the abandoned bogs in Wareham, the bogs were still bearing fruit despite the neglect. Their family came with old fashioned scoops to harvest their first crop which was small enough to fit on a snowmobile trailer! Approximately 10 barrels were harvested that first year but then, once they started working the bogs, the berries came right back! During the harvest it would always be a family affair and Roseann remembers her grandmother spreading out her red & white tablecloth for the family’s lunch.

John named the business Willows Cranberries and in 1995, they purchased an additional 39+ acres with 24.24 acres of bogs in Plymouth. They built the processing plant in Wareham and modernized their operation with mechanical harvesters. Then in 2001, John passed away unexpectedly and the entire Willows Cranberries operation was left for Roseann to oversee.

Willows Cranberries is a registered USDA fruit handler and supplies their fresh fruit to the North Atlantic Region of Whole Foods Market locations. The Wareham bogs are still dry picked, while most of the Plymouth bogs are water harvested. They make their own trail mixes, syrups, sauces, vinaigrette, candies and more.

What Roseann likes the most about the cranberry business is, well, basically everything. She enjoys seeing the sprinklers going on the bogs and is a self-proclaimed nature person who loves the smells specific to life on the bogs.

Outside of her cranberry business, Roseann has managed her own salon since 1969 and, after the passing of her mother, has taken over the management of eight apartments. Roseann believes if you “give from the heart, it comes back to you ten times over” and is always ready to help CCCGA with donations for events when asked.

The real draw of the bogs for Roseann is still her brother, John. His memory is alive and well at Willows Cranberries. With much emotion, she told CCCGA she feels like she still has her bother with her when she’s there and the business “brings warm wonderful memories of the family being together with laughter, fresh air and hard work.”

The “Love of the Land, the Care of the Crop and the Bounty of the Harvest” popped into her head one night while working on a new brochure and has become the slogan of Willows Cranberries. Roseann certainly has a deep love of the land, cares for the crop and looks forward to the bounty of the harvest each fall.

Steve Ward is not just a cranberry farmer, but a staunch supporter of Massachusetts cranberries and a strong advocate for the industry. 

Steve’s entry into the world of cranberry farming was all due to his dad, Dick Ward. In 1975, Dick bought 3 acres of bog with the goal to use them for exercise. You see, Dick was a physical education teacher and believed in doing everything physically. Steve told us in the beginning they did all the work by hand—no machines—and there were always chores to do. He would come home from school excited to go frog hunting. Some days the chores would be the priority and they would be building bogs, cutting firewood or ditch digging. He got quite good at ‘driving’ a wheelbarrow! Steve remembers one year when he was on the high school wrestling team, of which Dick was the coach, they had built a bog sander but did not have a loader. Dick hired the wrestlers to work 3-hour sessions loading the sander. Steve recalls having 4 to 6 wrestlers per shift and they used snow shovels for the task. Dick timed them and they got to a point where it took only 90 seconds to fill the sander each time. From their entry into the cranberry scene, the Wards continued to add acreage 1-2 acres at a time. The family built a log cabin on the property and, when Dick got up to 14 acres, he figured that was a good size to have for retirement. Throughout these years, Steve worked with his dad and caught the “cranberry bug”!

Even though his interest in cranberry farming had been planted, Steve had a desire to spread his wings after high school. He worked as a forest ranger for a couple summers and then was employed by a small medical device company as the office manager and worked his way up to treasurer. Eventually he went to work for his father and Bob Alberghini doing pesticide spraying part-time. When Dick took over the pesticide business as Carver Cran Spray, Steve moved to full-time and worked with his dad from 1987-1997.  Then, as a result of the cranberry industry crash, he went to work for Doug & Peter Beaton.

In 2006, Steve went to work as an appraiser for Farm Credit. A month later he was offered a bog to manage. He found it challenging to manage the hours of both jobs.  In 2008 he went to apply for loan at USDA/FSA and learned the county’s Executive Director position was open. It offered a flexible schedule and Steve ended up with the job. His hope, at the time, was to become a full-time grower and stay at FSA only 5 years…but that never happened. Steve served as Executive Director for 11 years but found it tough to balance the workload of USDA and that of a grower. This year he made the move to leave FSA and go back to work for the Beaton family at Sure Cran. He says it has been nice to be able to focus just on cranberries.

Steve currently has 57 acres in Middleboro and 6 in Carver. Up until 10 years ago, the Wards always dry-picked their crop but then switched to a wet harvest. They tried to switch back a few years ago, but it was hard to get the right conditions and the people to help harvest. His son, Justin, caught the cranberry bug and is buying his own bog so now there will be three generations of Ward cranberry men farming.

Away from the bogs, Steve keeps very busy on various boards and committees. He is on the CCCGA Board of Directors and serves as the Chair of the Environmental & Government Affairs Committee. Additionally, he is on the Farm Bureau Board, the State Pesticide Board and was recently elected to the Cranberry Institute Board of Directors.  

Steve says he feels he needs to give back for all the things prior growers have done for us. “They’ve worked hard to create the unity that the cranberry industry has. We need to keep that going on for future generations. Very proud of that.”

As Environmental & Government Affairs Committee chairman, he gets such a good feeling from touching base and talking to legislators.  It is so important to make sure they understand the industry so they make decisions to better the industry and not to make decisions that hurt farming. “If they are not aware of what our struggles are, they could make decisions that would put us out of business.” Steve believes the legislators need to have someone to go to who understands the needs or potential for harm. He says CCCGA is very well organized and when legislators think of cranberries this is where they come. “We want to be top of mind for any organization that is farming.” Lobbyists are an avenue for legislators to learn the info needed to make decisions.  What keeps him inspired to be part of all of these boards can be summed up in the words of the Association’s previous Government Affairs Director, Henry Gillet: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the table.” 

Steve’s role on the Pesticide Board is a Governor’s appointed position. The Board is a protector of the public, so to speak, and Steve is one of only two farm members on the board.  He says more recent decisions made by the board have been helpful for farmers and that is related to having farmers at the table. Working together is also key to his involvement with the Farm Bureau because it ties cranberry growers in with other agricultural commodities.

“We don’t want friction between commodities," Steve says. "There are 6 million members of the American Farm Bureau and we need to make sure we keep that unity so we have a large voice nationally. Cranberries are mentioned more often than we realize at the national level.”

One thing Steve loves doing is giving tours. He is a big proponent of the ‘kill 2 birds with 1 stone’ mentality and tours offer three birds, so to speak. First tours give him a ‘high’ because he likes talking to people, especially going out in the water and letting them experience harvesting cranberries. His favorite thing about it is that it lets him see the industry through someone else’s eyes. And just about everyone who comes through thinks it the coolest thing ever! Second, tours offer the opportunity to spread the word about cranberries. And third, the picking gets done.

Looking at the MA cranberry growing industry, Steve notes that there are a lot of challenges facing growers. Growers are getting older and it’s harder to do what they’ve always done.  Collectively they want next generation to be able to move up and take over but there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

“We have to turn over every stone looking for every possible opportunity.”  Pressures from neighbors and government plus a whole bunch of little things all add up to daily challenges facing the grower. “And” Steve says, “we have turn this back around to show how important it is to stay organized and keep the Association strong so we can stay pro-active and keep putting out the fires.”

Despite the many challenges, Steve remains optimistic for the future. He feels using technology and rebuilding bogs is going to have to be super priority. Steve says there are a lot of good things happening as a result of the crisis that are going to start paying dividends in the future. He is a proponent of solar, especially if you can use surfaces that don’t impact the cranberries. Because of solar, his parents will be able to stay on their farm for rest of their lives. The returns are enough to cover taxes, maintenance, etc. and takes away the stress. Steve even has a floating 50x50 array on his reservoir. It is another great tool for using parts of his property that he normally wouldn’t be able to use. He firmly believes we need to find sources of electricity that don’t have a carbon footprint.

Away from farming, Steve loves to ski and ventures to NH as much as possible. A father of twin daughters and a son, he enjoys watching movies on a Saturday night with family and friends.

Cranberries have always been a part of Wayne Dunham’s life.  He grew up picking cranberries with his father, Francis, who owned his own bogs and was also the foreman for Waterville Pond Cranberry.  As a boy, Wayne recalls picking cranberries by hand.  He also recounted his work spreading sand on the bogs with a No. 2 square shovel which, he told CCCGA, was not how most people did it but he liked that shovel.

Wayne bought his father’s bogs in 1976. At the time he was working as an equipment operator for the state and working the cranberries part-time. He told us that after working through the blizzard of ’78 he decided he needed a change. Since the cranberry business was doing so well, he decided to leave his state job and work for himself.  For a time, Wayne also had a side business sanding and picking for other growers.  The Dunham bogs in Kingston currently cover 18 acres. Wayne grows and water picks mostly Stevens variety with some others mixed in.

Wayne and his wife, Ann, have been married for 36 years. While Wayne handles most of the day-to-day workings on the bogs, Ann is very involved as well.  When she worked her full-time job, she used to take two weeks off every fall to work the harvest. 

One major part of Ann’s cranberry experience was when she served on CCCGA’s Promotions Committee from 1984-1999.  This committee was very active every year attending The Big E and the MA Flower Show.  At the Big E, the committee had six teams consisting of six women that spent the entire fair selling cranberries and other cranberry items as well as caring for the bog that was built on-site. One morning, she remembers laughingly, she watered the bog exhibit and a whole swarm of mosquitoes flew out! Ann recounts that each year the Governor would come on Massachusetts Day and they would have to take an official photo at the booth—and every year it seemed to be on the day Ann’s team was there! Her favorite part of the exhibit was the chance to talk to people. Most people knew nothing about cranberries and Ann enjoyed educating them. In 1987, Ann started selling t-shirts and sweatshirts for the committee. She would send out mass mailings across the country for orders. Through this task, Ann says she got to know growers from all over the country.

Outside of the cranberry business Wayne, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran, can be found working with fellow veterans on their Huey helicopter float.  This float carries a replica of a Huey helicopter which was built by area veterans in 2011 and has been featured in many parades over the last several years. The float was moved out of storage unexpectedly and damaged by the weather. Wayne has stored the float in one of his bog buildings over the past winter and he and a group veterans have been working to restore it. The float is used for Vietnam Veterans’ fundraising events and you can see the float pulled by Wayne’s cranberry truck in local parades.

Both Wayne and Ann enjoy life as cranberry growers.  Working for themselves, outside and away from the telephone is a nice way of life. As is a common thought in this industry, the Dunhams say their fellow growers are all great people and always ready to help each other out.

The Southers Marsh cranberry story spans four generations, the William B. Stearnses I thru IV and their families. The two eldest (WBS I and II--Bill & Bill Jr.) and their wives bought Southers Marsh together in the early 1950s. Bill Jr. and Martha then purchased more cranberry acreage, including Watercourse, Pinnacle, and Dugaway bogs in Plymouth, and Goose Pond in Carver. In the early 60s Bill Jr. opened Stearns Irrigation to help finance the education of their three children. He and Martha purchased the 100 acre Indian Brook Bogs in Manomet in the mid-seventies, and in 1973 they sold Southers Marsh to WBS III, or Will as he is known, and Nancy. Confused yet? Willie (WBS IV) came along in 1973, graduated from Harvard in 1995, and then worked in NYC for three years on the Mercantile Exchange. In 1998, on the advice of his father, WBS IV then moved back home to pursue his future in the cranberry industry. That year he bought Goose Pond from his grandparents and the adjoining house from Uncle Jack Heywood of Stearns irrigation. Unfortunately, his timing was just one year shy of the collapse of cranberry business. (Willie did suggest that perhaps his father should keep his great ideas to himself!)

Will and Willie and their families had to find a way to diversify to survive this crash. They called a family meeting and everyone (Nancy, daughters Betsy & Laura, WBS IV) was given a week to come up with five options that they could pursue to keep their land viable. Here is where golf comes in. In 1995, they had to seed grass around a newly planted two-acre piece of Stevens to prevent erosion. Will figured they were “spending so much money trying to kill grass on the bogs, how hard could it be to grow it on purpose.” To make it fun they decided to plant two greens on each side of the new bog and whack golf balls back and forth. They built four greens and used to play in waders after work, sometimes playing in more dirt than grass. The following year they put in one more green and two fairways which meant they could play as nine holes! When the cranberry crash happened, one option was to expand the golf—and the rest, as they say, is history.

In March 2000 they started building the golf course that would become today’s Southers Marsh Golf Club. They hired someone to design the greens but did most of the building themselves. Will really enjoyed building the course. They put in all their own irrigation, and Will told us he that sitting in his CAT D5 moving dirt all day was fun for him. He told us how Bill used to come out during construction with his clipboard and point out everything that they needed to do. Southers Marsh Golf Club opened on July 7, 2001 (Will’s birthday).

Like most kids who grew up on the bogs, Will remembers jumping ditches for fun and doing lots of skating in winter; hockey is a favorite sport of all the Stearns generations today. Chuckling, Will also recalled that one Easter Sunday when he was about 11, the family went out and flagged a piece at Pinnacle for sprinkler heads instead of going to church. (At that time, sprinklers were just starting to revolutionize cranberry farming by eliminating the need for flooding for frost protection, so Bill hoped God would understand.) Later on, when he was a father with young children, Will told us it wasn’t uncommon for his Dad to call him at 4:30-5:00 am because he “had a great idea,” even though Will would be at work in another couple hours.

Being a cranberry grower is what Willie always wanted to be. He started helping with the harvest at age 9. Humorously, his dad told us about finding the smallest waders they could for Willie, but because they were still so big and Willie didn’t weight them down enough, they would fill up with air and he would constantly start rolling over in the water. In the early 1990s, Will thought cranberries might have been the perfect job. He was planning to build 25 more acres of bogs at Southers Marsh and a few years later, Willie moved back to help--just in time for the crash. "Great timing” Will joked.

Merging the cranberry and golf businesses has been a challenge. Both are full-time jobs, and the hardest part is doing the cranberry business part-time when golf is daily. There is ALWAYS something to be done and juggling it all requires a very cooperative family, Willie says. It’s challenging to fit in all they want to do on the bogs when golf customers must come first. Southers Marsh puts on 100 golf tournaments and 15 to 20 weddings a year. Because the golf club is dependent on repeat business, the Stearnses must ensure everyone has a great experience when they are there. Will says if “everyone has a smile on their face when they leave” then they have done their jobs. It is a terrific environment—everyone comes to have fun, and the Stearnses have also made it a point when hiring employees to surround themselves with happy people. They also spread that positive energy by way of all the golf balls that end up in the bogs, reselling them and giving the proceeds to the Boys & Girls Club of Plymouth. So if you have lost a ball or two into the bog instead of hitting the green, rest assured your ball will become part of something bigger!

In talking with Will and Willie, it’s clear that one of their favorite parts of operating the golf club is coming up with their annual TV ad. They create the commercial themselves and it is released each year on Super Bowl Sunday—not on national TV, but you can still watch it locally on ESPN! (If you have a great idea, they are currently soliciting ideas for the next one!)

Both businesses are truly a family affair. Everyone is involved during harvest season on the bogs. At the golf club, Laura is the wedding coordinator and her husband, Ted Flynn, is the mechanic. Betsy does all the fruit carvings for events and her husband, JD Marks, does everything Will & Willie do at both businesses. Willie's older daughter, Maddy (13), has just started helping at the golf club, and we’re told his younger daughter, Lucy (10), can drive a golf cart better than the teenagers. Will and Nancy, with their children and spouses, and seven grandchildren, are now a family of 15. They've developed a tradition of holding a big family dinner every Wednesday night.

Will says “you can’t put a value on family working together and tackling situations together that come up."

The Stearnses, who have been Ocean Spray growers for more than 60 years, farmed Early Blacks and Stevens, and in 2008, started renovating about half of their acreage to the new hybrid varieties. Both Wills have worked outside of the cranberry business but prefer it over anything else. Being your own boss and doing something different every day appeals to them the most. On any given day these jacks-of-all-trades may take on the roles of carpenter, personnel manager, cook, handyman, agronomist and more—but whatever it is, it is never boring. This concept of combining the two businesses continues to work well for the Stearns family. Will loves being on a water picker during harvest but there is always the chance of someone lining up to tee off right in his direction—a different kind of "hazard." Visitors to Southers Marsh find golfing around a cranberry bog to be a unique and appealing experience. And, while Will jokes that sometimes “it’s a lot easier to talk to frogs,” they enjoy every minute of being the owners of a golf course nestled within their first love of cranberries. As they say in their commercials, “Southers Marsh—it’s the berries!”