Cranberries – Harvesting on the Marsh

Cranberries grow on a vine in the marsh, are small and tend to be obscured by the vine’s foliage.  In the early days of cultivation, hundreds of human pickers were used to harvest the fruit gathering at most 8 to 10 barrels of cranberries a day.

Fortunately cranberries have air pockets in the center. These pockets are important as they play big role in our story.  In the late 1800’s an engineer from Sturgeon Bay (W.T. Cosgrain) took advantage of the air pocket and suggested flooding the marsh and then removing the floating berry from the vine with the use of the rake.  This

Cranberries are not solid, they have air pockets.

method doubled the number of cranberries that could be harvested per person. Hand rakes were gradually improved until the 1950s when more mechanized setups were devised. Today’s methods allow less than a handful of skilled workers to harvest an entire marsh.

Owen Rock Cranberries use modern tractors outfitted with a series of tines to do the job of rakes. The tines strip through the vine (think of a football defense cornerback using his hands/arms to strip the ball from a receiver) dislodging and knocking up the fruit to the surface of the water.

Tines on the harvester strip the vine knocking up the cranberry to the surface.

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