Agricultural Officials Celebrate Annual Cranberry Harvest This Weekend
Officials mark successful harvest and industry's water conservation, energy efficiency efforts
BOSTON - Friday, October 8, 2010 - With the autumn harvest underway, Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) Commissioner Scott Soares today encouraged Massachusetts residents and visitors to visit a cranberry bog and sample local cranberries, one of the Commonwealth's most colorful and famous crops.
The 7th Annual Cranberry Harvest Celebration, hosted by the A.D. Makepeace Company and Cape Cod Cranberry Association, gets underway this weekend, October 9 and 10 in Wareham from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. The festival offers a perfect opportunity to learn about cranberries and experience the harvest. This fun family event features activities for children, animal shows, cooking demonstrations, food vendors, pony and wagon rides and much more. The highlight of the day is an opportunity to witness a working cranberry bog at peak harvest season.
"Massachusetts cranberry growers continue to lead the way with innovations in cultivation and business practices that have historically and globally contributed to our Commonwealth's agricultural identity," said Commissioner Scott J. Soares. "DAR remains committed to facilitating their new efforts to integrate renewable energy, automated technology and improved varieties that will certainly contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of our cranberry businesses."
"Massachusetts cranberry growers have made great strides to improve their yields while reducing the impact that farming has on the environment," Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association President Brad Morse said. "Conservation programs like DAR's Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program have given growers the resources combined with the research and education from the UMass Cranberry Station has given growers the knowledge to be sustainable."
Nestled among the towns and villages of Southeastern Massachusetts are more than 14,000 acres of cranberry bogs. These bogs are the workplaces of the nearly 400 cranberry growers. For generations they have nurtured and cultivated these wetlands, contributed to their communities, provided shelter and habitat for hundreds of plants and animal species and helped to preserve the beautiful New England countryside. In 2009, the sale of cranberries contributed to nearly 18 percent - nearly $85 million - of the total revenue from all farm products in the state.
In recent years, DAR has worked with cranberry growers to find ways for the industry to become more efficient and employ environmentally sustainable growing practices. Through a DAR Specialty Crop Block Grant awarded November 2009 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association received a $35,342 grant to study and define sustainable cranberry practices for Massachusetts cranberry growers. The study focused on responsible and sustainable pesticide use, the renovation of cranberry bogs to make them more productive, and improvements to the woodlands and wetlands that surround the bogs. For every acre of cranberry bog, there are approximately four acres of adjacent open space.
In the last five years, cranberry growers have made over $12 million in improvements including efficient irrigation systems, water control structures and tail-water recovery ponds which allow a farmer to recycle the water used on a bog for additional irrigation applications. Water conservation is a key component for a crop like cranberries, which is mostly harvested in the water.
Matt Rhodes, a cranberry grower and owner of Edgewood Bogs in Carver, Hanson, Plymouth, Rochester and Wareham, plans to utilize an 18.9 kilowatt solar photovoltaic system that will power irrigation pumps and the shop facility.
"Since we farm in a wetland environment, we're always trying to conserve, whether it's water or the surrounding environment," said Rhodes.
Many cranberry farms are open to the public during harvest season offering tours and gifts at their farm stands.
To find a cranberry farm tour, visit http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/agritourism_farms.htm and search for cranberries on the interactive Google map or visit www.cranberries.org/visit/index.html
DAR's mission is to ensure the long-term viability of local agriculture in Massachusetts. Through its four divisions - Agricultural Development, Animal Health, Crop and Pest Services, and Technical Assistance - DAR strives to support, regulate and enhance the Commonwealth's agricultural community, working to promote economically and environmentally sound food safety and animal health measures, and fulfill agriculture's role in energy conservation and production. For more information, visit DAR's website at www.mass.gov/agr, and/or follow us at http://twitter.com/MDARCommish. For your gateway to locally grown products, specialty foods, and fun ag-tivities go to www.mass.gov/massgrown.