The Ontario cranberry harvest has begun at Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh in Bala, Muskoka. Picking usually gets underway two weekends before Canadian Thanksgiving, but this year it started even earlier, and signs are pointing to a record-breaking crop.
The dry summer was good for the cranberries because bees don’t work when it rains. That means the bees remained busy during the July blossom season, creating a good fruit set.
Our irrigation system allows us to make up for lack of rain fall, ensuring the cranberries get enough moisture as the berries develop.
We have 27 acres of cranberries, and we can harvest an acre a day. Once we add in the time it takes to switch beds, move between marshes and manage the inevitable equipment breakdowns, harvest will take until the end of October.
One of the best kept cranberry secrets is that they don’t grow in water. They don’t even like to get their feet wet! Cranberries grow in wetlands because of the acidic, peat soil. Growers flood at harvest time because it makes the picking easier. Cranberries tend to hide in the low, dense mat of vines that produces them. Flooding brings them floating toward the surface.
Our harvest method isn’t like the commercials. The two guys standing in a bog surrounded by floating cranberries happens when growers use a machine to ‘beat’ the vines and knock off the cranberries. Most growers harvest this way because it’s fast and easy – and makes for fun commercials. We believe, however, that gentle handling makes for better berries. Our Getzinger Retracto-tooth picker gently combs the berries off the vines, resulting in less bruising and better quality fruit.
During the harvest season, there’s lots going on here at the farm.