Bogged down: Harvesting cranberries in St. Lawrence County

Harvesting cranberries in St. Lawrence County
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 6:08 AM EDT
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Emily Griffin heads to Deer River Cranberry Farm in St. Lawrence County to learn how the berries go from the vine to grocery stores.

BRASHER FALLS, New York (WWNY) - It starts in the sand. A team of cranberry farmers grow the goods on shallow vines and by the end of September, it’s time to grab the wading boots.

“We flood the bogs about three inches above the vines, and then we take our picker over the water to pull the berries off the vines,” cranberry farmer Tasha Brown said. “Then we flood the bogs all the way to the top and the berries float to the top. The wind will blow the berries to one side of the bog, then we’ll corral them like you see them doing here.”

Once the berries are corralled, it’s time to turn on a vacuum of sorts, to pull the berries in, shoot them down a separating rack, and off into a truck. The corral is only a fraction of one bog and it’s about 10,000 pounds of berries.

“There is 15 bogs all together, 80 acres, and about a million pounds of berries,” Brown said.

And this is just one step of harvesting. Once the corral is vacuumed up the berries are ready to process. They’re dumped into a 15-foot pool and conveyer belted up for a good shake and clean.

“This shakes and the good berries fall through,” Brown said. “The sticks and vines from the bog, they stay here and come down.”

Next, it’s packaging time. Between 1,200 and 1,400 pounds of berries will pour into each crate, ready to rack, stack, and ship to companies that use them.

Each harvest season takes upwards of six weeks but these workers take pride in knowing they’re the only cranberry farm in the area. And the north country berries will go from bog to bottle, helping feed America and beyond.

Today I learned cranberry harvesting is intensive work, but the fruit of the labor is oh-so sweet – or, rather, tart.