Travelogue — following the fruit of the season

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:19

Local farm women learn about the cranberry harvest Did you ever wonder where all those bags of cranberries come from that start showing up in the supermarkets during the fall season? If you guessed New Jersey, you just might be right. The Garden State ranks third in the U.S. in the production of cranberries, following Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Most of the cranberry farms in the state are located in the Pine Barrens in Burlington County. Last month, Jane Brodhecker, Ann Ricker and Joy Ricker, members of the New Jersey Farm Bureau Women’s Committee, traveled to Tabernacle to take a tour of the cranberry bogs — the wet¸ marshy areas where the cranberries grow. Brodhecker described their visit to the bogs as “a real treat.” The women visited the Cutts Brothers Cranberry Farm where Bill Cutts, a third-generation cranberry farmer, explained how cranberries are grown and harvested at his family's 5,400-acre leased cranberry farm. In addition to Cutts himself, members of the third, fourth, and fifth generation of his family are involved in running the farm. The women were fascinated with what they learned on their tour. “The public just doesn’t know,” said Joy Ricker, referring to how labor-intensive is the cranberry harvest, which takes place between September and October. A busman's holiday Last year, Raj Sinha of Liberty Farm in Sandyston visited the cranberry bogs with the New Jersey Agricultural Leadership Development Program, a two-year professional development opportunity designed specifically for individuals in farming and agribusiness. Like many people, Sinha was under the impression that cranberries grow under water but on his trip he learned that the bogs are only flooded when the fruit is ready for harvesting. He even got a chance to wade out in the bogs and help harvest the cranberries. Sinha called it a “great educational experience.” “I was very impressed in how the cranberry farmers mange the land and the water — they are real stewards of the land,” Sinha said. This year Sinha brought fresh cranberries to several local Farmers’ Markets he attends and noted that he sold out each time. On their trip, the Sussex County women were accompanied by others from the Farm Bureau Women’s Committee from elsewhere in the state. After their tour of the Cutts' operation, they were treated to a lunch outside by the family’s former migrant worker camps, which have long been abandoned. During the harvest season, the family moves into a few of the cinder-block buildings to work the long hours necessary during the month-long harvest season. Cutts allowed the women to accompany him to the Ocean Spray Receiving Station in Chatsworth, where he brought his truckload of cranberries. At the receiving station, the berries are graded, further cleaned, sorted and binned, and frozen. Before long, the distinctive berries turn up in grocery shelves, where for a brief time they are the featured item bound for many a family table all over the nation. Cranberry facts • Cranberries are one of the three major fruits native to North America (the others are blueberries and Concord grapes). • Cranberry vines are perennial. Some producing cranberry bogs are well over 100 years old. • Small air-filled chambers inside a cranberry cause the fruit to bounce, and also to float. • A cranberry grower can lose up to 75% of a crop if honeybees or bumblebees do not properly pollinate the cranberry blossoms. • Wild cranberries can be found along riverbanks and low-lying areas throughout the Pinelands and along the shore. • Ninety-five percent of NJ’s cranberries are sold to Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., a grower-owned cooperative with a receiving station in Chatsworth and a processing plant located in Bordentown which together employ close to 300 people Source: American Cranberry Growers Association Ginger Cutts’ Cranberry Salad Dressing 1 c. cranberries 1 navel orange, peeled and sectioned 2/3 c. sugar 1/2 c. vinegar 1 t. salt 1 t. ground mustard 1 t. grated onion 1 c. vegetable oil In a food processor or blender, process all ingredients, except oil. While processing, add oil in a steady stream. Refrigerate. Serve over mixed greens.