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Cranberry Harvest Underway, as Growers Seek to Rebound from Low Prices in Recent Years

Workers harvest cranberries in Wareham.
Daniel Ackerman
Workers harvest cranberries in Wareham.

The fall cranberry harvest is underway, and it’s shaping up to be a good one for growers in Southeastern Massachusetts.

In recent weeks, cool nighttime temperatures have helped the berries develop a crimson hue.

“I see a healthy crop,” said Peter Jeranyama, a plant scientist with the UMass Cranberry Station in Wareham. “Color is consistent, which is what you want. The deeper the color, the better it is.”

He added that growers get a premium price when their berries are a consistent, deep red.

This year’s crop is an improvement over 2020, when drought damaged cranberry bogs across the region.

While this summer’s heavy rains mean some portion of the crop may rot before harvest, experts didn’t express much concern. “We just got hit with a little bit of bad weather, but it’s actually been a good season,” said Nelson Robles, who has harvested cranberries on the South Coast for 30 years.

Another positive sign for cranberry growers: price. A barrel of cranberries (100 pounds) costs more than one third greater than years past.

“In the past four years, the prices were so low that some people actually went out of business,” said Jeranyama. “But now the prices are now at a sustainable level where you can actually see a return to your investment.”

Jeranyama speculated that more people are drinking cranberry juice during the pandemic. (Most cranberries grown in Massachusetts are used for juice.)

Next month, the UMass Cranberry Station will break ground on renovations that will expand the facility’s lab space and research capacity.

Daniel Ackerman has left CAI.
In his time at the station he reported on the South Coast. He came to the station from Minnesota Public Radio, where he reported on science and the environment. Daniel has produced audio documentaries on a motley mix of topics, from the science of sewage to the history of automobile license plates. He holds a PhD in climate change ecology from the University of Minnesota. Daniel was a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.