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Cranberry growers wrap up difficult harvest

Daniel Ackerman
Workers harvest cranberries in Wareham.

It was a tough year for Massachusetts cranberry growers.

Most farmers saw below-average crops yields — some by as much as 40% according to Hilary Sandler, Director of the UMass Cranberry Station in Wareham.

Sandler said weather conditions caused some fruit to spoil before harvest. “It was a warm and wet July, and then September, we really didn’t get the kind of cold nights we would like. And all of this contributed to more rot.”

Typically, cranberry growers count on cold nighttime temperatures during fall. That helps the fruits develop a deep red color, which raises the crop’s value. But this fall was among the warmest on record.

“A lot of growers were kind of frustrated and a little a little discouraged this year,” said Sandler. “It was it was a tough one.”

Climate change is making it harder for growers to anticipate weather conditions from year to year. “Some years will be dry, some years will be wet, some years will be warm,” said Sandler. “It's going to be that lack of consistency that's going to be a real challenge for us."

Massachusetts is typically the second-largest producer of cranberries in the U.S., behind Wisconsin.

Daniel covers the South Coast for WCAI. He comes 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 is a 2021-22 Report For America corps member.