Winding down!

Pine Island’s harvest is slowly but surely drawing to a close next week.

We’ve slowed down a little bit before the end due to late sequencing. “We get a certain amount to deliver each day for ten days,” explains Matt Giberson. “We wanted a certain number of barrels per day and that’s what we’ve been getting, so we have to deliver that within that time period.”

“It’s a little weird sometimes,” Matt says. “Usually we’re going full strength, but today we’re running just one crew and running two crews on Tuesday and Wednesday to finish up.” But the color looks really good and the beds that we’ve been harvesting have been great so far.

In the meantime, our team is getting a lot of other tasks done: there is a crew installing swan string, another crew cleaning ditches, and of course the latest bog renovations are coming along well!

Ocean Spray: From Bog to Bottle 2018

Mid-October means it’s time for one of our favorite annual traditions here at Pine Island Cranberry: a visit from George Giorno of Ocean Spray on his “Bog to Bottle” tour! George comes to see us every year, along with various account executives from some of Ocean Spray’s wholesale customers. This year, we were happy to see that George brought Greg McCann of Advantage Solutions for his fourth visit, as well as new visitors Jeremy Mitchell (also from Advantage), Danny Seijido from the Ocean Spray sales team, and Tucker Lynn and Victor DeJesso from Wakefern.

The group gathered at our main office, where they heard a brief farm history from CEO Bill Haines, and fifth generation grower Mike Haines and his sister Stefanie took everyone out to see how we do things in the pines!

We arrived at Red Road just as our team was beginning the process of gathering a freshly picked bed, and everyone got to go up onto the bog side cleaner’s platform to get a view from the top!

Then it was off for a close up look at the Gates Harrow in action before heading down the road to the Ocean Spray receiving station in Chatsworth.

These days, all the Haines family really has to provide is a driver; George’s knowledge and enthusiasm is tremendous, and he knows every single step of our harvest. “While the calendar may say fall arrives on September 21st, it really doesn’t actually arrive until our annual trip to visit the Haines Family at PICC in mid-October,” says George. “Yet another great day with Stef and Michael Haines this year, while also getting to visit with Bill upon our arrival, as we toured the farm with our guests from Wakefern Food Corporation and our agency partners from Advantage Solutions. For four of our guests, this was their first time experiencing the beauty of the Cranberry Harvest and for me, it was another day where I get to reignite the passion for my vocation and visit with a great Ocean Spray Cooperative Family who treat me as one of her own! Never a visit without learning something new from something old as PICC is continuously improving their harvesting operations in a meaningful, efficient and positive way.”

Greg McCann always has a good time, too, and never fails to ask interesting questions! “This being my fourth year of touring your bog, I learned something new, yet again,” Greg says. “With the hot weather being late this year, it really affects the color of the cranberries, as evidenced by the mix of white, pink and red colors in the Bog! Last year, they were more crimson red, at this point in October.”

We say this every year after George and his group come to see us: it’s always a pleasure to speak with people who are genuinely enthusiastic about what they do and are so willing to completely immerse themselves in a new experience. It‘s always fun to have George and his team here and show our customers how we really do things. It’s good for them, and it’s good for us. Thanks again, George, for everything you and your team do!

Orange Team – 2018

We’re finally getting some perfect fall weather for the harvest!

What finally brought it here, unfortunately, was another bout of heavy rain, which has made managing the water tricky! But our team was up to the task, remembering always the key question: where is the water coming from, and where do we want it to go?

“It was tough,” says team leader Gerardo Ortiz. “We’ve had to drop water some places and in others we ended up flooding a little bit more than we needed. We were out here in the middle of the night making sure everything was okay. But we got it!”

So while Gerardo keeps a constant steady eye on the water, our team will pick this particular system using both the Gates Harrow and the traditional water reels.

The team will be using the water reels in the older bogs again. “A couple of these beds have some ditches in the middle for drainage, so it’s easier to use the reels than the tractor,” explains Gerardo.

Now that we have the weather we need, we’re once again looking at another “red October”!

Green Team – 2018

We’re running all three teams this week and things have been going pretty well! Our Green team has been working steadily behind the office and the new turns for the tractor trailers have been getting a workout while our crews are hauling fruit to the Ocean Spray receiving station in Chatsworth.

The trucks are wired to a set of lights so the gathering team leader can communicate effectively from the bog side cleaner’s platform. When one section of the trailer is full, the team leader hits a button and the yellow light in the truck cab indicates that it’s time to move forward! If the driver moves up a little too far, the team leader will use the red light indicator to tell the driver to back up.)

Once the truck is full, it’s time to head down the road!

Once the driver gets to the receiving station, he drives to the scales, where he turns in the paperwork and Ocean Spray takes some initial samples.

He is assigned a pool number, then drives around back and backs up to the assigned pool.

The crew at the station then start running the equipment needed to clear the berries from the trailer and take additional samples as needed.

When the truck is empty, it’s back around to the scales to be weighed again, and off again home to pick up another load!

Cranberry season!

Pine Island Cranberry is about a week in to the harvest and our team is once again doing whatever it takes to get the crop safely in! We’re not quite running at full capacity every day yet, as it’s so early in the season, but all three teams have put in some work already.

“One of the first things we did this year was get the Crimson Queens off first,” says operations manager Matt Giberson. “There were some rot numbers last year that had us concerned with getting those off faster than we did last year, so we started with with all three crews. We also wanted to get the young stuff done because this early on, the canopy structure just isn’t there, so we wanted to keep our rot numbers as low as possible.” This mean that’s we’re also being a bit more lenient on color this year. “If we wait too long to increase TAcy [an acronym for “total anthocyanin concentration” and is a unit of color measurement used in a cranberry], rot will increase too much.” COO Bryan vonHahmann created a chart to put it in better perspective: 2% rot and 20 TAcy v. 5% rot and 35 TAcy, as a comparison. “The latter means that rot percentage outweighs color, so it’s better to get color off at 20 instead of waiting for it to max out,” Matt says.

Now that the young beds are done, our harvest crews are slowing down, as we’re not finding color where we need it be. However, this weekend is supposed to be cooler, which is what we’ve been waiting for; cranberries don’t begin to attain their full color until nights become cool. “It’s still not going to be as cold as we’d like it to be,” says Matt, “but hopefully we get good color this weekend. We’ll start up all three crews again and just go for it.”

The amount of rain this year has also made a difference. The farm has received around ten inches of rain just this month alone, which is good in some ways, but also causes some difficulty. “It’s been a weird year,” Matt says. “Plenty of water for harvesting, though! Usually we have to be cautious but this year it’s much easier.” It also makes things more challenging for the equipment; we’ve finished the dam-widening project just prior to harvest, but the turnarounds for the tractor trailers still haven’t settled completely. “But now everything is tractor trailer accessible,” Matt says.

In addition to the easier accessibility, there’s good news for the fruit as well. “The Haines bed shows a lot of promise. Firmness in high 600s to 700s. There was some rot because of the canopy structure, but that’s going to happen in a young bed that’s not at full production yet, and the good fruit got good color and roundness. Beautiful fruit and hard as a rock,” Matt says. We’re hoping for great things from the Haines bed next year, and in the meantime, our crews will keep working to make this year another productive harvest!

Harvest begins! – 2018

The 2018 harvest is officially underway at Pine Island Cranberry!

We’re currently running three teams, two with the Gates Harrow and one with the traditional water reels, as there are still older beds in the center of the farm that are easier to pick using this method.

Our gathering team is working with newly updated equipment that should increase efficiency and reduce wear and tear on the dams, and the dam widening project is now complete.

Overall, our team is doing what they do best: getting the harvest in safely, and doing everything they do better every day!