Vendors: A Rose In December

Local florist A Rose In December is a vendor that Pine Island Cranberry is proud to support! The Medford shop is a long-time business and personal favorite of both the farm and the family; they do beautiful work.

Owner December Giberson-Shover is also actively involved in the community, particularly with local schools. “Giberson-Shover has a long history of volunteerism in the community,” says the NJEA. “For 11 years, she has worked with the Lenape School District transitional program. She accepts district students with special needs and, through her business, mentors them in life and work skills.”

There is one cause that’s particularly close to her heart: Operation Yellow Ribbon.

Operation Yellow Ribbon is a south Jersey-based nonprofit “consisting of all volunteers who shows support for our United States Military Forces serving in the Middle East including Iraq, Afghanistan and those supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve through”:

1) Organizing and collecting donated U.S. Troop supplies and goodies to send to our brave Heroes deployed in harm’s way in the Middle East including Iraq, Afghanistan and those supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve

2) Helping to promote, coordinate, and facilitate welcoming home events for local veterans in the South Jersey area by partnering with the Warriors Watch Riders and other Patriotic organizations to bring our local Heroes home in “Rock Star Fashion”

This year alone so far they’ve sent 38,826 pounds of goodies and 1,181 huge care packages to U.S. troops.

Giberson-Shover, whose son is in army, is passionate about the importance of pulling the community together. Earlier this year, a committee of made up of local businesses (this year’s theme: Unity In The Community), working with Operation Yellow Ribbon, managed to fill two school buses with donations. A fundraiser last month at the Flying W in Lumberton sold 200 tickets and raised $12,600, which covered the shipping costs of 360 packages for U.S. troops. “We don’t want the troops to think we don’t appreciate them,” she says. “They give up so much to let us have our freedom.”

It’s a perspective that Bill Haines appreciates. His daughter Becca and son-in-law Jeremy met while both were serving in the Army, and Pine Island’s equipment team also counts a Army vet in their number with Larry Wedemeyer. “We are grateful we can help an organization like Operation Yellow Ribbon that supports those few who sacrifice so much to protect us all,” Bill says.

If you are also interested in supporting this organization, you can do so tonight! Come to the volleyball match at 5:30 P.M. at Seneca High School and bring a care package item to support Operation Yellow Ribbon and be ready to cheer on your favorite volleyball or football players!

“I’m blessed with wonderful fellow business owners,” Giberson-Shover says. “I’m hopeful we’ll continue to have that kind of community support.”

With a planned 2022 theme of “Honor The Brave”, that’s entirely likely!

Meet the Researchers: Peter Oudemans

Welcome to the next installment of our latest occasional feature: Meet the Researchers! We’ve spent so much time talking about the excellent work being done at the Rutgers Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry & Cranberry Research that we thought it was time to learn a little more about the people behind the projects. This week: Dr. Peter Oudemans.

1. What drew you to your field/research focus?

It turns out my great-great-grandfather was a plant pathologist. Although I did not know that when I chose the field, I can’t help thinking it was, in part, genetics. When I first discovered this field I knew it was for me.

2. What do you consider your best accomplishment?

Developing meaningful recommendations that can be used in the field and that I have confidence in is very satisfying to me. It encompasses everything I know about the disease so that we can slow it down and achieve a marketable crop. These are also evolving all the time and as we learn more they change.

3. What has been your biggest challenge?

In my bubble it is just the pathogen and host. Somehow we need to interrupt that interaction. Things become challenging when there are new things to consider. For example, MRLs, pollinator health, climate change, or export-qualified fruit are all factors that can influence plant disease that are outside the current recommendations. A simple policy change on one hand can translate into significant crop loss on the other. Navigating these factors can be very challenging.

4. What are your long-term research goals?

Long-term is tricky but I would like to develop tools that will make problem-solving easier. For example, effective bioassays will help identify new chemistries for fruit rot control with a higher throughput than regular field trials. Ultimately, we will start controlling fruit rot in a more specific way and those tools will help tailor the programs.

5. What do you enjoy most about working with the cranberry community?

The place, the people, the crops. It is a beautiful mosaic and I am lucky and grateful to call it home!

Previously: Dr. Thierry Besançon

Twilight Meeting – 2021

This week it was once again time for the annual Cranberry Growers Twilight Meeting, this year hosted by the Rutgers University Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry & Cranberry Research. In contrast to the American Cranberry Grower Association’s annual winter meeting, the focus here is less research-oriented and uses a more hands-on approach to addressing timely topics of importance to cranberry growers. Included on the agenda were such topics as troubleshooting cranberry disease problems and working with new cranberry varieties.

In addition to the importance of new research findings, it’s also a great chance for the cranberry community to get together face-to-face. Our team, and the other growers, work with Rutgers all the time, but it’s good to be able to sit down with other growers and find out if they’re having some of the same problems with pests, or fairy ring, or excessive heat. That additional perspective can help us troubleshoot our own applications.

The big focus in this year’s presentations: false blossom. False blossom is “a virus-like phytoplasma that can be systemic in cranberry plants”, passed along by a pest known as the blunt-nosed leaf hopper. “False blossom is characterized by a malformation of the flowers,” says the Marucci Center, “…and there is no production of fruit, with devastating effects for cranberry yield.”

Production manager Mike Haines found the false blossom talks especially useful. “I’m concerned about the levels I’ve been seeing,” he says. “The experiment that Lindsay is running is at our place, so it was helpful to hear about her progress.”

He found everyone’s presentations informative. “Peter’s talk was interesting too, and was something we talked about over the winter. It’s good to know specifically which different fungal pathogens are out there, which ones are improving and which ones are worse, so we can map out the best strategy. Thierry’s chat was good as well; we’ve been following his recommendations with some good success. Overall it was a great meeting; they were all pertinent and informative talks with immediate practical impact for us.”

And as always, the chance to connect with fellow growers was invaluable. “It was the first cranberry meeting we’d had in person for over a year!” Mike says. “It really was great to catch up with everybody.”

“Just about everyone in the New Jersey cranberry industry was there,” says Bill Haines. “I was particularly pleased to see Rutgers recognize Nick Vorsa in appreciation for all his years of work in advancing the Marucci Center. Nick’s done remarkable work with the breeding program and all of the new varieties and it was wonderful to see him get the recognition.”

Haines Family Foundation

Back in 2012, current cranberry grower Holly Haines left her position as Pine Island CFO to devote herself full time to the Haines Family Foundation. The foundation, created by Holly and Bill Jr. (under the auspice of Bill Sr.) as a tribute to their mother and her championship of schooling for Burlington County residents, is mainly focused on education and health programs in underserved communities in southern New Jersey and Philly, as well as environmental programs and open space/farmland preservation efforts.

“We formed the foundation in 1996, and in the years since, we’ve donated over six million dollars to twenty different organizations and have maintained multi-year programs with about ten of those to make an even bigger impact,” says Holly. “For example, we’ve worked for over ten years with Virtua to put donations towards their mobile breast cancer screening unit as well as their mobile farm markets, which go into communities that lack reliable access to healthier foods. It’s a great program and Virtua’s doing really well with it. We also work with Cathedral Kitchen, which is unique in that they have a café which is open to the public and is staffed by the students from their own culinary training program.”

A sizeable part of Holly’s philanthropic work has been with Habitat Philadelphia, where she was honored with their Good Neighbor award in 2019:

Holly joined our Family Services Committee in 2010 where she helped review Homeownership applications, went on home visits, and advocated for families. Holly stepped up to chair this committee and then joined the board in 2012, serving on the executive committee until 2017.   

Over the last 10 years, Holly has created opportunities for more than 80 families to reach the settlement table. And over the course of this time, Holly and her family have generously invested $1.2M in the families of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. 

It is not a coincidence – Habitat’s growth is tied directly to the Haines Family Foundation’s partnership.  Holly has championed homes, homeowners and has also provided critical capacity funding so that we can build more.    

Education, of course remains a focus for the foundation. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors for Catholic Partnership Schools (a network “committed to strengthening and sustaining the educational excellence of the Catholic, Pre-K-8 schools that serve the children of Camden”), she has especially enjoyed working with the Bordentown Regional School District. “I started back with them on a small scale in 2014,” she says. “They had basically very little in the way of tech back then, but now I think they have one of the best equipped schools in the county. The teacher I work with is really good at getting development sessions set up for networks, hardware, software, and teacher training. They’re doing so well that during the pandemic they were able to switch to virtual with no problem; all students had access to Chromebooks or tablets or whatever they needed, which was fantastic. The high school is completely equipped and the three elementary schools are also pretty close to having everything they need. We did find out with the switch to distance learning that teachers need to be mobile, so we’re working on getting them better equipment and not keeping them tied to a desktop.”

The entire Haines family is very proud of Holly and everything she’s done and continues to do for the community!

Meet Our Researchers: Thierry Besançon

Welcome to the inaugural post of our new occasional feature: Meet Our Researchers! We’ve spent so much time talking about the excellent work being done at the Rutgers Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry & Cranberry Research that we thought it was time to learn a little more about the people behind the projects. This week: Dr. Thierry Besançon. For a close-up look at his work, check out the Weed Science Instagram account!

What drew you to your field/research focus?

I worked for 10 years in France on diseases and pest management research in stone fruit crops (peaches, plums, cherries…). So, I already had some type of connection with specialty crops before moving to the United States in 2010. In North Carolina, I was offered the opportunity to conduct research for getting a PhD, but I wanted to see and do something new… that’s when I decided to specialize in weed science. I thought it would be good to add weed science knowledge to what I already knew in pathology / entomology from my previous professional experience in Europe. When I joined Rutgers in 2016, I was delighted to be able to work again with specialty crops! But the most exciting thing was really working on cranberries… it’s a unique crop with very specific agronomic practices and very specific challenges, especially regarding weed control. Cranberry is a perennial crop, and most of the time, perennial crops have to deal with perennial weeds that are very challenging to control.

What do you consider your best accomplishment?

Over the last few years, I focused a large part of my research program to find solutions for preventing Carolina redroot (a perennial weed!) to outcompete cranberry vines in our New Jersey Cranberry bogs. Carolina redroot is a very troublesome weed… it competes with cranberry for light, nutrient and water and causes drastic yield and berry quality reduction. It is also very attractive as a food source for waterfowl and that is a problem because swans and geese can cause a lot of damage to cranberry vines when feeding on redroot! Yield losses caused by Carolina redroot average $800/acre. And Carolina redroot is only a problem in New Jersey cranberries as this weeds is virtually unknown further north or in Wisconsin!

Our weed science team spent a lot of time evaluating how Carolina redroot is affecting cranberry yield and quality and determining if some of the unique cranberry agronomic practices (flooding, irrigation, sanding…) may help suppressing Carolina redroot. We also evaluated different non-chemical and chemical options that can help controlling this noxious weeds. After 4 years of investigation, we know more about the biology and ecology of Carolina redroot, and we are now able to propose to the New Jersey cranberry growers a strategy to suppress this weed and restore the productivity of infested cranberry bogs. We still have many questions to answer… How does Carolina redroot propagate from bed to bed? Are we helping it to spread into non infested bogs when harvesting cranberries? Can we detect this weed early enough, so we don’t have to rely on using chemicals to control it?

What has been your biggest challenge?

Well, initial research on Carolina redroot was not easy because not many weed scientists have been investigating this species and we really started from scratch. Learning and understanding the cranberry cropping system was not easy because it is a very, very special crop that I could not compare to anything else I was familiar with. But I am lucky to have great people here in New Jersey in our grower community, with Ocean Spray, and Rutgers University who love cranberries and love transmitting their passion for this wonderful crop. I also have a great weed science team with my technician Baylee Carr, my graduate student Maggie Wasacz, and all the people who are working with us during the spring and summer months.

What are your long-term research goals?

With regards to cranberry, one of my long-term research goals is really to keep better understanding the ecology of some of our most troublesome weed species. We really need to know the details of their life and why they like our cranberry beds so much if we want to get a chance to be more efficient at controlling them in the future.

I am also interested at using new imagery and drone technology to improve the early detection of weed infestation in cranberry beds before weeds colonize entire beds after a few years. With early detection, we can focus our weed control strategies where we really need it. For some species, we could potentially avoid the use of herbicides and focus on non-chemical weed management strategies such as tarping, solarization or manual removal if we can detect the weeds early enough before they start getting a large-scale issue. I also think we’ll be looking at new nonchemical tools for controlling weeds… we have ideas regarding the use of electricity for killing the weeds and we may even have a portable prototype for testing this summer.

What do you enjoy most about working with the cranberry community?

All our New Jersey cranberry growers have been very supportive of my research program, and as a junior faculty, this is extremely important to know that my stakeholders are providing this support. I do not have a week without talking to one of our New Jersey growers or our Ocean Spray agronomists. We are doing applied research in my lab, and it is very important to stay connected with the reality and the challenges that growers are facing with weeds in their cranberry beds. That is very important to have this permanent link with our cranberry community because these discussions are feeding ideas for developing new research!

More personally, our New Jersey cranberry community has been very welcoming and kind with me. I remember one day in my 1st year when I forgot to fill up my gas tank and stopped in Chatsworth, knowing that I could not make it up to the research station. And gas pumps are not very common in the Pine Barrens. It happens that one of our grower give me a call when I was in Chatsworth. He immediately proposed to come to help me with a jerrycan! It is a nice feeling to know that you are working with great professionals but also people that will not hesitate to help you when needed.

*Photos courtesy of Thierry Besançon.

ACGA Winter Meeting 2021

This week the American Cranberry Growers Association once again held its annual winter meeting. The ACGA winter meeting is always a good opportunity for growers to listen to research findings from experiments during the previous growing season and the researchers’ recommendations for the 2021 growing season.

Usually it’s also a great chance for the local cranberry community to catch up to each other after the busy harvest season, but this week’s meeting, like so many over the past few months, needed to be held virtually. However, this also meant that in addition to our own researchers we were able to chat with Michelle Hogan from the Cranberry Marketing Committee (CMC) and Bill Frantz from the Cranberry Institute (CI) as well as researchers from other growing areas like Shawn Steffan from the University of Wisconsin.

Bill Haines, Bryan vonHahmann, and Mike Haines were the only three team members in attendance from Pine Island this time, as we wanted to keep some of our focus on sanding before we freeze up. “The format was tough, but that couldn’t be helped,” says Bryan. “Watching the presentations from the office was good as opposed to sitting in a meeting room. It was great to get updates on the various projects that are being worked on. And it also gave us a lot to discuss here on how we may experiment with our IPM and nutrition programs.” The main thing he missed, he said, was the lack of opportunity to talk to fellow growers.

“I thought that the presentations were well done and interesting and had a lot of substance,” Bill says. But like Bryan, he can’t wait to get back to in-person meetings. “The conversation between audience and presenter flows better in person, and you can speak with other growers on breaks to get their perspective and ideas.”

Mike Haines had a slightly different take: “I do miss seeing everyone in person; I always enjoy when all the NJ growers get together. But I gotta say I actually do like the Zoom meetings for learning purposes. It’s easier to take notes, and actually I find it easier for Q & A. I might be in the minority on that, I don’t know!” Like Bill and Bryan, he found all the talks very interesting. “Nick’s stuck out to me, because the proper nutrition of the Rutgers hybrids has been something I’ve really been working and focusing on. So that was good; I’ve had a lot of good conversations with Nick on that topic. Shawn Steffan’s presentation was really great too. They’re raising their own nematodes to use as a sort of biological insecticide. So cool! We’ve used some commercial nematodes before, but honestly I have no clue if they even worked or not. In this case, Shawn and his lab crew are raising nematodes native to that environment, so they’ve evolved to thrive there, I guess meaning they’ll be more effective. Even if we don’t end up messing around with anything like that, it was still so interesting to learn about. And that’s actually another benefit of Zoom meetings – a lot of barriers between regions have been knocked down. So we got to hear from Shawn in Wisconsin. And I’ve been able to attend various other Massachusetts and Wisconsin meetings this past year, since they’ve all been online. That’s been a really neat opportunity.”

All in all, it was another productive day for our Pine Island team as well another excellent program put together by Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona. Thank you, Cesar!

Meet Our Neighbors: The Gerber Family

The New Jersey cranberry industry is small, but it is mighty. Welcome to the next installment of our occasional series about some of our fellow New Jersey cranberry growers! This week, we spoke with fourth generation grower Tom Gerber of Quoexin Cranberry Company.

1. How long has your family been in the business?

I am a fourth-generation grower. My great-grandfather was Andrew Etheridge, who was the caretaker for Joseph Wharton at his Atsion farm from 1885 until his death in 1925. As the Farm Manager, he oversaw the cranberry operations at Sandy Ridge, Deep Run, Atsion Meadows, Goshen, Iron Mill, and Ancora bogs. My grandfather Julius Gerber worked for the Evans and Wills Company managing their Friendship Bog and later in 1912 switched jobs with Garfield Alloway here at the Quoexin 1 bog in Medford. My father Paul, his brother – my uncle Ross, and myself all worked for Francis Sharpless, who was an owner partner in the former Evans and Wills company. Christine Gerber and I purchased the 1000-acre property containing 60 acres of bogs in 1997, and I am still farming here today.

2. What’s your favorite aspect of cranberry farming?

I very much enjoy meeting, socializing, and gathering with the many growers from all over North America! I am a big history buff and am especially interested in of all of the pioneer growers from the industry’s beginning. I pride myself most with my family’s drive and endurance to keep going every new year.

3. What has been your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge continues to be the cost of surviving these times, as well as our location in the New Jersey growing region. It’s the area where the industry began, 150 years ago. With the eastward movement of the growing area, we are the westernmost bog in the state. Being close to the Pineland towns of Medford and Marlton, we see suburban movement getting closer and closer every year. We are constantly pushing back a maturing Pinelands forest as it would love to invade the bogs. Weather is always a challenge, and have I mentioned: maple and sweet gum seedlings galore!

4. What makes your operation unique?

We are arguably one of the oldest bogs in the state, having some bogs and buildings still in use that were built about 1850 by William Braddock, who was a pioneer Medford grower. Quoexin is also a bog that Bill Haines Sr and John Lee gathered floaters from with the aid of an airboat in the early 1950s, this being a nod towards future water harvesting.

5. What’s a legendary story in your family?

My mother, Ruth Etheridge Gerber, was born and raised in Atsion Village Farm, living in the caretaker’s house of Joseph Wharton. My mom had many stories of growing up there and would tell this pinelands history to her children. One such story was about the Ryder Robbery Murder near Hampton Furnace in October of 1916. A large payroll for the Andrew Rider Hampton Bogs was the target. My mother’s Aunt Sallie and Mamie Etheridge had given the Burlington County Chief of Detectives Ellis Parker a description of suspects they saw near the Atsion store and train station hours prior to robbery murder, thus aiding in their conviction.

*Photos courtesy of Tom Gerber.

Previously: The Moore Family

Farm to table!

Every year, toward the end of the season, CEO Bill Haines goes into one of the final beds and harvests some fruit the old fashioned way for family and friends. This year, he even got a little surprise help from our friend and next door neighbor Steven Sooy.

One of the best things about the New Jersey cranberry industry is how it truly is a cooperative effort. Once Steven showed up, it took no time at all for the two of them to pick 150 pounds of cranberries for personal use!

The next step was getting the berries dried off and sorted. This was a bit of a challenge, as cold overnight temperatures meant our team had to run the sprinklers to guard against frost earlier in the week, so there was quite a lot of water on the fruit for a bog that hadn’t been flooded yet.

It took the afternoon and most of the next day, but we managed to get them dried, sorted, and put into boxes to distribute for everyone to make their holiday favorites!

And with the final load of berries for the 2020 harvest making its way to the Ocean Spray receiving station this afternoon, that’s a wrap on the prettiest season in the Pines! We are as ever, grateful to have such good friends and neighbors in the Sooy family, as well as all of the other growers who make New Jersey a true cranberry community.

Vendors: Allen’s Oil

Originally posted on January 13, 2017.

Our team is still working on sanding and all of the other usual winter tasks, so this week, we’re bringing you a quick look at one of our favorite vendors: Allen’s Oil!

Allen’s Oil keeps our irrigation systems running!

Allen’s, a fourth-generation family business in Vincentown, has been Pine Island’s diesel vendor since 2013. From their website:

In the 1940s, Harry T. Allen, Sr. and his son Harry T., Jr. started to deliver home heating oil along with coal. In 1964, the business was passed along to Harry, Jr. In 1977, Harry’s sons, Ronald L. Allen and Roger P. Allen, purchased the company where Ronald served as the third generation company president while his brother, Roger, was vice president.

With Ronald’s dedication, the business continued to grow. In 1991, Ronald decided to add a full-service propane division, at which time the name went from Allen’s Oil to Allen’s Oil and Propane, Inc. As the propane division grew, it was time to expand. In 1994, the Hammonton, NJ office and storage facility was opened with the ability to store 205,000 gallons of propane. Since that time, Allen’s has opened two more storage facilities: one in Elmer, NJ (2005) which has 108,000 gallons of propane storage and another in Southampton, NJ (2008) which has 120,000 gallons of storage.

In June 2001, Ronald purchased Roger’s share of the company. Keeping with the family tradition, Ronald now runs the company with his wife, Sandra, and their two sons Douglas and Jason. As of today, Allen’s Oil & Propane Inc. has a customer base of over 10,000 customers and continues to grow every day.

“I came in to meet with Bill,” says owner Ron Allen, “and he was completely straight with me. I asked him what he was paying, told him what I could offer, and he said, it’s a deal.” It’s a tough business to be in these days, Ron says, but “it takes people from both sides to make it work, and Pine Island is always there to support us.”

And we’re glad to support them, according to CEO Bill Haines: “Allen’s Oil is the kind of vendor we like,” he says. “They’re totally dependable and totally reliable. Which means that we not only don’t have to worry about whether they’re going to be here and do what they say, we don’t even have to think about it; we can just count on it.”

ACGA Summer Field Day 2020

This week the American Cranberry Growers Association (ACGA) held its annual summer meeting to hear updates from the Rutgers P.E. Marucci Center on current projects. Normally field day is a chance to go out and explore the researchers’ valuable work first hand, but this year, things were a little different.

“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this year we could not have our regular in-person meeting,” says Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona. “Instead, the meeting was held virtually, and the agenda had a ‘hybrid’ format with scientists from the Marucci Center and USDA-ARS presenting updates on their work during the first hour and a Q&A session during the second hour.”

As a result, it was a much briefer program, but the presenters were able to convey a lot of information in that short amount of time. First the growers heard from Dr. Peter Oudemans about his ongoing research on methods for managing fruit quality and disease control, as well as the potential of using honeybees to protect cranberries against diseases. Dr. James Polashock provided an update on his research to develop resistance against fruit rot, while director Dr. Nicholi Vorsa discussed a condition of cranberries he calls “crunchy vines” and its potential causes and remedies. Cesar, of course, discussed insect pest priorities as well as future Entomology research projects. Finally, Baylee Carr (representing Dr. Thierry Besançon’s program) provided an update on current strategies for Carolina redroot and moss control.

One of the biggest draws of the ACGA meetings, besides research updates, is the opportunity to catch up with fellow growers. This made the Q&A section of the meeting especially lively. “Despite having to move online, it was still a worthwhile and educational meeting for the growers,” says ACGA president Shawn Cutts. “Hearing updates on the latest research as well as having the opportunity to discuss late season issues during the Q&A was valuable.”

“Although we missed not having the regular in-person interactions and field tours typical of our summer meetings, the virtual meeting was well attended and highlighted the importance of continued communication and exchange of information between researchers and growers,” Cesar says.

“I missed visiting the Rutgers bogs but I thought it was a really good meeting,” says Pine Island CEO Bill Haines. “The presentations were clear and concise and the discussion and questions after were excellent.”

The ACGA board also thanks Lindsay Wells-Hansen for her help setting up the virtual meeting, and is, as always, hugely grateful to Cesar for organizing yet another successful gathering!