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!