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 fifth generation grower and (ACGA President) Shawn Cutts of Cutts Brothers.
1. How long has your family been in the business?
Our family has been growing cranberries since at least 1906 when we purchased bogs in Tabernacle. Currently we have bogs in Bass River, Washington, and Tabernacle. We joined the Ocean Spray Cooperative in 1948. Five generations of the family have worked on the bogs including the three generations currently in the business.
2. What’s your favorite aspect of cranberry farming?
Harvest is everyone’s favorite season of the year at the bogs. Not only is it the time when all of your hard work is realized, it is also a great time for our family to work together and for visitors and friends to come share in the experience. Of course, a sea of floating red berries on a perfect fall day is a beautiful sight that is difficult to beat.
3. What has been your biggest challenge?
There is never a shortage of challenges for cranberry growers. Weather, bugs, weeds, rot, disease, governmental issues, and market uncertainty come to mind. All take turns at the top of our list. Collectively as growers we work hard to address these issues as best we can. We are fortunate to have some of the world’s top cranberry researchers close by at the Rutgers Marucci Cranberry Research Center.
4. What makes your operation unique?
Perhaps not unique, but certainly uncommon these days is the way we work together as a family. Whenever it is harvest time or there is a big project such as planting, nearly everyone in the family pitches in to help in some way. Whether it is running a picker, driving a tractor, gathering sprinklers, or cooking meals, everyone contributes. Other family members from Tennessee, Alabama, and Texas also come for all or part of the harvest season to help out. Although we are all exhausted by the end of the day, it is gratifying to accomplish the day’s work together as a family.
5. What’s a legendary story in your family?
There are many stories. The one that stands out for me took place when I was in middle school. It was an unusually cold frost night and much of the family was away attending a funeral. My dad and grandfather were the only ones left to run the sprinklers for frost. That night it got so cold that the sprinkler heads began to ice over and stop turning. I still remember my mom bursting into my room in the middle of the night and telling me to get dressed immediately to go to the bogs. After racing out there, my mom, my younger brother, and I spent the rest of the night breaking ice off sprinklers. It seemed like it took forever for the sun to rise, but when it finally did we had succeeded in saving the crop. Much to my displeasure, there was still time to make it to school that morning.
*Photos courtesy of Shawn Cutts.
Previously: The Sooy Family