It’s once again the most exciting time of year at Pine Island Cranberry: we began to harvest this week!
In addition to the work our equipment team has put in, our other teams have been unstinting in their preparation, as well. Once crew selections were made, the team supervisors started training the newer team members on the equipment as well as pointing out the more seasoned team members so the rookies know who to see for guidance if necessary. They also began staking the bogs to show the pattern in which the bog needs to be harvested to protect the vines from damage. (To go “against the grain” could severely damage the vines.) Finally, the supervisors began flooding the bogs, monitoring water levels until each was ready for the picking crews.
As always, water management is the most crucial task our team members perform. Reservoirs need to be at their highest level to begin the flooding process. A meticulous flood plan needs to be in place in order to set our targets. This includes determining how many bogs need to be flooded each day and at what pace; some will be slow, some more quickly. The water level needs to be monitored based on how long it will take to harvest the bog, raising it for gathering. Once the bog is harvested and gathered, the team supervisor needs to determine how much will be retained and how much will be transferred to the next bog, holding the water in a bog whenever they feel it necessary.
With the Green Team and the Orange Team working on established beds at Sim Place and the home farm, CEO Bill Haines took a ride out to the two and three year beds at Panama, which we are picking for the first time. When you plant a new bed, it’s usually a three-year cycle. “First year, roots; second year, shoots; third year, fruits”, as the saying goes, though if there is enough fruit we try to pick early. When asked why, Bill explains: “With cranberries, we always plant from vines because then they come up true. If you plant Crimson Queen or Stevens, you get Crimson Queen or Stevens. But cranberries will also come up from the seed.” In a young bog, our team might decide to pick if there’s a lot of fruit already in there. “It might not be entirely useable, but if we leave it, the fruit drops off and rots into the ground. We won’t know exactly what will come up, but chances are it won’t be as productive. It won’t have the same genetics.” Bill calls those “mutts”. “Mutts will take over a bog if you let them; they grow more vines than fruits. They bloom at different times, making it impossible to time fertilizer and fungicide. They go backwards instead of getting better.”
The official numbers aren’t in yet, but yesterday the gathering crew had hauled 68 boxes from Panama #6.
Bill says, “I can’t say as a farmer it’s going to be a great crop. But I would say that I think it could be a great crop this year.”