Ocean Spray AGM 2019

Ocean Spray has once again held its annual meeting over Super Bowl weekend, albeit with a much more boring game this time.

REMEMBER WHEN?

Every year the AGM is an opportunity to sit down and catch up with growers from other regions to exchange stories and ideas and hear how the industry as a whole is faring. This year the growers also had opportunities to taste new products that have yet to be introduced to the public as well as a visit to the plant in Henderson, Nevada, with Pine Island manager Mike Haines coming away particularly impressed with the plant and their team.

Pine Island CEO Bill Haines came away with a good feeling about Ocean Spray’s direction.

“While there’s a lot of work to do, the atmosphere among the growers attending the meeting was positive,” Bill says. “We’re happy to see the energy and talent of Bobby’s new team: the reinvesting in renovation, reaching out to younger consumers, and positioning Ocean Spray for solid growth in the future.”

ACGA Winter Meeting 2019

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 2019 growing season. In addition, it’s a great chance for the local cranberry community to catch up to each other after the busy harvest season.

Pine Island sent a big crew this year, and they all came away pleased with the experience. CEO Bill Haines thought this year was particularly good, and as always, enjoyed the the chance to sit down and chat with fellow growers at lunch. ““You can get as much from just having a conversation over lunch as you can from the presentation,” he says.

The rest of the team were equally glad they attended. “It was good to know about some regulatory changes that are coming up,” says Justin Ross. “Knowing what will and won’t be available now will help us plan things better for later.”

“I thought Thierry’s research with the effectiveness of of some treatments on red root was interesting,” says Matt Giberson. “I think more testing should be done on the timing of the application that would be most effective, though. Very interested to know more about how we can kill that swan loving devil weed.” One other side note he thought was interesting: how some treatments seem to greatly reduce yield when applied early in berry development. “From talking to Peter, it seems that it causes phytotoxicity to the flower making it less likely to produce fruit, hence the cause of pin fruit development.”

Newer team member Mike Scullion says, “I enjoyed learning about the management of red root in our bogs as that is an ongoing issue we are dealing with on our farm. My favorite part of the meeting, as always, is learning about the new varieties Nick Vorsa is working on. They are getting closer and closer to producing a strain of cranberry that not only has a higher resistance to fruit rot, but still has a higher yield.”

“I found Nakorn’s presentation really interesting,” says Mike Haines. “We know that we don’t want blunt-nosed leafhopper in the bogs, as they spread false blossom disease, but it was interesting to hear his hypotheses and thoughts on why this interaction occurs, like how the leafhoppers that feed on diseased plants end up being larger adults, and that nutrient levels are actually higher in infected plants.”

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!

Ocean Spray Regional Meeting

This week, Ocean Spray held one of their regular regional meetings at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research to provide a business and cooperative update for New Jersey grower-owners. Not everyone manages to get to every Annual Growers Meeting, so it was a great chance to hear from CEO Bobby Chacko as well as several senior executives about where Ocean Spray is, where we’re going, and how we’re getting there!

Pine Island CEO and member of the Ocean Spray Board of Directors Bill Haines opened the meeting by introducing the management team. “Two things you can count on from this management team: one, they’re working hard, and two, they’ll tell us the truth,” he said.

Bobby said, upon his selection, “Ocean Spray’s story is close to nine decades old, but we are just getting started,” and everyone’s presentations this week are in line with that vision. We heard from Board Chairman Peter Dhillon, Bobby, and new senior executives Joseph Vanderstelt (SVP, Chief Financial Officer), Brian Schiegg (SVP, Chief Commercial Officer), and Jamie Head (Chief Information Officer), as well as board advisor Marla Gottschalk. Each speaker gave us a little bit of their background and what strengths they bring to Ocean Spray as an organization as well as their vision for the coop’s future. They touched upon supply, marketing, and the importance of emphasizing that the company is grower-owned, and spent a great deal of time answering questions both respectfully and openly.

“I thought it was great,” says grower Steve Sooy. “The more they’re here to talk with us, the better off they are and the better off we are. I appreciate straight talk, no sugarcoating, and they gave us that.”

“Honesty,” Steve says. “You can’t ask for better than that.”

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!

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!

Ocean Spray Receiving Station – Chatsworth’s 30th Anniversary

This year, the Ocean Spray receiving station in Chatsworth celebrates its 30th anniversary, and several growers were on hand to celebrate with the hardworking station crew.

“We wanted to have a celebration of our 30th anniversary just before we start harvest number 31,” says manager Bob Garatino. Bob and his crew work all year to make sure that the approximately 49 days of cranberry harvest run as smoothly as possible, from start to finish, and they’ve been making a lot of improvements in the “off” season. “Two months out of the year, our goal is cleaning and sizing cranberries. The rest of the year, we make sure our bins are cleaned and prepared for the next season. And we also take a few actions. As you enter the property and look around, there’s a lot of new signage related to safety. Safety is paramount; nothing we do is so important and no service we provide is so urgent that we cannot perform our job safely. Quality is king; we do our best to judge fruit fairly and consistently, because we know that’s our job. We’re committed to keeping costs as low as we can; where we can do it ourselves we will. We also look started asking ourselves “what if”: if something comes up, how will we handle it?”

Bob also took the opportunity to thank the growers for their support. “[The growers] have been here to plow out three feet of snow, to give us valuable feedback and advice, sending us blueberries, educating us on the latest research, bringing us holiday cookies, or just working with us to work out bumps and bruises of the annual harvest.” He is also very proud of his Chatsworth team. “They take pride in their work every day.”

Communication with the growers and timing delivery truly is the key, says supervisor Alonza Williams. “Production varies; if everyone gathers at the same time it’s going to crank things up, but if one grower is harvesting a lower yield variety than what another grower might be doing it balances out.” The receiving station has 12 people on staff during the slower months, but by the time they’re in full swing that number grows to 29, and that’s when communication truly becomes essential: “We’ll stay in touch with growers for their start and end times and even Sundays, by request.” In addition to prepping the bins, Alonza’s getting the lab ready so growers can ring samples in to test for TAcy and firmness.

“The Chatsworth receiving station has always been a big benefit to the growers in New Jersey,” says Pine Island CEO Bill Haines. “It’s always been a pleasure to work with the crew there. Bob, Alonza, Mike, and the rest of the team have always been more than helpful, and we’re glad they’re part of the Ocean Spray team.”

Blog anniversary: 2018

This week is the six year anniversary of the Pine Island Cranberry website, and it’s certainly been an eventful year!

Our normal yearly workload proceeded much as it usually does, with our annual schedule of bog renovation, frost, planting, and sanding, as well as the yearly harvest.

We had our annual visit from Dr. Joan Davenport, and made some changes to our plant nutrition program, and dealt with the usual seasonal tasks for summer, winter, and spring.

Some team members celebrated some big work anniversaries, and everyone celebrated a couple of safety milestones by getting to go home a little early! We also welcomed two new employees this year on our Facilities and Equipment team and at the office, and are currently looking for someone to join our ICM team!

It’s been a huge year for our stewardship work with New Jersey Audubon and Pine Creek Forestry. The Northern Bobwhite Quail Initiative continues to go well, and even received some national and state recognition! We’re truly honored to be working with such great partners on such an important project.

Harvest continues to be the topic our readers are most interested in, and this year, they got to see a bit more than usual! In addition to our weekly blog posts, we received visits from both Nora Muchanic and Mike Jerrick, as well as several print publications. We’re always glad to tell people about doing what we love, and how our team does whatever it takes to make the prettiest sight in the pines happen, year after year!

Last but not least, we got to celebrate at a very special Annual Growers Meeting, which we’re planning on enjoying for quite some time.

We’re so glad you’ve continued following us from “Bog to Bottle” (as one of our favorite people at Ocean Spray likes to say) for the past six years, and we’re looking forward to keeping you updated for many years to come!

Ocean Spray AGM – 2018

This week, CEO Bill Haines and manager Mike Haines attended the Ocean Spray Annual Growers Meeting (AGM) and a good time was had by all!

…At least, by all of the Eagles fans in attendance!

In all seriousness, the Ocean Spray AGM is always fun, and a great chance to catch up with fellow growers in a lovely, relaxing setting. “It’s always awesome to have the chance to check out new products,” Mike says, “and being able to catch up with growers from other regions is invaluable. I was able to sit with with Cass [Gilmore] and Ben [Richards] and had a good talk with them about fertilizer, for instance. I told them what Jeremy [Fenstermaker] and I learned in Wisconsin, and what they’re doing up in Massachusetts sounded similar; they said they’re getting good results. Cass even sent slides from a grower meeting they had about fertilizing hybrids more heavily and more often; I’ve been thinking about that, so it’s good to see those results.”

There were some good opportunities for leisure time at the beach and dinner with other New Jersey growers, as well as some good-natured football rivalry! “I wore Eagles gear every single day and never took my hat off,” Mike says. “And Peter Dhillon [Chairman of the Board of Directors] lost a bet, so he conducted the meeting while wearing Dad’s hat!” (Bill and neighbor Steve Lee broke out the Eagles polo shirts. Subtle, but effective.)

“It was good to see growers from around the country, and think that despite the pressures facing the industry that it was a positive meeting,” Bill says. “It was great being at Marco Island, it was a great Super Bowl party, it was great to be with the growers. All in all, I think everyone came away feeling positive about Ocean Spray and positive about the future of the industry.”

*Some photos provided by John Parke and Nadine Haines.

From Bog to Bottle 2017

If it’s mid-October, that must mean it’s time for another visit from George Giorno of Ocean Spray! 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 visit again with Greg McCann of Advantage Solutions, who brought along new customer development manager Julianna Lombardi, and John Aleksandrowicz and Mark McFadden of Foodtown/Allegiance Marketing. Rounding out the group were Ocean Spray sales directors Eric Sinsigalli and Brian Gormley!

The morning started at the Pine Island main office, where CEO Bill Haines gave the group a brief farm history and a quick overview of what they were about to see, and then it was off to catch the action.

We’ve only been running one crew this week, but there was plenty of opportunity to see everything going on! They got to see the older reel harvesters in action as well as the bog side cleaner, and there was even time for a quick tour of the shop and a close-up look at one of our recently planted beds before heading to the Ocean Spray receiving station in Chatsworth.

George and his group are always a highlight of our harvest season, and they always have a good time.

“I learn something new every single year,” says Greg McCann. “This year I learned that due to the warmer and drier weather this year, you are only running one crew and picking late due to the fact that the berries are not turning red as quickly as you would like. I also learned the different shades of red that are needed to make Craisins. And it was another perfect weather day, as well!”

Mark McFadden wants to come back again and try something new: “I thought Wednesday was an awesome day, and I must say, Pine Island is a very impressive operation. I am hoping next time I can go into the bogs!”

“As a long time Ocean Spray Sales Manager, I can easily say that no other experience compares to the expression on my customer’s faces than that of witnessing the magic of our cranberry harvest at PICC with the Haines family,” says George. “No matter how I prepare them for what they’re about the experience, it’s never enough and never disappoints! This year was no different as John, Mark and Juliana were all rendered speechless as we drove through the farm on what amounted to be the perfect brilliant fall day! For me, this serves as my annual cranberry charge as it reminds me how blessed I am to be both associated with such a wonderful brand and where I get to be part of a generous cooperative grower family who treat me as one of their own!”

Bill was just as happy with this year’s visit. “It was great to have the Ocean Spray team here,” he says. “George always brings an interesting group of people. We don’t do many tours, but that’s one we always enjoy. We’re happy to show our operation, our heritage, and talk to them about everything we do to protect the environment and supply quality cranberries for the market.”

Thanks again for a wonderful morning, George! We appreciate everything you, your team, and your guests do, and we look forward to seeing you next year!

From Bog to Bottle 2016

Harvest time means it’s time for our yearly visit from George Giorno of Ocean Spray! 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 visit again with Greg McCann and Jim Falese of Advantage Solutions, as well as Chris Przewoznik and Ed Peslak of General Trading Wholesale, Lauren Schmidt, Jeff Bowen, and John Scarangello with Ocean Spray’s retail operations, and last but not least, George’s daughter Marissa, a sales analyst with Kellogg’s!

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The morning began in our main office, with CEO Bill Haines giving the group an introduction to our operation and a brief family history. Then, it was off in the van to see the harvest in action! We were unfortunately not able to see the harrow at work, but the group was able to see our new bog side cleaner running out at Sim Place, and even got the chance to go up and see the view from the top!

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Greg McCann was happy to see our new equipment, as well as the results. “I really enjoyed this visit, as I saw a new process that you weren’t really using last year! It’s great to see how you now save steps in the process and free up some of your people to do other things,” he says. And he was impressed by our team’s driving skills, as well: “It was interesting to watch the tractor trailers navigate around the narrow roads throughout the bog.” He’s looking forward to coming back again next year, with different customers, and the feeling is mutual!

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Lauren Schmidt, Ocean Spray’s newest Retail Operations Manager, expressed similar enthusiasm: “I loved the tour of the farm and bogs. Our team got the full experience, from tasting fresh cranberries off the vine, to watching each step in the impressive process of harvest. We lucked out with a beautiful fall day and the colors of the harvest were gorgeous! The Haines family took time out of their busy schedules to show us around for several hours and I know everyone felt the pride they have in the business throughout our time together.”

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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 it. I think it’s good for all of us,” Bill says.