#WinThanksgiving – thanks, Ocean Spray!

This entry was originally posted on November 27, 2013 with the title “Happy Thanksgiving!”

It’s almost inevitable that a cranberry blog would do an entry about Thanksgiving! It’s a holiday which really is a chance for us here at Pine Island to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor. (Sorry.) Many traditions in the Haines family come from cranberries, both our own and through the Ocean Spray cooperative. And best of all, they’re usually locally sauced! (Really sorry. We’ll stop now.) CEO Bill Haines goes out every year toward the end of harvest and hand scoops several pounds of berries for family use, using a wooden scoop that’s been in the family for generations.

Huge thanks to our friends at Ocean Spray for allowing us to use the following recipes and photographs, as well as posting the information showing us how these recipes are berry good for both you as well as the environment! (We said we were done. We lied. After all, cranberry farming can be a barrel of laughs.)

To start off, of course, you’ll want a cocktail. Vodka and cranberry is a popular combination, but did you know it actually has a name? To make a Cape Codder, you’ll just need the following:

Ingredients:

6 ounces Ocean Spray® Cranberry Juice Cocktail, chilled
1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:

Pour into a tall glass filled with ice. Makes 1 serving.

Of course, you can’t have a turkey without stuffing. Cape Cod Cornbread Stuffing just fits the bill:

Ingredients:

2 cups cornbread stuffing cubes
1/2 pound sausage meat, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 cup Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
1/2 cup diced onion
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Combine all ingredients, except chicken broth, in a medium casserole dish. Add chicken broth; mix well. Add more chicken broth for a moister stuffing. Cover and bake for 30 minutes or until heated through. Makes 3 cups.

The following is a classic for a reason; it pairs perfectly with a leftover turkey sandwich! (Or, as some first graders we know have done…mix it with mayo and put it on a hamburger. To each her own.)

Homemade Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained

Directions:

Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

Makes 2 1/4 cups.

This side dish doesn’t contain any cranberries, but who’s to say you couldn’t add some Craisins? [Ed. note, 11-15-2019: this recipe has been updated since this post was originally published, and the recipe now contains Craisins! We’re leaving the recipe as-is on our site, but please visit the updated link for this recipe and many more!]

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds fresh brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
Salt and pepper

Directions:

Trim stems of brussels sprouts; remove any damaged leaves.

Place brussels sprouts in 3-quart saucepan; add water to just cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer until brussels sprouts are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain; keep warm.

In the meantime, toast pecans. Place nuts in single layer on baking sheet. Bake in 350° oven 3 to 5 minutes or until light golden brown, watching carefully.

Melt butter in same saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Stir in brussels sprouts and pecans; toss gently to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Makes 6 servings.

Last but not least, we have dessert: a longtime family favorite is a cranberry nut pie that Bill’s mother used to make.

SARA’S CRANBERRY NUT PIE

Ingredients:

Filling:
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sugar

Topping:
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons almond extract

Directions:

Mix the first three ingredients together and spread in the bottom of a greased 10 in pie plate. Mix together the last five ingredients and pour over cranberry mixture. Bake 55-60 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

No photos of that last one…it usually gets eaten too quickly. Happy Thanksgiving, from all of us to all of you!

Ocean Spray: From Bog to Bottle 2019

Harvest time also 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 fifth visit, as well as Jeremy Mitchell (also from Advantage) for his second visit and Michael Janeway (Category Manager Beverage/Juice) and Stephen Fox (Category Manager Dried Fruit) from Wakefern.

CEO Bill Haines met the group upon their arrival and walked them through a brief history of the farm and some of the changes we’ve made recently, and then it was off to see our harvest crew hard at work!

We’re taking things a little slow this week as we wait for the color, so the group wasn’t able to see the harrow in action, but they did see a crew on the reel harvesters and watched from the top of the bogside cleaner as the gathering crew finished one bed and sent the truck up the road to the receiving station. They also got to see our latest renovation at different growth stages, as well as a brief discussion about our forestry project and the quail initiative.

“Even though this was my fifth trip, I always learn something new or different,” says Greg McCann. “When Bill was explaining how you renovate the bogs, and the order the plants are in, I found that quite interesting, as you now have more tech in the cranberry harvesting process! I also never realized that you had your own sand pit, for lack of a better term, and how you mine the sand and moved it around the property.”

“The annual fall pilgrimage to visit the Haines Family at Pine Island remains the best part of my work calendar each and every October and this year was no different, ” George Giorno says. “We were fortunate enough this year to have Bill, Stef, and Michael as our farm tour hosts with our guests from Wakefern Food Corporation and our agency partners from Advantage Solutions. For our Wakefern guests, Michael Janeway and Stephen Fox, this was their first time experiencing the beauty of the cranberry harvest and for me, it was yet another day where I get to share the roots to the passion I hold for our cranberry business and pride it poses in our ownership. Our guests loved the farm tour and were so grateful they got to experience a cranberry harvest. As we drove home, they were already creating a list of associates for next season who they believed should attend a harvest. As an added bonus to this trip, we were also able to learn from Bill beyond the active cranberry harvest. Bill educated us about the importance of continuously renovating the older bogs to improve fruit quality and to enable more efficient drainage and harvesting methods. We visited several renovated bogs at different stages of their 3-5 year yield curves to witness the evolution of a new bog. These trips are just fascinating and such a positive learning experience – already, I can’t wait for next year’s visit!”

For our part, it continues to be 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. We’re looking forward to seeing you again!

A visit from DC

In October 2014, Pine Island had a visit from Senator Cory Booker; during that same week, our neighbors at Lee Brothers received a visit from Senator Robert Menendez. This week, a group of New Jersey cranberry growers welcomed Senator Menendez’s aide Rob Childers, who had been unable to make it the last time and has been wanting to come see us ever since!

Rob’s afternoon in cranberry country started with a video at the Lees before moving on to Pine Island, where we immediately put him to work! He was able to see both the reel harvesters and the newer Gates Harrow in action, as well as the entire gathering procedure from start to finish.

After that, he stopped by the Marucci Center for a chat with director Nick Vorsa and a tour of the greenhouses.

The final stop was a tour of the Ocean Spray receiving station.

“We would like to thank Rob on behalf of Rutgers, Ocean Spray, and the Cutts, Haines, and Lee families for making the personal effort to visit with us during cranberry harvest,” says grower Steve Lee III. “We hope the visit gave him a new perspective on the cranberry industry in the NJ Pinelands and the nationwide importance of the unique agricultural research that is conducted here.”

*Some photos provided by Steve Lee III.

Processing

The second full week of harvest is going well! Last week, manager Matt Giberson talked about how we’re testing samples before a truck goes to Ocean Spray. “If the numbers aren’t great,” he said, “we’re taking it to our own packing house and clearing it out before we send it up the road.” Here’s how that works.

Each bog is run through separately. First, the forklift crew unloads the full cranberry boxes from the trucks coming out of the field. Once the cranberries are poured into the hoppers, they pass along the belt through the blowers, which are used to partially dry the fruit and remove as many of the leaves as possible. Once the leaves are blown out, the fruit drops onto another belt and from there move up the truck elevator into the waiting trailer.

Things are a little different if our team is going straight from the bog to Chatsworth, though!

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 (whether it’s cleaned with the bogside cleaner or at our own packing house), 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!

Meet Our Neighbors: The Sooy 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 our immediate neighbors to the south: Peggy Sooy and her sons Steven and Johnny.

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

Stevie: Grandpop used to live at Stormy Hill behind where the Pine Island office is now. Otis gave him the lower track here and they moved over in ’45 or ’46. We’ve been working here ever since.

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

Stevie: I just love the whole growing season. Taking the water off, putting the risers in, bringing in the bees…

Peggy: You’re a farmer and you enjoy what you’re doing!

Stevie: Exactly. Because at the end you’re looking out there at a sea of red, then that last truck heads for the receiving station and blows the horn. I just enjoy the whole thing from beginning to end.

Peggy: You dedicate so much of your life to this and you know, it’s part of you. It’s part of your thinking process. The paperwork will kill you, though.

3. What has been your biggest challenge?

Stevie: Getting the bugs under control!

Johnny: Weather.

Stevie: Yeah, that too. Cranberry growers are always calling each other: “What temperature are you getting? This guy’s at 32 already, that guy got hail, what are you looking at?” Everything else we can control, but you can’t control the weather or the insects!

Peggy: There are a lot of ifs. Weather. Surviving the season and meeting expenses. When we had blueberries the issue was getting the help but we have great neighbors!

4. What makes your operation unique?

Peggy: It’s not only a farm, it’s a friendship, it’s family, all of us. Anything we need. What’s so unique with us, unlike a lot of growers, we’re really small. So it’s great to take care of.

Stevie: It’s a big garden in a way. We can look out the window and say “no geese, no swans, we’re okay today!”

Peggy: We have the same strength as so many other growers: we’re family owned and you can depend on your family…which is the three of us at this point!

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

Peggy: I think just how we started out and have managed to keep going, really. Art’s mother and father worked hard and managed to keep the place going. It’s a reward, being able to keep the farm up all these years. That’s our reward.

*Photos courtesy of Peggy, Steven, and Johnny Sooy.

Previously: The Lee Family

Meet Our Neighbors: The Lee Family

Last week, we celebrated seven years of bringing you our story online. This week, we thought it was time to hear directly from some of our friends in the industry. Welcome to our inaugural post in what will be an occasional series about some of our fellow New Jersey cranberry growers!

For this first post, we spoke with our longtime friends and neighbors to the north, the Lee family! Steve Lee IV, the sixth generation of the Lee family to take an active interest in his family farm, was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

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

The Lee Family has been farming in Speedwell since 1868. Lee Brothers, Inc. which is part of the Ocean Spray Grower-Owned Cooperative has been in continuous operation since 1949. Integrity Propagation, the cranberry industry’s first foundation-level nursery has been in operation since 2008. Currently the 5th, 6th and the 7th generations of the Lee Family are living and working on the cranberry production or greenhouse operation which encompasses Washington, Woodland and Tabernacle Townships.

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

The harvest season is by far the most special time of year for our family. When the crop is good, the harvest season can be very rewarding. When crops are not as strong as expected, harvest is more of a time to reflect on the decisions made during the past growing season and begin to create the playbook for the upcoming growing season. Either way, harvest is special because we celebrate our heritage and share it with visitors that want to experience the season and be “part of the crew”.

3. What has been your biggest challenge?

Challenges? What challenges? Keeping governmental regulations under control is by far the biggest issue. Collectively, our industry works on developing and nurturing our relationships with lawmakers to help with ever-increasing regulatory, manufacturing and horticultural challenges. Managing these relationships can sometimes be very time consuming.

4. What makes your operation unique?

For the most part, we all get along. Not all farm-families do, which could sometimes certainly be a problem. Historically, we have an outside-the-box approach to innovations that are geared towards improving overall operational efficiency and agricultural production. Many of the innovations developed here have become standard throughout the industry including but not limited to the ride-on harvester and fertilizer/spray buggy. Several members of our family have served and continue to serve in leadership positions in a variety of areas including government, associations, civic, religious, banking, and agricultural. We are also so fortunate to have enjoyed multiple generations of our family working together, and employees that have become part of our extended family. We are also very unique in having such a great relationship with our neighbors, the Haines Family.

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

As with any farm family, we have many family stories. Some of the stories involving each of the generations of the Lee and Haines families are legendary, but probably not suitable for print. We are very fortunate to be part of a cooperative that truly is a multi-generational extended family. That was most evident on Labor Day 2012, when we were hit with about 13” of rain in roughly a 6 hour period. Although it rained throughout South Jersey, the hardest hit area was right here in Chatsworth, Speedwell, Hog Wallow and Pineworth. Once word began to get our on how much rain we had, support came in the way of equipment, manpower, food and phone calls to “check on us” and offer “anything we needed”. Certainly, the outpouring of concerns and support we received was not concentrated to that day or even that instance, but it clearly demonstrates the love, passion, support, and cooperation of the cranberry industry here in New Jersey.

The Lees are fantastic neighbors and even better friends, and we’re glad to have such good people in our community!

*Photo courtesy Steve Lee IV.

Blog anniversary 2019

This weeks marks the seven year anniversary of the Pine Island Cranberry website, and as always, we’ve had quite an eventful year!

The annual harvest remains our biggest draw for readers, of course, and this year saw not only our annual visit from George Giorno and his Bog to Bottle tour, but our own visit to the Ocean Spray receiving station!

The receiving station, coincidentally, celebrated its 30th anniversary this past year, and Pine Island team members were there to celebrate with them.

Team members were also in attendance at both the ACGA summer field day and winter meeting, as well as at the Ocean Spray Annual Growers Meeting.

We also profiled several team members over the past year. Both Jeremy Fenstermaker and Ernie Waszkiewicz both celebrated milestone work anniversaries, and we also talked up newer team member Justin Ross.

The bobwhite quail project continued with another release last April.

The Haines family also had quite a year! Not only did they once again start farming the original property at the Birches, originally purchased after the Civil War by Martin L. Haines, they welcomed sixth generation member Jack Fenstermaker to the world of cranberry growing with his very first summer job. In November, they gained a brand new member of the family when Mike Haines married the lovely Daina!

Pine Island also got some media coverage, as most operations do every year around harvest time. This year, the quail project was covered locally, while the harvest was covered by both NBC 10 and Business Insider. But the seemingly unanimous favorite this year goes to this fun piece about CEO Bill Haines, accompanied by a fantastic video.

And, of course, our entire team remains proud to be members of the Ocean Spray family.

We look forward to everything the next year has in store for us, and we’re so glad you’re all here to read about it as well!

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.”