Pine Island History: Bog names

While Ocean Spray knows our bogs by number for record-keeping purposes, our team at Pine Island mostly knows them by their names. We’ve mentioned some of them in passing, particularly with our posts on bog renovation, but with one minor exception, we haven’t gone into much detail about the story behind them.

Some bogs, of course, are named after family. There’s Billy, for CEO Bill Haines, Jr., and Holly, for his sister, who is also our previous CFO.

We also have Nadine, a set of five high-production bogs built in the late 80s in a former blueberry field and named for Bill’s wife. Not too far from our office are Stef, Becky, and Tug (also known as the SBT bogs), named after Bill’s three oldest children. We can’t speak for Bill and Holly and their own namesakes, but this blogger can reliably report that every year at harvest time, Stef, Becca, and Tug have a (mostly) friendly rivalry over whose bog is the highest producer. (Nadine stays out of it entirely, as she always wins!)

We also have bogs named for former team members and residents. The best recognized is probably Fred Brown, a section consisting of four bogs located near Brown’s former home on the property. Fred is, of course, most well-known to readers of The Pine Barrens, by John McPhee, and was a highly colorful character, to put it mildly. From the first chapter:

“I don’t know what’s the matter with me, but there’s got to be something the matter with me, because drink don’t agree with me anymore,” he said. He had a raw onion in one hand, and while he talked heshaved slices from the onion and ate them between bites of the chop. He was a muscular and well-built man, with short, bristly white hair, and he had bright, fast-moving eyes in a wide-open face. His legs were trim and strong, with large muscles in the calves. I guessed that he was about sixty, and for a man of sixty he seemed to be in remarkably good shape. He was actually seventy-nine. “My rule is: Never eat except when you’re hungry,” he said, and he ate another slice of the onion.

It’s not possible to improve on McPhee’s prose; if you haven’t read The Pine Barrens yet, it’s a fantastic book. You’ll come away from it wondering why the only thing we named after Fred is a cranberry bog. But cranberries are a perennial fruit; much like McPhee’s evocative writing, those vines will still be here as a memorial and a testament to our own history as well as that of the pines and its residents.

Pine Island History: Ralph W. Haines – Second Generation

Ralph Waldo Emerson Haines, youngest son of Martin L. Haines, is part of the second generation to run Pine Island Cranberry.

After Martin’s death in 1905, the property passed to his sons Ethelbert, Ernest, and Ralph. Ethelbert and Ernest took over the everyday operation of the cranberry bogs, continuing to expand the property, along with the others at the Birches, Burrs Mills, and Goose Pond. This partnership continued for a few years and then another division was made: Ethelbert took Hog Wallow and Ernest the other properties. Eventually Ralph, the youngest son (and CEO Bill Haines’ grandfather) purchased a part interest in Hog Wallow and was a partner until Ethelbert died in 1953. During their thirty year partnership they greatly expanded the area and planted many more acres of bogs.

The farm wasn’t Ralph’s main interest, however. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he became an attorney practicing in Mt. Holly, NJ. Ralph never really considered himself a cranberry grower; his brother Bert did the majority of the farm work, while Ralph was more of a “behind the scenes” man who kept it all together.

“Bert was the oldest brother, so he was the boss, by age and personality,” says his great-nephew CEO Bill Haines. “He was the visionary and a pretty colorful character. My grandfather was the more sober-sided one who made sure the books were balanced. Uncle Bert had the dreams and schemes; Grandfather was the one who pulled the brake when he needed to.” Ralph was an intellectually curious man who loved to read and had a keen interest in history, and passed that along to his grandson. “He had a broad perspective and a lot of insight,” Bill says. “He loved the business and loved that it was a family business, but he was also interested in how it connected to the rest of the world. And I think he passed that on to the succeeding generations. He was the only brother to have children, and it’s his line who kept the business going.”

It was under Bert and Ralph’s stewardship that Pine Island (then known as Haines and Haines) decided to join the Ocean Spray cooperative in 1948, which has remained a fruitful relationship ever since! And when the business was at its lowest point and the brothers wanted to sell, it was Ralph’s younger son, third-generation grower Bill Haines, Sr., who convinced them to give him a chance to turn everything around. . .and that’s exactly what he did.

Bill Sr had a vision as well as the work ethic to help make Pine Island what it is today, and that’s in no small part thanks to the groundwork done by his father. Ralph’s practical nature made everything we do possible, and we all benefit from his willingness to do whatever it took to keep the family business going through the hard times!

PIC History: Floater Building

Pine Island’s facilities team is continuing to improve the shop area by moving on to the next step in our facilities improvement plan: removing the now obsolete “floater building” to make room for employee and visitor parking. The floater building has a long history: back in the 50s, before growers started adopting wet harvesting methods, most cranberries were harvested for the fresh fruit market. Even then Pine Island (then known as Haines & Haines) was concerned with efficiency and waste. “We always had a good team,” says CEO Bill Haines, “but no matter how good our scoopers were, a large percentage of fruit would fall through that we couldn’t access, and that drove my dad crazy.” Once the dry harvest was done, as now, the bogs would be flooded for the winter. Bill Sr. got some flat bottom boats similar to the Everglades airboats, and once the bogs were flooded, he would take the boat out onto the bog. The wash from the boat would shake the berries loose, causing them to float to the surface. The “floaters”, as they were called, were unsuitable to be sold as fresh fruit, and needed to be processed differently. In order to do that, Bill Sr. put up the “floater building”. Eventually, as wet harvesting became more widespread, processing the harvest shifted entirely over to the packing house, and the floater building became storage instead.

It’s a little sad to see the floater building go; it holds a lot of memories for some of our more long-term team members. “It used to be where we gathered first thing in the morning to go over the day’s assignments,” says GM Fred Torres. “It was always the same: Bill Sr. would walk in from his house, saying good morning to everyone, and Bill Jr. would have his binder open on the hood of his truck. Now it’s Bill Jr. coming in and I’m the one with papers on the hood of my truck.”

It was necessary to make some changes, though. “The building wasn’t originally intended for storage, which is what we’d ended up doing with it,” says Facilities manager Louis Cantafio. “The new storage building we’ve put up is a little more spacious, with better lighting and easier access. Plus with the newer shop building and the old office being converted into our new ICM [Integrated Crop Management] facility, we had a shortage of parking for both employees and visitors. Now, we’ll be more efficient, with more contemporary storage as well as improving traffic patterns with better parking for our staff. Plus, it will be easier for the big trucks going in and out.”

The demolition process was also a chance to test some of our newest equipment. Pine Island recently purchased a GoPro camera for training use. “It’s a great opportunity for new team members to see what fairy ring looks like, as well as pest or frost damage,” explains PIICM manager Cristina Tassone. “It’ll also be great for equipment training, so Junior [Colon] volunteered to test it for us!” The following video was taken while Junior was clearing debris from the demolition.

GoPro test – Junior Colon from Pine Island Cranberry on Vimeo.