Winter flood 2018

The winter flood has begun!

As we said last week in our post about dormancy:

The cranberry growing season lasts from April to November; the fruiting buds mature during the winter dormancy period. During the dormant season, severe winter weather could harm or even kill cranberry vines, which is why growers must take preventative measures to protect their crop. Under normal conditions, the temperature steadily drops post-harvest; it is important to wait until the vines go dormant before starting to put the water on. When vines go dormant, they turn burgundy in color:

Our winter flood program starts with making sure the water in the reservoirs is at the level we need. If there has not been significant rain to get the reservoirs to flooding level, we start our wells. We will continue to use the wells to maintain the reservoirs and the stream needed to get the bogs flooded. “Things are a little different this year,” says Matt Giberson. “We have so much water from all the rain that we haven’t needed to starting the wells. Which means we can be a little more at ease about things because we’re not worried about supply.”

water moving to the next bog

The next step is placing boards in the gates to start bringing the water level up in the bogs, much like we do to prep for the flooding at harvest in the fall. “There’s a lot to know. How the water works, where it’s coming from, where it has to go, how to move it the most efficient way,” says Matt. “It’s not something you learn overnight.” In practice, this means constant awareness and monitoring of where the water is coming from, where it is going, and how much stream is coming down.

Flooding starts by letting in streams from the reservoirs to canals and bogs. Strategic board placement (more boards in the southernmost bogs to catch the water) will get the ditches high and running down to start flooding from the bottom up.

As the water level in the bogs begins to rise, our team begins adjusting the water level in the bogs by adding boards where they are needed. Once the vines are covered and the stream has settled, we adjust the level of the reservoirs to maintain the stream and keep the bogs flooded for the winter. Wells are shut down once bogs are flooded, and only turned on again if it is dry and reservoir levels are dropping.

It is also necessary to make sure we are not losing water anywhere. “Sometimes you can hear the water coming through a gate that’s supposed to hold it,” Matt says. “It’s the same as running diesel fuel; it’s a big waste, and we need to try to stop it or slow it down.” He does this by adding sand or even grass in front of the leaking boards, as sometimes the sand can wash away too quickly.

Once we are flooded, our team needs to constantly monitor the bogs to make sure there are no leaks, that the water level remains steady, and that the stream remains constant. The weather is also a factor: no rain for a long period of time will shrink the reservoirs and wells may need to be started to maintain the water level in the bogs. Matt says, “If it gets cold enough for the water to freeze, I also need to check to see if I have to break any ice to keep the stream flowing, especially on the southeast gates.”

This year, new team member Mike Scullion is learning how the winter flood works! “It’s going really great,” he says. “I’ve been learning a lot from everyone, especially Gerardo, Stiles, Matt, and Jeremy. I’m learning the topography of the whole farm, how to run water in different directions . . .it’s all really interesting and I’ve been enjoying it. One of my favorite things I’ve done here so far.” The entire process is complicated with a lot to learn, but, he says, “I’m starting to grasp things now. You always have to keep track of where the water is coming from, how much of it there is, and where you need to send it. But even the hard stuff is great; putting on my waders to get into a bog, breaking through the ice, I love it.”

Going to sleep

The cranberry growing season lasts from April to November; the fruiting buds mature during the winter dormancy period. During the dormant season, severe winter weather could harm or even kill cranberry vines, which is why growers must take preventative measures to protect their crop. Under normal conditions, the temperature steadily drops post-harvest; it is important to wait until the vines go dormant before starting to put the water on. When vines go dormant, they turn burgundy in color:

Per the UMass Cranberry Station:

The signal to enter dormancy is most likely a combination of low temperatures and short days.

The dormant state lasts until the plant has been exposed to sufficient ‘chilling hours’ — hours of temperatures between 32ºF and 45ºF to complete the dormant cycle. In common with other perennial fruit crops, the cranberry plants must accumulate a critical number of chilling units in order to break dormancy in the spring and initiate flowering for the new season.

While we are waiting for the plants to complete this process so that we can begin the annual winter flood, our team is continuing to work on cleaning out interior ditches (better for drainage) and pest management (putting up swan string).

And, of course, we continue to work with our most important resource: our water supply.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It’s that time of year again! This week, the hardest-working team in the business tells you what they’re thankful for.

Vanessa is thankful for a successful harvest and that all of our equipment has run so well!

Ben is thankful to have a job at Pine Island.

Eduardo is thankful for the opportunity to return again to Pine Island.

Saul is thankful for being able to work here and for all of the great teamwork at Pine Island.

Sergio is thankful for the opportunity to work at Pine Island.

Popito is thankful for being able to work here and being able to work with such a great team during harvest. Additionally, he is thankful to be the leader of the blue team!

Matt Stiles is thankful for his family and the opportunity to work at Pine Island with an excellent group of people!

Debra, as with every Thanksgiving, is thankful for her faith and her family . . .even more so this year.

Bryan is grateful that another year of challenges is in the review mirror and is looking forward to a new set of challenges. He is especially looking forward to spending some down time over the holidays with family.

Joann is thankful this holiday season for family, friends, and everyone’s health.

Wilfredo is thankful for his health, the health of his family, and for what he has in life.

CoCo is thankful for all the good people around.

Carlos is thankful for everything!

Ernie is thanful for his friends and family.

Larry is also thankful for his friends and family.

Louis, not usually a man of such few words, says simply that he is just thankful.

Jeremy is a bit more voluble than Louis, and says: “I am grateful to be surrounded by family and friends who make each day better than the last. I am also glad to live and work on such a serene and beautiful property. I try to stop for a few moments each day and appreciate the beauty of nature around me. This is such a unique and interesting area, and I am thankful that I am able to experience the allure of the pines each and every day!”

Mike Scullion is thankful for his new job here, his wife who he married in October, and his new home here in the heart of the Pine Barrens.

Mike Vitale is thankful for all that he has in his life.

Mike Haines (our second newlywed Mike!) says he has a lot to be thankful for this year: “Daina and I getting married and getting to celebrate with all our family and friends. Completing another growing season and harvest. And getting Ozzy!”

Steve is thankful for his family, his friends, and the life they all live.

Stef is, as always, grateful that the team is willing to step up and write the blog this week, in addition to the myriad of other tasks they do to make this place nothing but the best!

Post-harvest tasks

Harvest is over and the winter flood hasn’t started yet, but our team is getting a lot done during this in-between time!

One of the biggest tasks is getting the swan string set up. “The swans arrived Tuesday,” says operations manager Matt Giberson. “We’ve had teams out setting up the swan string, and this year we’re trying out the laser in the middle of Sim Place.” While last year we tried putting the Agrilaser in the iddle of the farm, Matt thinks that particular area might have been too big to have the laser be an effective deterrent. “We’re going to try it out at Sim Place because the bogs there are so big that we have issues with swan string staying up all winter. If it doesn’t work there, then we’ll reassess.”

Other tasks involve raking and some interior ditching out at Sim Place, especially in places where the vine growth is so thick that it’s starting to cover the ditch completely. This can lead to a lot of standing water, which is no good at all for cranberries.

For instance, our team is also working on some areas with Phytophthora at one of our systems by putting down some sand and replanting some small patches this spring. In addition, we’re going to continue trenching for additional drainage as well as exterior ditching with the excavator, which will help us when we take off water in spring.

Our Facilities/Equipment team is also hard at work winterizing pumps and getting the second 12-foot sander ready for the sanding this winter as well as repairing and storing harvest equipment to make harvest prep for next year as painless as possible!

Our team also plans to hold off flooding if necessary until the maintenance work is done. “We’re not in a hurry,” Matt says.

A time for celebration!

We finished the harvest this week, but on Sunday we hit another, bigger milestone, and welcomed a new member to the Haines family!

Fifth generation cranberry grower Mike Haines married his lovely bride Daina this past weekend in Brooklyn, New York!

It was a beautiful service in a beautiful setting, surrounded by family and friends.

The wedding party included team members Tug Haines and Jeremy Fenstermaker (as the best man and a groomsman, respectively), while team members Matt Giberson and Matt Stiles were able to make the drive up from the farm to celebrate with the family.

It was an amazing weekend with food, wine, and fun, and we’re all so proud of our Mike. We love you both very much, and wish you a lifetime of happiness together!

*Some photos courtesy of Nadine Haines, proud mother of the groom!

Winding down!

Pine Island’s harvest is slowly but surely drawing to a close next week.

We’ve slowed down a little bit before the end due to late sequencing. “We get a certain amount to deliver each day for ten days,” explains Matt Giberson. “We wanted a certain number of barrels per day and that’s what we’ve been getting, so we have to deliver that within that time period.”

“It’s a little weird sometimes,” Matt says. “Usually we’re going full strength, but today we’re running just one crew and running two crews on Tuesday and Wednesday to finish up.” But the color looks really good and the beds that we’ve been harvesting have been great so far.

In the meantime, our team is getting a lot of other tasks done: there is a crew installing swan string, another crew cleaning ditches, and of course the latest bog renovations are coming along well!

New Jersey Audubon visit

This week we had a visit from John Parke of New Jersey Audubon, who brought a group of avid birders to Sim Place to see some bobwhite quail!

After driving out to Sim Place, John gave a brief talk, explaining what the project was about and how Pine Island came to be the survey site. Our site was chosen for several reasons, among them a state-approved Forest Stewardship Plan outlining long-term management goals as well as the extent of existing quality habitat already onsite from years of active forestry work, prescribed burning and agricultural best management practices that made it stand out above other sites in the region. Caring for the place where we live, work, and grow is one of our core values, and this project is a unique opportunity to give back to the land which sustains us.

University of Delaware student Mike Adams then demonstrated how he uses telemetry to track the quail, and in the process managed to flush an entire covey! An absolutely spectacular sight, and one we’re hoping will become more frequent.

Of course, no stop at Pine Island would be complete without seeing why we’re managing the land in the first place, so they finished the tour with a quick stop to visit one of our gathering teams and learn a bit more about the harvest process.

John is a great friend to Pine Island, and he always brings visitors who love the pines as much as we do! They were delighted to see so many different species in their natural habitat, and it was truly a pleasure to take them around.

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!

Orange Team – 2018

We’re finally getting some perfect fall weather for the harvest!

What finally brought it here, unfortunately, was another bout of heavy rain, which has made managing the water tricky! But our team was up to the task, remembering always the key question: where is the water coming from, and where do we want it to go?

“It was tough,” says team leader Gerardo Ortiz. “We’ve had to drop water some places and in others we ended up flooding a little bit more than we needed. We were out here in the middle of the night making sure everything was okay. But we got it!”

So while Gerardo keeps a constant steady eye on the water, our team will pick this particular system using both the Gates Harrow and the traditional water reels.

The team will be using the water reels in the older bogs again. “A couple of these beds have some ditches in the middle for drainage, so it’s easier to use the reels than the tractor,” explains Gerardo.

Now that we have the weather we need, we’re once again looking at another “red October”!

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!