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.

March storms

Every year, we post an update about looking forward to spring, and it seems like every year, the first week of spring arrives via snowstorm!

The most recent nor’easter to come through this area left us without power for two days, but had the power not come back today, our team was prepared, thanks to the thunderstorms from June 2015!

Our winter storm prep remains basically the same every year: the number one priority is checking the water. The team checks for washouts, makes sure nothing’s too high or too low, and makes sure there’s no water on the dam itself. Team members make sure the main pathways are cleared; in order to do that, we send the front loaders home with some of them, which means once the snow hits, they can plow themselves out and start clearing the main dams. Then the rest of the team are able to go check the water or get to one of our facilities to do indoor work.

That means the Equipment/Facilities team also takes some precautionary measures, making sure those generators are ready to go in case we lose power for an extended amount of time. They also make sure the heat is turned up in any vacant properties onsite, just in case. “We also pack the shop with equipment to work on,” manager Louis Cantafio said last year. “That way, we don’t have to dig it out, or start it in the cold, or fill the shop with melting snow. We go over all the loaders, make sure they’re ready to go before the operators bring them home.” Then, once the storm hits “we have to get all the egresses open and get rid of snow everywhere we need to store incoming deliveries.”

Fortunately, the power outage didn’t last too long this time, and the snow seems to be melting quickly! Could this end of this long winter finally be in sight?

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!

Preparing for spring 2018

The weather sure likes to keep things interesting around here! Just two weeks ago we were experiencing an early spring, but this week we ended up shoveling several inches of snow. Nevertheless, spring should actually arrive for real before too long, and our team is getting prepared!

First, though, they have to do some clean-up. “A lot of tree branches came down during those last two storms,” says Matt Giberson. “So we’ve been clearing all that out.” The weather also, unfortunately, put a hold on sanding, but the team is very nearly finished! “We have two, two and a half days left,” Matt says. “We’re taking advantage of the time change to work a little later next week to finish it up. We would have been done today, if the weather had cooperated, but unfortunately it did not!”

Once that’s finished, though, the team will take advantage of the location. “Once we’re done, we’re going to patch up some dams that need work over at Sim Place, since we’ll have all the equipment we’ll need for that over there already. In the meantime, we’ll bring the sanding barges back and move on to installing gates up at the Cedar Swamp renovation.”

We’ll also be taking off the water before too long! “We’ll have a small crew doing early draw this year,” Matt says. “The plan is to do two to three systems a day to get ahead of that, concentrating on the young beds that we’re not going to frost protect this year. The priority will be getting Cedar Swamp ready to go so we can get the planting started. The earlier we plant, the earlier we get a head start on the growing season.”

As far as the established beds are concerned, the last two days of March the team will be installing the sprinklers before starting to take the rest of the water off the first week of April. “I haven’t done the numbers yet, but we’re shooting for four to five systems a day,” says Matt. “We’re not doing anything too unusual, but we have a lot of work ahead of us!”

The team has a busy spring planned, but there’s no doubt they’ll do whatever it takes to get it all done. And don’t forget, if you want to join them, we’re still looking for an ICM foreman!

First snow of 2018

Not sure if anyone’s heard anything about it, but it’s been a bit cold recently and we’ve even had some snow in the region!

The cold has been a struggle even without the snow. “We haven’t been doing any sanding, obviously,” says Matt Giberson. “At least, not until it thaws out, and in order to do that we need a good rain to melt the ice. We’re at least a week or two from that even happening right now.”

The farm ended up getting about ten to twelve inches in yesterday’s storm, and the team did a lot of work beforehand to get ready. “Some of it was already done as part of the usual routine,” says Louis Cantafio. “But we made sure everything was buttoned up. And in this cold, we’re trying to warm stuff up longer, but otherwise it’s steady as she goes.”

Wednesday was all about storm prep. “We’ve been keeping an eye on the models but you never know what you’re going to get,” said Matt. “We could get anything from one to four inches to one to four feet. But we’re getting the loaders ready and will drop them off with Junior, Wilfredo, Caesar, and Joel so when it hits we can start clearing immediately.” Water, of course, is always our top priority. “The winter flood is on everywhere, and we’ve got all the wells shut down. But it’s been a struggle because of the ice forming; it’s hard to judge what the natural stream is when everything freezes up on us. We’ll keep breaking any ice forming when the snow and the wind blowing into the gates, but we’ll see.”

Our team is also doing as little work outside as possible. “We’re keeping the guys inside because it’s going to be brutal for next couple days. When it warms up we can do outside work on the dams, but when it’s 3 degrees out it limits our outdoor work,” Matt says. “So we’ll keep everyone indoors until the temperature rises a little; we’ll work on sprinklers, build gates, do some clean up, get the camp ready for next year when the seasonal guys come back.”

It’s not easy, but our team will keep doing whatever it takes, whatever the weather!

Merry Christmas 2017

Another fun holiday post brought to you by the best in the business: our Pine Island Cranberry team! Once again, we asked our hard-working crew what they wanted Santa to bring them for Christmas, since they’ve all been so good.

(Except for that Louis guy, sometimes.)

Coco Mercado:

I would like more tools!

Larry Wedemeyer:

I want a new tig welder for the shop.

Ernie Waszkiewicz:

I’d like a new front seat for his service truck.

Louis Cantafio:

I have such a rich life that I do not want for anything!

Bryan vonHahmann:

Good health and happiness for my family!

Jonathan Irizarry-Vasquez:

I would like a girlfriend.

Joel DeJesus:

I would like a new car.

Joséan Hernandez-Vargas:

I would like a garage!

Vanessa DeJesus:

I would like more Hydremas…and I’m still waiting for my pink one!

Harry Mick:

I would like a new diesel truck.

Blondie Cruz-Soto:

I would like a Eagles jacket. GO BIRDS!!!

Caesar Colon:

I’d like a new Eagles hoodie and cap.

Scott Mattle:

I would like a new jet ski.

Matthew Giberson:

I have everything I need! However…I’d like Bill to get Nadine a Ford Raptor.

Jeremy Fenstermaker:

I would like a new front drive shaft for my Jeep, and for Tom Brady to retire.

Joann Martin:

I would like to ask that everyone gets to wake up on Christmas morning with the ones they love the most. A box that moves and barks under the tree would be nice too…

Stefanie Haines:

I want Nick Foles to get us a miracle.

Matt Stiles:

For Christmas I would love for everyone to have a great holiday with family and friends and a new GREEN tractor!

Mike Haines:

I want to get my Jeep all set and ready to go so I can go have some fun in it.

Thanksgiving 2017

Last year’s Thanksgiving post was so well-received, we thought we’d try it again! This week, the hardest-working team in the business tells you what they’re thankful for.

COO Bryan vonHahmann:

I am thankful for: being part of a great team and completing another year, spending time with family and friends through the holidays, and the new challenges that lie ahead!

Facilities/Equipment Manager Louis Cantafio:

I’m thankful that we have Stefanie working hard to make us all look good!

[It’s a tough job some days, but I’m here for you, Louis! Ed.]

Blue Team leader Matt Stiles:

I am thankful to help produce such a wonderful and healthy fruit like the cranberry for people around the world!

Manager of Operations Matt Giberson:

I’m thankful that Bill and company don’t mind my “Australian” accent. I am also thankful for all the great men and women that work at Pine Island.

Seasonal team member Sergio Sanchez:

I’m thankful that Pine Island has the confidence in me to provide me with new and exciting jobs daily.

Seasonal team member Benjamin Perez-Martinez:

I’m thankful for the opportunity to work here.

Seasonal team member Daniel “Cowboy” Lopez-Leon:

I’m thankful for everything, but most importantly that God sent me someone special to provide for me and my family.

Seasonal team member Felix Padilla-Lopez:

I’m thankful to be given the opportunities to learn new innovative jobs on renovation.

Seasonal team member Waldy Blanco:

I’m thankful for the opportunity to come back as a seasonal employee. Also I am grateful for the opportunity to take on important jobs throughout the farm whether it be checking the water or frost.

CFO Joann Martin:

I am thankful for all the experiences and opportunities that I have been given here at Pine Island. I am thankful for my husband and daughter that I get to see every day. I am also very thankful for Amazon Prime!

Admin Debra Signorelli:

I’m thankful for my two beautiful girls and the love and laughter we share together as well as being fortunate enough to work with a group of such dynamic individuals!

Team member Mickey Mercado:

I’m thankful for my family and health.

Orange Team leader Gerardo Ortiz:

I’m thankful for my dog.

Team member Junior Colon:

I’m thankful for my family and health and job.

Team member Wilfredo Pagan:

I’m thankful for my beautiful family and health and being a Pine Island employee for 38 years!

Bog Renovations Manager Steve Manning:

I’m thankful for my wife and kids being by my side all the time.

Accounting Manager Michael Vitale:

I’m thankful for my friends, family, and new opportunities.

Social Media Coordinator Stefanie Haines:

I’m truly grateful that this amazing team are writing the blog for me this week! Thanks, all; you truly are the best in the business, and you prove it each and every day.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Pine Island Cranberry!

Harvest’s end – 2017

Pine Island Cranberry wrapped up the harvest early last week, and our seasonal team members are on their way home after another job well done!

Our team’s hard work wasn’t an unqualified success, however. “It was a disappointing season all in all,” says CEO Bill Haines. “The crop was less than our target in terms of barrels per acre. We had held back, so we didn’t expect to have as big a harvest, but we were still 10% below our target. And the fruit quality not as good as we wanted, particularly on the young beds. That was disappointing.”

It’s not all bad news, he says. “We had an efficient harvest. The team worked well together, our equipment worked well, and over the course of the whole season, we learned a lot.”

We’d also like to extend a special shout-out to crew leaders Gerardo Ortiz and Matt Stiles, who did a great job this (and every) year. They managed a tough job with proficiency and excellent problem-solving skills: water management, fluctuating weather, ever-changing personnel and equipment needs, and everything else a good manager needs to do to run an efficient cranberry harvest!

Bill remains optimistic for next year: “One thing about growing cranberries: it’s like baseball. There’s always next season. And we’re already training for the next season.”

Spring updates – 2017

The team is keeping very busy this month, as always!

Bog renovation is going well, with the new irrigation going in at Mule Island in preparation for planting. “We’ll be putting in the Mullica Queen variety,” says manager Mike Haines. “It’s a later variety, like the Stevens it’s replacing, so it should be a good fit.” A later variety means they attain their full color later in the season. Per Rutgers, “Mullica Queen offers excellent yield potential with equal or higher color than Stevens,” and while we currently only have one Mullica Queen bed that’s attained full growth, it’s been a highly productive one.

The reno team has also been working on erosion control, which is always an ongoing concern.

Things have been hectic this week with frost, of course, but that should be slowing down a bit. “It’s been a busy frost week, which we knew was coming,” says Matt Giberson. “But it’s looking like that will lighten up for a little while.”

Unfortunately, part of the reason we’re expecting less frost is due to the expected heavy rains this weekend. But our equipment team is making sure the Crisafulli pumps are ready to go if needed, and dam maintenance is ongoing in order to minimize the risk of washouts!