Nutritionally, cranberries are really good for you, but in the sense of what I’ve done in my career with them, we’re looking at the nutritional requirements of the plant, what’s needed for it to grow and thrive and produce a crop. I spend most of my time here thinking about what will make the cranberry industry more sustainable. Specifically, I look at water and nutrient use and how those two interact. The rest of my staff think about all the other questions, like pest and frost management or any of the other things that could be challenging to cranberry growers here in Massachusetts.
Global warming has become a question that we’re more and more interested in, in terms of how it will affect the ability of cranberry production to stay in Massachusetts. The obvious answer is that there’s a fairly vibrant cranberry production area in New Jersey, so if we become [warmer] like New Jersey, that shouldn’t be a problem. But the longer answer is that some of the climate extremes that come with global warming — big storms, droughts followed by huge rain events — may be more of a challenge.
When I was growing up around the cranberry industry, some of the questions were a little simpler. My grandfather had cranberry bogs, and my father was employed here at the UMass Cranberry Station for his entire career, as director for the last 15 years. Over time, I came to realize there’s a lot involved in growing cranberries. There’s a lot of science, a lot of research. It’s not just playing around the bogs and helping with the harvest in the fall — there’s so much more to it.
My consumption of cranberry products spans from sweetened, dried cranberries in my morning cereal to chutney or sauces I make myself to the cranberry juice in my cosmopolitans. There’s always a bottle of cranberry juice in my refrigerator.
— As told to Joel Brown (Interview has been edited and condensed.)
DID YOU KNOW? In 2012, Massachusetts growers harvested roughly 2 million barrels of cranberries valued at more than $99 million.