As cooler weather rolls in and leaves change colors on their trees, the cranberries in the bogs at Weston Cranberry Corporation in Carver become brightly colored, full of flavor, and ready to be harvested.
Autumn is cranberry harvesting season in the US, and cranberry farm owner Gary Weston and his team have been hard at work for the past two weeks.
“This is when they turn colors and get ripe,” he said from his truck Wednesday afternoon. “As soon as they’re ripe enough, we start picking them.”
Weston’s farm has 100 acres of cranberry bogs, and every year, they’re flooded with water so that the cranberries can be harvested and shipped to Ocean Spray.
To harvest the berries, growers flood the bogs with water and knock the fruit off its vines, Weston said. The berries, which hold small pockets of air, then float to the surface of the water, where they’re collected by “corral boards.”
From there, the cranberries move through a “de-trasher machine,” which removes trash and leaves from the vines and deposits clean berries into tractor trailers to be transported.
“As soon as the truck’s loaded, it goes to Ocean Spray … and they take the cranberries to the freezers,” Weston said.
For the past two years, the Weston cranberry farm had record harvests, producing approximately 25,000 hundred-pound barrels of fruit each year, Weston said.
This year, they won’t be quite as lucky, but Weston said that’s just how it goes in the world of cranberry farming.
“We’ve had two record crops for the past two years, and this time mother nature said, ‘Okay, that’s enough,’” he joked. “But, they call that farming.”
He should know. Weston’s been in the family business of cranberry farming for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve been growing them most of my life,” he said. “It’s in your blood. I think I’m a fifth generation grower.”
Weston said he first ventured out into the bogs in Carver, where he’s lived his whole life, when he was about six. By the time he was 12 or 13, he was weeding the crops to earn pocket change.
“As you get older, you just get more involved,” he said. “I got away from it for a few years, I was in construction work, but I came back.”
Now, Weston said he appreciates the benefits of being in the family business. He works outside, makes his own hours, and spends time with his family.
Weston has two grown children, a son and a daughter, and his son works with him part time at the farm. Weston’s son, Craig, is also the fire chief for the town of Carver, but still puts in the hours in the cranberry bogs with his dad.
“The fellow growers from other farms are also really good people, all nice people, and it’s a challenge,” Weston said. “I like a challenge.”
When the harvest is over, Weston plans to take a trip to Maine or Pennsylvania with his son, brother, and cousins, who also work in the family business. But, before he can take time off to enjoy autumn on the East Coast, he has another month of hard work ahead of him.
“It’s not a nine to five job,” he said. “It’s a different type of life.”