Photos: Cranberry harvesting in Rochester

Nov 8, 2020

ROCHESTER — Beyond a shadow of a doubt, cranberry growing is easily associated with the way of life in Rochester. And it’s the time of the year when they’re being harvested.

Over at the bogs owned by Selectmen Woody Hartley and his brother, Walter, the wet harvesting of the berries took place over the Nov. 7 weekend.

Woody said the harvest this year is smaller than usual due to the varying weather conditions over the summer. 

The Tri-Town has been experiencing a severe drought in the last few months that is affecting crop growth, including cranberries.

Ideally, he said stable weather with rain every four to five days would be best for the cranberries. A humid heat isn’t good for them, which is unfortunately what the town experienced a lot of this summer.

Because of this, he said there’s more rotted berries in the harvest because they essentially cook in the summer sun.

Still, he “heard reports that it’s been really good,” for cranberry growers this season in Rochester. 

The family has grown cranberries since 1994 after spending about seven years precisely digging down to create the upland bogs. 

The land was shaped in a way so that the bogs are higher and bigger in the front of the property than the ones at the end. This helps the water flow easier when it's time to flood the bogs for wet harvesting using a manmade pond in the back of the property. 

Dry harvesting, or when the berries are picked without flooding the bogs, can take up to two weeks.

Meanwhile, the wet harvesting process will only take a few days.

After the bog is flooded, a machine is driven through the bogs to pick the cranberries. The orange flags stuck in the pond indicate where the center line is for the driver, and the yellow flags show where there are obstacles like sprinklers. 

Next, the berries are corralled together and pushed into a pumping system. 

Lastly, the berries move through a machine where they are cleaned and then fall into the truck where they’ll be shipped out.

On the day of, Woody enlisted the help of his grandchildren to corral the fruits in the bogs, while the younger ones stood on top of the cleaning machine and took out vines from the flow of berries.

Cranberries from wet harvests will be used for sauces, craisins and juices, while dry harvested berries are fresh and can be bagged up by customers at grocery stores.