BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Most people know Wisconsin for its dairy, but a popular fruit is also a vital part of the state’s economy. Tonight, in Harvesting Heroes, First News at Nine’s Carla Rogner takes us to Black River Falls where cranberry harvest is in full swing.
Wisconsin is the country’s number one producer of cranberries. Here at Brockway Marsh in Black River Falls crews are working to harvest 90 acres of the fruit.
For Jim Bible, October in Wisconsin means cranberry season.
Jim Bible, Brockway Cranberry Inc. Owner said, “Today is a great cranberry weather day I always say at harvests we like a lot of wind, water, and berries. I really enjoy it and have a passion for it.”
Bible has taken to the marsh to grow Wisconsin’s state fruit.
“This year’s crop is looking to be about average,”
On Brockway Marsh, 2. 8 million pounds of the berry will be harvested and taken to Ocean Spray in Tomah, making for a busy harvesting season.
“The first thing we do is what we call our beds, we put water in the bed to make cranberries float and the reason the cranberries float is they have four little air pockets inside of them,” said Bible.
“Then we go in with a machine and dislodge the berries so they all pop to the top of the water and then we put more water in the bed to really raise them up so they can float freely. As you can see behind me it’s a windy day today, we use our boom to get them corralled to one end and then we use our fruit pump to suck them out clean them off. Then we elevate them into our semi-trailers, and we go down to the ocean spray receiving plant,” said Bible.
Bible is one of about 250 cranberry growers across the state.
Isaac Zarecki, Wisconsin State Cranberry Grower’s Association said, “We make up more than half the world’s cranberries. It is a billion-dollar industry for the state.”
Zarecki says it’s the state’s climate that makes it a popular spot to harvest the fruit.
Zarecki said, “This is the basin of ancient glacial lake Wisconsin. It is very flat good for water management also sandy well-drained acidic soils, which is perfect for cranberries. They are actually native to North America, so it is perfect for them.”
Cranberries are also crucial to the state’s economy.
“Across the state they support they support thousands of local jobs for their community’s growers are a big part of their communities in small town Wisconsin,” said Zarecki.
Bible said, “We are the state fruit of Wisconsin some farms are in their fifth sixth generation. It is really a family affair this year we were working on planting a new bed and we had four generations my dad was helping, I was helping, three of my kids and two of my grandkids were there.”
Bible says he hopes to keep up this farming tradition.
“It is kind of the hidden gem of the state of Wisconsin,” said Bible.
He encourages people to try cranberries beyond their Thanksgiving dinner table. Once these cranberries are harvested, you’ll able to find them on grocery store shelves in the form of
juice craisins and more.
Reporting in Black River Falls Carla Rogner First News at Nine.