BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – The Wisconsin Cranberry Research Station (WCRS) in Black River Falls has been spending the last few days harvesting their 2023 crop. WCRS Marsh Manager, Wade Brockman, says, “Crops are looking really good this year. We have another about ten acres to pick up yet and we should be done early tomorrow morning. Then we’ll be done for the year.”
Despite the dry weather this summer, the research center is expecting this year’s crop to be above average. Brockman explains, “Cranberries are weighed by the barrel, which is 100 pounds, and in a normal year, we’re doing anywhere from 300 to 500 barrels to the acre. And this year we’re actually looking closer to between 650 and 700.”
Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association Executive Director, Tom Lochner, says, “This is really the first year that we’ve come to full production on the property. We got some hybrids there, it’s a modern operation. We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish out here in terms of converting the marsh from what it was to today’s standards.”
The research center is having a successful harvest in spite of some hardships during the season. Brockman says, “We’ve had a struggle finding people to work again this year, but we have some people that actually work with us that came out and helped this week. So that’s been nice.”
Not all cranberries in the 30 acres of beds are edible, however. Lochner explains, “We’ve got a couple of areas on the marsh that we devote strictly to research. One of the concepts behind a research station is that you do work on the station that you wouldn’t ask a grower to let you do on their marshes. We can do “damage” here. We’ve got some beds where we’ve let disease grow, and then we have another area that we do experiments with different chemistries to control pests.” It’s research like this that helps Wisconsin keep its reputation for cranberries.
According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, producing 59 percent of the U.S. crop in 2021, and the price per 100-pound barrel averaged 69 dollars and 80 cents in 2021.