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November 17, 2013

Cranberry farm has memorable harvest

The 2013 growing season has come to an end. As I look out upon the frost-covered gardens and fields, I can’t help but reflect upon the crops that have been harvested.

As the last of the greens, Brussels sprouts and turnips are taken from the ground, I’m reminded of the diverse variety of vegetables that have been harvested by family, friends, neighbors and Extension associates and clientele; everything from tomatoes, potatoes and summer and zucchini squash to blue dent corn, Romanesco broccoli, Kohlrabi, purple cauliflower and tomatillos.

Tree fruit and nut yields were bountiful this year. Wild and cultivated herbs and edible medicinal plants have been dried and are ready for use as spices and in teas, tinctures and poultices. And the harvesting of forage corn, hay and beans is nearly finished. Yet, there is one harvest that stands out among all the rest.

In mid-October, I had the good fortune of visiting the northern New York farm of Peter Paquin, a veteran cranberry grower from Cape Cod, Mass., as he and his crew were wet harvesting this year’s crop. Paquin grows cranberries on 67 acres of converted hayfields in the St. Lawrence County Town of Brasher, just a few miles from the northwestern Franklin County hamlet of Bombay.

Cranberry plants are actually trailing vines. They produce buds that flower in the spring, after which berries form and develop over the summer months. In the fall, once the berries have turned dark red, they can be harvested.

Several years ago, I watched Paquin and his crew constructing one of his seven bogs. He told me the soil at his farm is heavy clay, which impedes the movement of water and that, since the base layer of any man-made cranberry bog must be impermeable, it is very desirable. Once a site has been leveled, six to 12 inches of sand must be deposited on top of the clay base layer, and the sand layer must provide sufficient drainage for proper aeration, root development and prevention of phytophthora root rot.

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