Cranberry growers in Massachusetts are optimistic about the upcoming harvest despite an up-and-down growing season.
Brian Wick, executive director for the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association, said Thursday that local farmers anticipate producing more than two million barrels of fruit this year, or roughly 1% more over last year’s harvest.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected Massachusetts growers would produce a record 2.4 million barrels of cranberries this year, up about 11% from last year. Overall, the agency anticipates nearly 9 million barrels of fruit will be harvested nationwide, up about 13% from last year. A barrel equals 100 pounds of cranberries.
But Wick cautions the USDA estimates are based on information gathered from growers earlier in the year. He said a more accurate projection of crop production comes from the Cranberry Marketing Committee, a federally-authorized industry group based in Wareham, Massachusetts.
Wick said Massachusetts growers dealt with a cold spring that included some frost events, followed by a summer with extended periods of unseasonably dry and hot weather. The coronavirus pandemic also forced growers to retool their approach, including taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, he said.
“This season has seen its share of challenges for Massachusetts growers,” Wick said in a statement. “Farming is always complex. When your success is at the mercy of the weather, patience and ingenuity are paramount, attributes our growers demonstrate with abundance.”
Massachusetts, which is home to Ocean Spray, is the second-largest cranberry growing region in the country after Wisconsin. The other primary growing states are New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.
Cranberries are the largest agricultural food produced in Massachusetts, with an annual crop value of about $60 million, according to Wick’s association, which represents more than 300 local growers. The industry also provides nearly 7,000 jobs and generates more than $1 billion for the state’s economy, the association said.
But the price of cranberries has plummeted nearly 60% over the last decade as the industry has grappled with the combined effects of crop surplus and weakening demand for one of its primary products, cranberry juice.