Organic Cranberries

Today I saw a post about Organic Cranberries on Twitter. It was talking about the challenges that organic cranberry growers were facing and small amount of acreage devoted to organic cranberry farming.

The article alluded that some of the pesticides being used could be threatening to pollinators and there is quite a bit of residue found on cranberries from non-organic sources (2006 study).

The article reminded me of a bicycle trip I did in 1983. I cycled from Victoria to Seattle and then out to the coast where I cycled down to the Mexican border. This article talked a lot about an organic cranberry operation in Long Beach, Washington (Starvation Alley Farms). This location was where my bicycle trip first met the Pacific Coast and where I first learnt first hand about cranberries.

I was cycling along highway 101 just east of Long Beach and I was passing small plots along the highway and my mind could not make sense of them. They were about the size of a home lot with a raised berm around the perimeter and a pipe in the middle. I thought they were lots for sale that hadn’t been sold. The lots had some plants in them.

When I arrived at the youth hostel I talked with some local people and they explained that they were cranberry bogs. The ground hugging cranberry plants would grow their berries and when they were ripe (late September or later) they would flood the bermed area (called a bog) and the fruit berries would float up with the water level and be separated from the plant (water does the plucking). It was not harvesting season when I was in that area so I did not see this happening.

Cranberry grower rounding up cranberries in bog to harvest.
Cranberry grower rounding up cranberries in bog to harvest.

Many years later Ocean Spray had some commercials on TV where they had a couple of guys in hip-waders standing in a flooded cranberry bog, surrounded by floating cranberries. The cranberries are rounded up in booms and then skimmed off the bog pond with machines (you can see one in the article).

So when you pick up your organic cranberries realize that you are choosing a product that support small businesses/growers, a healthier environment and a process that is more respectful of the planet and its gifts.

I am always thankful that people wish to choose organically produced foods since it keeps more pesticides out of the environment and out of our bodies. Non-organic agriculture has a heavy climate change foot print. The Paris talks are highlighting the footprint of the present agriculture and food industry (see this article from the Guardian).

It is my sincere belief that we need to shift a lot of our agriculture to an organic, bio-dynamic, permaculture and/or agroecological process. At present the goal of the industrial food complex is to produce food at low costs with maximum profits and the planet and other externalities be damned. Well I happen to live in the world of externalities – same as you. We are being poisoned for profit. Our forests are being stripped, our oceans mined, our planet overheating, our ice caps and glaciers melting… We must do something. We need to choose to eat differently and live wiser.

PS – Earth’s General Store has fresh and frozen cranberries for the upcoming holiday season.