How Do Farmers Harvest Cranberries?

farmers-harvest-cranberries Credit: Greig Cranna/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Cranberry farmers harvest their crops using either wet or dry methods. Cranberries sold whole are harvested using the dry method, while cranberries sold for manufacturing are harvested using the wet method.

Cranberries grow low to the ground and used to be harvested by hand by workers crawling on their hands and knees. In modern times, harvesting cranberries involves machinery, but is still labor-intensive.

In wet harvesting, farmers flood the bogs where cranberries are grown and jostle the plants using tractor attachments or waterwheels to remove the cranberries. Because cranberries have small pockets of air inside, they float to the surface of the water, where they are skimmed off and transported to a receiving station to be cleaned. They can also be pumped from the bogs instead of skimmed from the surface. Cranberries harvested using the wet method are used for cranberry juice, sauce and jelly or sold as sweetened cranberries for snacking and use in commercial baking.

Dry harvesting uses walk-behind harvesting machinery, which is similar to small tractors that are pushed like lawnmowers, to pick and bag the berries. The berries are then either trucked or flown by helicopter to the receiving station. Cranberries picked using the dry method are sold as whole fruits in supermarkets or fruit stands and are used for home cooking and baking.