Cranberry crop good, but labor hard to find

Like many other farmers, cranberry growers have a good crop this year, but they often struggle to find enough labor at harvest time.

Sisters Jennifer Dempze and Heidi Slinkman operate the Gaynor Cranberry Company near Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, a farm that has been growing the fruit since the 1870s. 

Dempze tells Brownfield the crop looks good. “A little under 200 acres this year. We’ve got some out because we planted some new vines the last couple of years and they’re not in production yet. I’m hoping that we can average around 300 barrels an acre.”

Slinkman says harvesting the cranberries is labor-intensive, and it can be a struggle to find seasonal employees. “Our older generation, they are not as available as they used to be and so those jobs are being left vacant, and in the meantime, the younger generation, their interest in agricultural careers isn’t as strong as it used to be.”

Slinkman says the COVID pandemic has also impacted the availability of workers.

The Gaynor Cranberry Company is one of many growers for Ocean Spray, which processes the berries for several consumer products.   Wisconsin produces more than half of all cranberries in the U.S. with production exceeding four and a half million barrels.  Massachusetts ranks second in production. 

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