Product Spotlight: Springbrook Cranberries
Springbrook Cranberry Farm is a family owned operation in New Brunswick. They have supplied The Big Carrot with juice as well as fresh and dried cranberries for many years. We asked them to tell us what it’s like to be cranberry farmers and share some of the stories and methods!
Farmers: Larry, Kathy, Elizabeth and Rebekah Nason
Farm size: 13.6 acres (a small operation)
Location: Tracy, 30 km south of Fredericton, New Brunswick
Started: 1999 adding acreage in 2000 and 2003
Organic certification: 2008
Fun Fact: Most of our seasonal employees are women.
The Cranberry Plant
Soil: Sand (our farm) or peat
Plant: Woody vine-like, along the ground
Fruit producing part: Upright off the vine
Fun Fact: The cranberry plants are cultivated in what we call a bed (a raised section of soil surrounded by ditches and berms. They like to grow in dry conditions with regular irrigation to nourish and protect the plant.
The Cranberry Growth Cycle
November to April/May: Dormant
April/May: Buds form, frost is harmful
June: Flowers pollinated by bees, both wild and cultivated
July: Pinhead, fertilization (organic composted chicken manure)
Fun Fact: On really hot humid days composted chicken manure makes for a bunch of stinky people!
August: Bulk up begin to colour, sunlight and irrigation are essential
September/October: Ripen to bold red colour, frost helps but can be harmful.
“Fun”damental Cranberry Harvest Techniques
Frost protection: At certain points in the year cold temperatures can harm both the plant and the fruit. We monitor the temperatures and begin irrigation if the temperature drops into the danger zone. In the fall, the cranberry fruit becomes more tolerant to cold as they get darker in colour. Irrigation is used to protect the cranberry plant and fruit. The process of the water turning to ice keeps the plant protected because of the energy it takes to produce the ice.
Fun Fact: Getting a face full of ice water in the middle of the night to fix a plugged sprinkler is a great way to stay awake!
Harvest Method 1 Dry Harvest
This method is used to pick cranberries for the fresh market. It is called dry because the plants should be dry when we start picking.
Fun Fact: Once the cranberry is removed from the plant the tough outer shell can become soft if it comes in contact with water. The tough outer shell makes the cranberry last longer on market shelves.
Dry harvest uses a machine that looks like a bigger version of a wild blueberry rake to gently remove the berries from the vines. This machine has a cutter bar to help prune wayward vines and a conveyer belt that carries the berries and trimmed vines up the machine and drops them into a burlap bag. That bag is then emptied onto a machine we call “the blower” which separates the fruit from the pruned vines. The vines are light and are easily blown by the fan in one direction while the berries go the other direction and are collected in a large box. These boxes are then stored in a cooler until they will be sorted and packaged for market.
Our fresh harvested cranberries are cleaned, sorted and bagged for you to enjoy.
Fun Fact: the cranberry fruit’s tough outer shell allows the berries to bounce.
The berries are cleaned first through a machine we call “a bouncer”. The good berries bounce over the boards down through the machine and out onto our conveyor belt where we then sort out any berries that don’t quite make the cut for the final product. We then bag the berries for shipment to stores.
Harvest Method 2 Wet Harvest
The most well known method of harvest is the wet harvest where the cranberry beds are flooded with water so that the cranberries can be captured and loaded into trucks.
Fun Fact: the cranberry fruit has a hollow spot in the center. This air gives them a certain buoyancy allowing them to float.
Once the cranberries are floating we go along with a boom to gather the berries allowing us to keep them all in one area.
The cranberries are then loaded onto a truck to be cleaned and frozen immediately at a big processing plant. After they are frozen they will be made into products such as our juice and dried cranberries, or they will be sold and used as an ingredient in beverages and baking all over the world.
The Goods On Cranberries
Raw cranberries have many health benefits. The nutrient content is high for vitamin C, E and K, as well as manganese and fiber. They have many important phytonutrients that aid in urinary tract health, digestive tract health and cardiovascular health.
They have a low glycemic index for diabetics.
They aid in fighting inflammation.
There is also research that suggests cranberries have anti-cancer and antioxidant benefits.
We feel that organic production is the best way we can enhance the natural environment while still growing food for our communities.
Since we transitioned to organic, we have seen the return of native bees to our farm. We also have a thriving spider habitat within our agro-ecosystem.
Integrity is important in organics. We work hard to maintain our records for traceability. Our certification body, Ecocert Canada, monitors our farming process through yearly inspections.
We are proud members of Canada Organic Growers (COG), Atlantic Canada Organic Regional Network (ACORN) and Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA). These organizations provide us with a network of grower and information that help us achieve what we set out to achieve in growing food organically.
The Nason Family