Posts Tagged ‘Organic cranberry farming’

The following article was written by Andrew Kessel, Equal Exchange Sales Representative


“…Something will grow, but it might be weeds. I’ve put so much money into this it’s daunting; definitely not a shoe-in…you throw your heart out there and hope for the best.” Monica Mann

Growing up in Vermont I was fortunate (although at the time I was too young to understand why) to have field trips to local farms integrated into our school curriculum. Back then it was mostly fun and games – learning how to milk cows, playing with small furry animals, and going on horse rides. Until my recent visit with Equal Exchange to the Mann Cranberry bog in Plymouth, MA, I hadn’t been on a farm in a number of years and while I’ve learned later in life that there are some major risks to working with agriculture, seeing it first hand last week had a much bigger impact on me. Farming is a risky business and everything from growing sustainably, getting loans from the bank, and being able to develop your farm (both metaphorically and physically speaking) depends on, amongst other things, how well your crop does every year.

Farmers invest their time, their money and inheritance (often quite a substantial portion of what is in their name), and their whole lives in their agricultural enterprise. The undertaking is more than just about running a business; it’s about having a livelihood and for those who choose to grow organic it’s even tougher. The monetary premium for growing organic is barely worth it but the Mann family will not give up because as Keith Mann said, “You forget that it’s food when it’s not organic.”


For the dry harvested cranberries, workers must spend several hours a day sorting berry by berry to ensure the highest quality yield possible.

It takes a tremendous amount of work to farm exclusively with organic fertilizers like fish, blood meal, and feather meal, and to be limited to weeding mostly by hand. According to Keith Mann, what you can harvest in one day with organic cranberries yields the equivalent of a year’s supply of conventional cranberries.  It also takes 5 years to grow a new cranberry bog so converting to organic is not easy but the Mann’s hope to continue to grow this part of their business.

Growing any type of cranberry presents many challenges and risks: regular cranberry-related weather hazards in New England include extreme cold and frost, hail storms, desiccation, and rain drenching. Aside from weather related risks, there are plant diseases and fungi, pests, and no guarantees on price. Organic cranberry farming presents a greater risk with higher growing costs (both in time and money) and lower yields.


Mike Allen & Terry Bosclair of the Equal Exchange DSD program get a first hand look inside the Mann family’s production facility in Plymouth, MA.

Our visit to the Mann farm was enjoyable and eye-opening in a very serious, real way. While there’s much I don’t know about cranberry cultivation, I can certainly appreciate the task ahead for these farmers much better now. Along with Monica, I hope for the best.

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