I Worked As A Cranberry Farmer For A Day | Lucie For Hire | Refinery29

I Worked As A Cranberry Farmer For A Day | Lucie For Hire | Refinery29


I’m Lucie Fink, I’m a video producer at Refinery29. But every so often I like to try other people’s jobs. Today I’m in the heart of cranberry country in Massachusetts to see if I have what it takes to be a cranberry farmer. This is Lucie For Hire. I grew up with Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice as a staple in my family’s refrigerator. So when I learned that they were coming out with a brand new pink cranberry juice drink I was inspired to dive deeper. Well not too deep. After all I didn’t want to flood my waders. I took a trip to Carver, Massachusetts to meet with Alison and Ben. Cousins who work side by side as sixth, and first-generation cranberry farmers. Cranberries are a perennial crop which means you harvest them once a year but you grow them for the remainder of the year. They’ve been in my family growing cranberries since the eighteen hundreds. The first thing I learned is that Ocean Spray is a cooperative. Ocean Spray is farmer-owned and 100 percent of profits go back to the farmers. My great great grandfather and his two brothers helped to form the co-op in the thirties. So it started out with these three growers coming together. And today you went from three growers all
the way to 700. So it’s like 700 families but you’re all one family. We’re all one big Ocean Spray family. That’s awesome. Exactly. My first challenge was to understand the growing process. Lucie is going to get into the bog and sample the cranberries to see whether or not they’re ripe and ready to be harvested. I met Alison and Ben in the cranberry bog where they walked me through what a typical cranberry bed looks like. Good morning! Look at it out here, is it always this foggy
in the morning? It’s a New England type of morning. So this is what a bog looks like most of the year. Cranberries have two crops on them: this crop that’s ready to be harvested, and then on the very end you’ll see a tiny little start of next year’s crop right there. Can I taste it? Absolutely! The cranberry is one of three native fruits cultivated in North America, and they grow on low lying vines. I learned that cranberries have four pockets
of air in them which helps them stay afloat once the bog is flooded. Ben taught me how to use an antique berry picker which is what farmers used to use to harvest the cranberries. Typically you’re on your knees and you’re going like this. Right. And you’re slowly working forward. This was how historically they used to harvest all the bogs. So it gives a really good representation. It’s a tool that’s used to scoop fresh cranberries off the vine so that the fruit can be taken indoors and tested for ripeness. There’s a specific rocking motion you’re supposed to do with this tool, so I gave it a go. Scoop in a little bit, yup, and then rock it back like this. It took a little while but I eventually got
into the groove. There you go. All my babies! After we had thoroughly explored the bog it was time to move over to the flooded bog the bogs are flooded twice a year. Once in December to protect the vines and once in October right before the wet harvest, but I’ll explain that process later on. First I needed to get suited up. Your second challenge is to suit up and get ready to get into the bog. You don’t want to be wet so you need to be wearing waders like we are. I was given my own waders and the three of us got dressed. Roll over your pant leg and actually put your sock over top it’s so comfortable inside your boot. This outfit is a contraption. It’s heavy, fully waterproof, and has a pair of rubber boots securely attached to the base. And once I was strapped in we were ready to go. Lucie’s third challenge is harvesting. Remember those four air pockets that helped the cranberries float? By taking a mechanical picker through a flooded bog and letting the cranberries float to the top, farmers can collect more cranberries than if they’re working by hand. In order to pick the berries from the vine, Ben and I climbed aboard one of those mechanical pickers called a water reel, or eggbeaters, and drove straight into a flooded bog. This is usually what I do every day, is pick. Because cranberry farming is so unique and there were no established tools to use, all cranberry growers, just like Ben’s family, have created their own tools to help with the harvest. One lever pushed the wheel into the water. Another lowered it down beneath the surface. Another set the wheel in motion. And yet another controlled the speed and direction of the machine. For reference this flooded bog is essentially the same as that bog we were walking on in the morning, but it’s completely filled with water. The machine gently picks the cranberries off the vines, and then leaves them floating on the surface. The sticks are markers that help denote where the rows of cranberries are. And they also ensure that you don’t drive too close to the edge of the bog where there’s a ditch. Once the cranberries were afloat it was time to get in. We waded our way into the water and immersed ourselves in cranberries. I’m in the cranberries! I’m surrounded. I’m seeing pink, white, and red cranberries. What’s the difference here? So the red are a little bit more tart, and the pink and the white are a little less tart. You have a more full flavored taste with like a juice like a cranberry juice cocktail which uses a lot of the deep red, and then with the pinks and the white you get a lighter more refreshing taste. The waiters are truly amazing. You don’t get wet at all. It was shaping up to be a pretty warm day outside. So the cool water actually felt extremely nice on the lower half of your body. It’s like a little cold spa. Next it was time to corral the cranberries into one big circle. Try to walk right along these yellow flags all the way to the back side of that corral there. Okay. Sometimes you have to use your whole body weight to pull it. This particular bed that we’re on has about thirteen hundred barrels on it, and one barrel is a hundred pounds of cranberries. I took hold of the rope on the edge of the boom and began walking. It’s a game of push and pull with the tractor that’s on land. So I pull for a bit and then I stop while the tractor drives forward. I’m using the word pull, but the truth is I was heaving with all of my might. This is not a walk in the bog, is it? This is probably the most labor-intensive Lucie For Hire I’ve tried. You’re corralling tons of cranberries into one area. That’s a feat of strength for one little person! Well listen I just want to thank you two for all the help. Oh yeah. Right here. The end is in sight! But the good news is as you’re working you’re surrounded by snacks. So hard to not eat every cranberry that I see. Yum! So close! I am almost at the finish line. Five…four… I’m three seconds early. Eventful. When the cranberries are corralled tightly in place it becomes a very interesting experience. There are so many cranberries floating in such a little bit of space, that they become basically like a blanket. I even saw a friendly frog. Hi! Oh, okay. After I helped my new friend back onto dry land. It was time to get the cranberries into the truck. We’re gonna use paddles to actually push berries into the pan which then sucks them up into the trunk. The particular pump that we use doesn’t damage any of the cranberries. Up above we put on giant gloves and essentially searched the pile for any big twigs, sticks, or leaves before the fruit is rinsed off and dropped into the truck. From here, these little guys are taken off to be made into the cranberry juice, sauces, and Craisin sweet and dried cranberries that we love. My day at the bog was so enjoyable and even though I ate a ton of fresh cranberries I hadn’t enjoyed any cranberry juice yet. So the next day I visited Ocean Spray’s headquarters in Lakeville, Massachusetts and met with Brianna, a product developer at Ocean Spray’s R&D lab. She talked to me about the inspiration behind their new Pink Lite cranberry juice drink. It’s a blend of white, pink, and red so that we still get that crisp cranberry flavor that people are expecting, but with that lighter, more refreshing taste that’s coming from the white and the pink cranberries. And we even got to do a taste test. Some of the classic cranberry juice cocktail. Cheers! The classic taste of Ocean Spray. It’s really sweet and really enjoyable. You get that pucker. And that’s the classic taste that comes from those bright red cranberries. Gonna pop open the pink. Alright! Oh wow, it doesn’t have the pucker. It’s very refreshing, I feel like on a hot summer day or honestly, a cold winter’s night this would be the perfect flavor. Overall my trip was a major success. Lucie was amazing! She is hired as a cranberry farmer. She was able to pull the boom better than I thought she got right in there, became one with nature. I was put to work in this episode and was using all of my strength to complete the challenges that were thrown my way. Even though the morning was a little rainy we didn’t let that bog us down. The day shaped up to be beautiful and I think I got the job. Let me know what jobs you want to see me try next time and we’ll see ya then on Lucie For Hire. Hey YouTube, thanks for watching! Click here to watch another episode of Lucie For Hire. Here to subscribe to our Refinery29 on YouTube. And right here for my personal YouTube channel. See ya!

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