WISCONSIN RAPIDS (WGBA)--The United States is the largest producer of cranberries in the world and Wisconsin itself produces about two thirds of the countries supply.
Standing on what used to be Glacial Lake Wisconsin around 18,000 years ago, the sand and sediment left over as well as a high-water table and acidic soil set the perfect conditions for a fruit that is only Native to North America, the Cranberry.
Glacial Lake Cranberries is one of many companies across Central Wisconsin that grow and harvest this fruit.
Running a commercial operation since 1873, the farm covers 6000 acres, 338 acres in the form of cranberry production, 3000 acres in their reservoir system, and 2600 acres in a forestry management plan.
“It’s a diverse system, and it’s not just about one thing, it really is a system and they all are very complimentary." Said Mary Brazeau Brown, Owner Glacial Lake Cranberries.
The Cranberry is a slow growing perennial, roughly 2 inches per year.
The fruit is initially light green, but turns red when it gets ripe.
While it has an acidic taste, it is full of antioxidants and is well known for its role in preventing urinary tract infections.
By the beginning of autumn, the crop is ready to be harvested and it is quite the process.
“So cranberries actually grow where it’s dry, they require a lot of water.
We require water for harvesting, and for winter protection." Said Mary Brazeau Brown, Owner Glacial Lake Cranberries.
For each acre of cranberries grown, there needs to be 10 acres of a water reservoir.
The water is gravity fed through flooding ditches which gradually floods the bed with just enough water for the cranberries to float up.
Cranberries are able to float because of tiny air pockets inside of them.
A harrower machine then comes in and rakes the cranberries off the vine.
Soon after, more water is pumped in so that the berries can float freely across the bed.
To collect all the berries, a cranboom is placed on top of the flooded bed to surround them.
The boom is slowly pulled to one corner of the bed with all the berries wrapped inside.