It’s always such a joy to join the merchant teams on their #freshadventures, where they meet amazing farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and producers. Just recently, I had the thrill of joining the produce team on their visit to Pine Barrens Native Fruits, a fifth-generation cranberry farm in southern New Jersey.
Brenda, the bog’s owner, and Tom, the bog’s right-hand-man, gave us an extensive tour of the farm, which has been in the family since the mid-1800s and was founded by Brenda’s husband’s Great-Aunt Lizzy White.
The White Family harvested the first commercial cranberry bog in 1857. The farm is a part of The American Cranberry Association and was the first offsite research facility for Rutgers University who still tests cranberry varieties on the farm’s property today.
Cranberries thrive on this land because of its low nutrient, high acidity soil. In the 1800s, Native Americans cleared what was once an oak forest through controlled fire in order to make way for easier foot traffic. Through the fires, the pines opened up and acorns burned, so oak diminished and pines flourished. Once the land was cleared, the composition of the soil changed and became ideal for iron work. After years of iron sourcing, the land was cleared again and the area became an ideal setting for wild cranberry growth.
These days, Brenda and her husband Joe run the farm. Their practices are cutting edge, including custom fertilizers, GPS technology that detects disease at its infancy, and harvesting tools that enable 99% utilization of their crops. They have also provided their farm workers with medical and education benefits since 1910. Recently they were awarded a 100% score on their USDA inspection.
We are very fortunate to work with Pine Barrens Native Fruits, and are one of the few retailers to receive a portion of the 1% of their crop that is sold for fresh consumption. The rest of the harvest is sent away for processing.
Make sure to get your fresh cranberries between October and December, because they have a short harvest period. Bigger than a peanut M&M and ruby red, their cranberries will be the gems of every meal, especially your Turkey Day meal.