Cranberry farmers in southeastern Massachusetts facing crop loss as drought continues

Some of the region’s 300+ growers don’t have enough water to protect their crops from frost, or to flood the bogs for harvest.

By: Tim Studebaker

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CARVER, MASS. (WLNE) – A harvesting machine sits idle next to a cranberry bog in Carver.  The bog is full of cranberries that were ready to harvest two weeks ago.  Jim Hayward owns this bog.

Hayward says, “I’ve been at this for in excess of 40 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad.”

A dry wind blows around the sandy soil that makes this area so well suited for growing cranberries.  The other important ingredient, water, has been very difficult to come by lately, putting Hayward weeks behind schedule.

Hayward says, “Normally, we’d be harvesting, we’d be flooding our bogs and getting ready to pick.”

The extreme drought is putting a huge strain on this billion-dollar industry and the 300+ cranberry growers in southeastern Massachusetts.

Water plays four important roles in cranberry farming.  It’s crucial to plant health during the growing season, but the growers also need it to protect their plants from frost.  Then, they flood the bogs during the harvesting process, and eventually that water is used to protect the plants in the winter.

But, Hayward’s reservoir is down 9 feet.  His pumps are barely able to scrape some muddy water off the bottom of the reservoir, putting him in a race to protect his crops from frost while waiting for enough water to harvest.  And, if that doesn’t come…

Hayward says, “They’ll rot on the vine.  Yup. They won’t last forever.”

It’s a problem region-wide.  Brian Wick is with the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association.

Wick says, “I don’t think anybody is comfortable with the current situation.  Some are far worse than others.  I’ve talked to a couple of growers who have lost their crop already.”

The association is working to try to find emergency relief for growers while they wait for rain.

© WLNE-TV / ABC6 2020

Categories: Massachusetts, News