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Why Wisconsin is the cranberry capital of the US

Thanksgiving is here, and for many, that means cranberries! Scripps News gives a behind-the-scenes look at a Wisconsin cranberry farm during harvest.
Why Wisconsin is the cranberry capital of the US
Posted at 7:26 PM, Nov 18, 2023

Wisconsin is running red! 

It's cranberry season, and farmers across the state are working to harvest the berries from their flooded marshes.

"The marsh was started in 1903. We first started packing fresh fruit in 1905. So, I am third generation on the marsh," Nodji Van Wychen said.

For almost 120 years, Nodji Van Wychen and her family have been running Wetherby Cranberry Company in Warrens, Wisconsin.

"Which, by the way, is the number one fruit crop in the state of Wisconsin. And we have been the number one crop for 28 consecutive years." "We measure our yield in barrels, which is the old standard weight, and 100 pounds equals a barrel," Van Wychen said.

Planted as vine cuttings from previous harvests in beds of peat and sand, cranberry vines take four to five years to mature. Once ready to harvest, the beds are flooded with water so that machines can easily knock the berries off the vines.

"Out here where you're standing, we're kind of surrounded by, I would imagine, about 75,000 pounds of cranberries, probably about a semi and a half when we are when we get it all fully loaded and head out of here," Mike Gnewikow, co-owner of Wetherby Cranberry Company, said.

After being collected from the water, the cranberries are sorted, with some bound for the market just as they are. However, the majority are turned into other products, like juice, relish, and, in some cases, even wine!

"There's not a lot of cranberries growing all over the nation. And therefore, you get to this cranberry region, and people just really like the cranberry wine because it's so unique and different," Van Wychen said. "We are very fortunate that cranberries are very healthy to the consumer, and consumers are being very health conscious nowadays. So, we hope that with that in mind, they try cranberries in their diet and so forth, and so we hope that everyone. If you aren't using them year-round, at least have cranberries on your Thanksgiving table."

SEE MORE: It might be time to thaw your Thanksgiving turkey

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