Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of cranberries, harvesting more than 60 percent of the country’s crop. The little red berry, Wisconsin’s official state fruit, is the state’s number one fruit crop, both in size and economic value.
The cranberry, once called “crane berry” by settlers because of its blossom’s resemblance to the sandhill crane, was first harvested in Wisconsin around 1860 by Edward Sacket in Berlin, Wisconsin. Today, more than 250 growers produce cranberries throughout central and northern Wisconsin.
Where Wisconsin Cranberries are Grown
Cranberries are grown on 21,000 acres across 20 counties in Wisconsin. The sand and peat marshes in central and northern Wisconsin create the perfect growing conditions for cranberries.
During the early 1890s, the center of the Wisconsin cranberry industry shifted to the Cranmoor area, just west of Wisconsin Rapids. Later developments occurred in the Black River Falls, Warrens and Tomah areas, followed by cranberry farms in northern Wisconsin, primarily around Manitowish Waters, Eagle River, Spooner and Hayward.
Growing and Harvesting Cranberries
Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water. A perennial plant, cranberries grow on low running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. In Wisconsin, cranberry marshes are flooded with water to aid in harvesting. Because the tart, tiny berries contain a pocket of air, when the marsh is flooded, the berries float to the surface to be picked up by harvesting equipment. Cranberries are harvested each year from late September through October.
Cranberry Production in Wisconsin
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Cranberries in Wisconsin - 2014