E JUIC Y JOB
floating cranberries into a
mass; a worker
uses a paddle
to push the
together; a machine sucks up
the berries and
into a waiting
OC TOBER 2017 NE W JERSEY MONTHLY 41
as the sun peeks over the horizon on this frosty fall morning, steam rises off vast stretches of shallow ponds. On closer
inspection, blankets of round, red pellets can be seen floating
on the surface of the ponds.
It’s near the end of the cranberry harvest, a time-honored
tradition in South Jersey. On this Saturday in late October,
more than 40 visitors have signed up to witness the labor-intensive process. Their tour will be conducted by Pine Barrens
Native Fruits, a 350-acre cranberry farm in Browns Mills that
is owned and operated by fifth-generation cranberry growers
Joe Darlington and Brenda Conner.
Conner begins the tour by corralling the group into Heritage
Hall, a shed turned classroom, where she shares the history and
science of cranberry growing in New Jersey, the third largest
producer of cranberries, behind Wisconsin and Massachusetts.
Mixed into her tale of colorful characters and ideal pH levels
for cranberries—they like acidic soil—are subtle messages
about environmental protection.
“Cranberry growers are some of the fiercest protectors
of water supply in the Pine Barrens,” says 52-year-old Con-
ner, who grew up running a roadside fruit stand and trapping
turtles. She proudly calls herself “a piney.”
It takes several years for a cranberry bog to mature, she ex-
plains, and up to 20 years for a cranberry farm to become prof-
itable. “We’re very good with delayed gratification,” she notes.
Conner debunks the myth, perpetuated by ubiquitous Ocean
Spray ads showing two wader-clad farmers standing in the
bogs, that cranberries grow underwater. In fact, cranberries
grow on vine runners in layered, sandy soil and remain nestled
in a vine canopy until a cold snap in mid-September turns the
FALL DAY TRIPS