Small berry looms large

October 4, 2009

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Of 700 cranberry growers in the country, 400 are in Massachusetts. Growers in this state use about 65,000 acres, of which 14,000 are active bogs. Early Native Americans mixed cranberries with deer meat to make pemmicana, a survival food, and used them in poultices to draw poison from arrow wounds. The juice was also used to color clothing and rugs. Centuries later, whalers and seamen ate cranberries to prevent scurvy.

1550 Native Americans use cranberries for food, dyes, and medicine

1620 Pilgrims learn to use cranberries from the Native Americans

1816 Captain Henry Hall first cultivated cranberries in Dennis

1854 First census of cranberry cultivation: 197 acres in Barnstable County

1863 US Department of Agriculture created Massachusetts Agricultural College (University of Massachusetts); Abraham Lincoln proclaims first national Thanksgiving

1888 Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association formed

1907 First market cooperative founded: New England Cranberry Sales Co.

1912 First cranberry sauce marketed in Hanson

1930 Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. formed as a grower-owned marketing cooperative

1953 First million-barrel national crop

1960s First successful water harvesting; cranberry products diversify and market expands

1980s International markets developed for cranberries

1990s Diversified cranberry products become ingredients in other foods; global demand for products continues to grow; new plantings increase; cranberry prices reach historic high

1997 Oversupply and other economic and business hurdles cause a dramatic drop in cranberry prices and much uncertainty

2000s With supply better matching demand, cranberry prices begin to stabilize and the industry begins to return to profitability

SOURCE: Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association