Cranberry harvest is family tradition - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Cranberry harvest is family tradition

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WARRENS, WI (WXOW)—Cranberries are Wisconsin's number one fruit crop; the state leads the nation in cranberry production and accounts for 60-percent of the worlds supply.

Since 1903 cranberries have been the family business at Wetherby Cranberry Company.

"The quality of life on a cranberry marsh is wonderful and it's a wonderful place to raise a family and have that closeness of raising a product that is healthy for the consumer," Nodji Van Wychen, Wetherby Owner said.

Van Wychen's grandfather, Henry Kissinger, started the marsh because cranberries were growing wild in this area when he first came.

"He saw right away, he had the foresight to see that this was a good product to raise and have his family involved with," Van Wychen said.

She said a common misconception is that cranberries grow on the water. But, actually the cranberries grow in sandy fields and the water is pumped on them during the harvest to help them float.

"The reason it does this, if you cut a cranberry in two crosswise you'll see it has four little air pockets and the air pockets give them buoyancy," Van Wychen said.

"So they pop up and us cranberry growers are harvesting and we're corralling these berries up to be taken to the processing plant," Rachel Reeck, Cranberry harvester said.

A machine sucks the cranberries up, separates the berries from the leaves...then dumps them into the truck.

"You need muscles; let's just say you need muscles to do this. I'm preparing myself for summer swimsuit season," Reeck said.

She said the cranberry community is close and even though she isn't part of Van Wychen's family, she feels like she was adopted in.

"Whether is harvesting or eating, I will be a part of this business until I die," Reeck said.

Van Wychen hopes the cranberry marsh will continue to be passed along generations in her family.

"If grandmother has anything to do with it there will be a 5th generation on this marsh," Can Wychen said.

She said her favorite cranberry recipe is simply dipping a berry in melted caramel.

Click here for a link to cranberry recipes.

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