Cranberry industry growing in Wisconsin - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Cranberry industry growing in Wisconsin

The cranberry industry is big business in central Wisconsin.

There's even a festival every year in Wisconsin Rapids to celebrate the bright red berry.

"To bring people out in celebration of the cranberry heritage, letting them know and bringing awareness to the very importance of that berry to this community," said Melissa Reichert, Heart of Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce President.

According to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, the Badger State is the number one cranberry producer in the nation.

Last year, Wisconsin produced about 60% of the nation's cranberries, that's 4.5 million barrels.

"We have both growers and processing facilities that employee hundreds, if not thousands in the central Wisconsin area," said Reichert.

Officials said this fruit is a $300 million industry in Wisconsin.

"We do produce the majority of the cranberries for the entire country and not just this country, our cranberry product go international," said Reichert.

Cranberry growers said they're finding success.

Jim Bielmeier has managed Owen Rock Cranberries in Hancock for more than 24 years.

"We started off with about 24 acres and we're up to about 104 acres now," said Bielmeier.

Bielmeier said each year, he produces roughly 30,000 barrels of cranberries. They stay in Wisconsin and are processed by Ocean Spray.

"Everything is shipped mostly to Tomah, some to Wisconsin Rapids," said Bielmeier.

Ocean Spray leaders said the industry is still growing.

"We are moving somewhere in the order of 30 million pounds a year," said Dan Wendlick, Ocean Spray Plant Systems Administrator.

Growers said this year's crop had a late start but they expect to produce just as many berries as last year.

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