WARRENS, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Wisconsin has an ideal climate for cranberries, and growers say October is critical to their success.
"Basically the whole month of October is very important to us," said Mike Gnewikow, Co-owner of Wetherby Cranberry Company in Warrens, Wisconsin. "We have to book that for the cranberry harvest. Where we are out, literally day and night, watching the water levels, watching the temperatures levels."
The reason October is perfect for the harvest is the warm days and cool nights. These conditions help the berries mature and take on a deep red color, making them a little less tart than lighter less mature berries.
Because of this, harvesting at the right time is crucial for growers.
"It's a huge part of our state," said Kristin Olson, 66th Alice in Dairyland and Wisconsin's official agriculture ambassador. "And actually, Wisconsin produces 60% of the U.S. supply of cranberries too so without Wisconsin cranberries, the U.S. would also be hurting."
But due to the late spring, the cranberry crop is a few weeks late this year.
"We are kind of nervous that toward the end of the season it's going to get cold too fast, where we won't get the crops in," said Gnewikow. "So what's going to happen is in about two weeks all the cranberry growers are going to be extremely busy trying to get their berries in as fast as they can when we do finally get the color that we need."
There is good news though. Despite the late start to the growing season, the extremely wet spring, and the extremely dry summer, the cranberry crop is looking great this year.
"It hasn't affected the crop so much as it's affected us," said Gnewikow. "It's a lot more time and effort for us along with diesel fuel or electricity depending on our pumps. It's just more financial strain on us."
Over the next several weeks, growers will be flooding their cranberry beds for the harvest.
"A lot of people think that cranberries are grown in water," said Gnewikow. "That's always the pictures you see… But they're actually not grown directly in the water. We just use the water as a harvesting tool."
This is because cranberries float. If you slice open a cranberry you'll notice that they have four air pockets. These air pockets allow the cranberries to rise the surface after being picked in flooded marshes, making them easy to collect.
This upcoming Saturday Wetherby Cranberry Company is having their annual public harvest day from 9am until 11am. During the event you can get a tour of the cranberry marsh and watch the harvest process. For more information you can visit their website at http://www.freshcranberries.com/.
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