The stock market may be seeing red on Wall street this autumn, but here on the Vineyard there is a bright future in cranberries. On the Island and across southeastern Massachusetts, it is a banner year for cranberries, both wild and cultivated.
Cranberry Acres in Vineyard Haven has harvested 100 pounds of cranberries, compare d and managed by the Vineyard Open Land Foundation. Executive director Carol Magee credited the organization’s long-term efforts toward restoring the old bog. Work has included soil improvement, new plantings and weeding, all done organically. “Our cranberries have had time to grow and now produce,” she said.
Those who attended the Harvest Festival several weeks ago at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury saw some of the cranberries. “We sold out quickly, and we had orders for another 38 pounds,” Ms. Magee said. “I was really pleased that there was extraordinary interest.”
The open land foundation bog is visible from Lambert’s Cove Road. This year Ms. Magee said a lot of effort went into weeding. She hopes to expand the bog to three acres in the years ahead.
The site is marked by an 1880s wooden building once used for processing cranberries, near the edge of the road.
In Aquinnah, the tribe has a more hands-off approach to nurturing their indigenous plants, and none of their cranberries are for sale. Bret Stearns, director of natural resources for the tribe, said: “The tribe doesn’t want any commercial influence in their cranberry bogs. That means no damming, no drainage sluiceways, no pumps for water. But they have allowed me to use hand and mechanical methods to give the plants the best advantage to grow. That includes removing contributing problems.”
Over the past year, the tribe removed invasive plants that were competing for sunshine and nutrients, including scrub oak, vines, catbrier, Russian olive and spotted knapweed.
Frequent rainfall throughout the summer contributed to ideal growing conditions, not just for cranberries, but for all berries and fruits, as well as mushrooms.
Timothy M. Boland, executive director of the Polly Hill Arboretum, cited one more factor. “We had dry weather during the pollination period in May. The bees were active. It is easier for the bees to transport pollen that is dry. Other pollinators helped, too,” he said, adding:
“This has been one of the best seasons for the high bush blueberry and all the berries. We’ve seen a bumper crop of hollies.”
While the open land foundation cranberry crop sold out long ago, Ms. Magee said they have been importing organically grown berries from their cranberry consultant Robert Keese of Cranberry Hill Farm in Plymouth. The berries are for sale at Morning Glory Farm. Part of the proceeds go to help the foundation cranberry project.
Mr. Stearns said the tribe keeps no numbers, but he knows the members have been pleased with this year’s crop. On Tuesday, a group of youngsters from the tribe’s after-school project had no trouble finding cranberries on tribal lands. It took just a few minutes to fill a basket.
The tribe owns 458 acres in Aquinnah, including 202 acres at Lobsterville. All tribal members are allowed to pick the berries. “People walk away with their desired amount,” Mr. Stearns said.
Julie Schaeffer, ecologist for the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, said cranberries abound in some small spots on the land bank’s 103-acre Gay Head Moraine. Not all the land is open to the public.
Wild cranberry bogs can be found in other spots on the Island, including Chappaquiddick. Many are on private property.
Cranberry Acres remains the only site on the Island where the bog is visible from the road.
Mr. Stearns said he has received a federal grant to build an environmentally-friendly road drainage system to the intersection of West Basin and Lobsterville Roads. “One of our issues with the cranberry bogs is we can’t have hydrocarbons draining into a sustenance area. We will rework the roadway so that the water goes into the ground and not directly into the bog,” he said. The project is expected to cost $50,000 and work could begin as early as this winter. Mr. Stearns said he estimates there are at least 20 acres of cranberry bogs scattered about the tribal lands.
Ms. Magee, who has been working on the project since she took over as director in 1996, said she too will be applying for grants this winter to renovate the cranberry processing building. “It is a historic landscape,” she said.