CapeCod.com – The state is seeking to strengthen the cranberry industry and has released a report with recommendations to preserve its number one cash crop.
The Cranberry Revitalization Task Force was created last summer to develop an action plan to stabilize and revitalize the industry.
The 18 member task force was made up of government officials and stakeholders within the cranberry industry.
“Anything our industry can do to help support growers be better, improved and give us sustainability is what we are after,” said Dawn Gates-Allen, the director of member and financial services for the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association and task force member.
Gates-Allen also runs a farm in Rochester called Freetown Farm LLC.
The final report identifies potential strategies in three major categories to help support the industry which ranks third in North American production behind only Wisconsin and Quebec.
Renovation strategies focus on finding funding for growers to improve their bogs to allow for more efficient production and growing larger, higher-yield berries.
Gates-Allen said it might be worth it to growers to see if replacing older vine stock would be more valuable.
Another area of focus is in technology and innovation.
“Many of us here in the industry are looking at using soil moisture probe technology and automated irrigation,” she said. “We are now shifting and looking at fruit quality as supply and demand tries to become better in line.”
Gates-Allen said growers are looking at the mechanical side of their farm for when they are harvesting their crop.
“Can we shift over some of our older style equipment for newer equipment for loading fruit so that fruit quality is optimum,” Gates-Allen said.
The task force is also targeting exit strategies to help growers thinking about retiring and developing incentives to retain the bogs as open and protected space in the state.
Gates-Allen said bog renovations can be quite expensive and cost upwards of $40,000 to $50,000 an acre.
“Maybe they look at their 20-acre farm and say I’d like to maximize 10 acres and retire 10,” she said. “So we are looking at exit strategies that might help farmers reshape or retool their farm.”
Governor Charlie Baker said with the results of the task force’s plan his office will work with those in the industry and lawmakers to address the challenges facing the industry.
“Some of the things that we are looking for require money and we are trying to figure out those tactical moves,” Gates-Allen said. “Some things that we are asking for might just be a simple legislative fix. We are trying to take the report and dissect it and actually set a plan moving forward.”
State Senator Vinny deMacedo (R-Plymouth) and State Representative Susan Williams Gifford (R-Wareham) were task force members and are behind the recommendations made.
“The cranberry industry is vital to the economic health of our region and I believe our work will be instrumental in ensuring its continued success,” deMacedo said.
Jason Wentworth, the assistant commissioner for the Department of Agricultural Resources said the cranberry industry is important and vital to both agriculture in Massachusetts and the economy as a whole.
By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter
Photo: A green frog is seen relaxing on a bed of bright red cranberries as workers in the background prepare to start harvesting the bog of red berries in Carver, Mass., Sept. 28, 1990. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)