Food Bullying Podcast

Growing cranberries and sustainability: Episode 66


Cranberries! One of the stars of autumn tables evokes beautiful images, wonderful scents, and a distinct taste. We discover how cranberries are grown and harvested sustainably in this episode, plus why we shouldn’t be afraid of the “sugar” in these nutritious berries. We also learn how a cranberry bog in Massachusetts looks different than a cranberry bog in Wisconsin.

Michele and Eliz are joined by Dawn Gates-Allen, a fourth generation cranberry grower, who believes that the future of agriculture is through continuing education. Collaborating with schools, realtors, universities and stewardship is a foundation; culminating these while not being afraid to embrace things that are tough will help raise awareness of what agriculture offers to our environment and at your table. Ultimately food education and good decision making is what makes us healthy and well balanced.

Key points:

How are cranberries grown?

  • What you see on the commercials is a glamorized version of harvest. Cranberry bogs are flooded for harvest, but aren’t grown in water.
  • Cranberries don’t like to have “wet feet.” Cranberries are grown on a vine with shallow roots.
  • Durning growing season the cranberry bog looks like a lovely golf course with ditches for irrigation.
  • Water is recycled and stored in reservoirs and ponds – It is very scenic.
  • One of the largest managers of water in the state.

How does technology help make the farm more sustainable?

  • Remote control irrigation is used to provide the right amount of water at the right time.
  • Everything is done by satellite through solar powered sensors.
  • Sensors report the temperature and soil moisture conditions in the bog.
  • Water is used to protect plants from both frost and heat.

How does a cranberry bog in Massachusetts look different than a cranberry bog in Wisconsin?

  • When cranberries farms in Massachusetts started in the 1880s, they were built in the wetlands around rocks and trees.  They are unevenly shaped and require more labor to harvest
  • Farms in Wisconsin are more open and rectangular.  They are built with dykes around them so that machinery can be used to harvest.

What about all the sugar in cranberries?

  • As with any food, portion control is important.
  • Cranberries have lots of health benefits.
  • Lots of recipes call for whole, unsweetened cranberries.

Much of Dawn’s work with realtors is educating them and new home owners about what to expect living near a working farm.

Cranberry farm familyThree tips to overcome Food Bullying:

  • Keep an open mind.
  • Know your sources.
  • Freeze cranberries. They keep up a year!  Don’t let the sugar thing worry you.


Dawn Gates-Allen Website:



Food Bullying Podcast’s Facebook Page:

Food Bullying with Michele Payn:

Embrace Your Heart with Eliz Greene:

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