RI Monthly : The Dish

ON THE JOB WITH: Fairland Farms

The cranberry bog at Fairland Farm in Norton.


When you picture cranberries, don’t just think of cranberry sauce; envision glazes for meat and fish, fun cocktails and sweetened dried cranberries as a nutritious snack. There’s so much you can do with the cheery red berries to enjoy them year-round and in your everyday diet, says Bonnie Cavanaugh, R.N., herbalist at Fairland Farms and author of the book Rubies in the Sand, a cranberry cookbook.

Fred C. Bottomley operates Fairland Farm, LLC and Cape Cod Organic Cranberry, LLC. He owns Fairland Farms’ 350-acre farm in Norton, and bogs at five other locations in Massachusetts, including Sharon, Easton, Falmouth, Dartmouth and Mashpee. We recently toured the Norton bogs, where we learned lots of interesting facts about cranberry harvesting and its agricultural history in our area.

WHO: Bottomley’s ancestry can be traced back to the days of the Pilgrims. His tenth-generation grandfather, John Alden, came over on theMayflower as a barrel maker, and he settled in the Plymouth Bay Colony. Bottomley’s eighth- and ninth- generation grandfathers started farming in Norton, where the family business now flourishes as Fairland Farm.

WHAT: Cranberries have moderate levels of Vitamin C, fiber and manganese. Native Americans introduced the Pilgrims to the nutritious berries that grew wild in New England. The cranberry is said to have gotten its name from the crane-like flowers that bloom on the vines in May. The light pink petals look like the head of a crane; hence the term “cran” -berry.

WHEN: Cranberries are harvested in mid-October using two different methods: wet and dry harvesting. During the winter, bogs are flooded with water, so that there’s about eight-to-twelve inches of water above the vines. The few inches of water above the vines freeze, and the vines are preserved beneath the layer of ice.

WHERE: You can buy Fairland Farms berries at the Wintertime Farmer’s Market in Pawtucket, Eastside Marketplace in Providence, Lees Market in Westport as well as at the Whole Foods at University Heights. In summer, they’re sold at Lippitt Park market, Attleboro and other farmers markets.

WHY: Native Americans ate the berries for the medicinal benefits, and sailors in the sixteenth century kept them on board to ward off scurvy, which is caused by a lack of Vitamin C. We eat them because they taste good. By purchasing Fairland Farms cranberries, customers are assured that they are supporting a local family business.

HOW: For dry harvesting (watch a video), the farm operates eleven Furford pickers, machines that have teeth that comb the bottom of the vines to rouse the berries off the vines and up a conveyor belt and into burlap sacks. For wet harvesting (watch a video), the bogs are flooded and large tractors with egg-beater-like arms agitate the berries off the vines, so they float to the surface. “Cranberries float because they have hollow pockets where the seeds are stored,” says Bottomley. Berries are then corralled using booms. They are processed and portioned into tamper-proof packaging in Cumberland. Dry harvested berries can be sold fresh, while wet harvested berries are used for juices, sauces and dried cranberries.

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