Cran-barrels by the numbers

Sep 30, 2015

Standing at the edge of one of his family's bogs in Middleborough, fourth generation cranberry farmer Scott Hannula bends down, scoops up a handful of cranberries floating on the surface, and slices one in half.

“Size looks good. Quality is okay," Hannula said, inspecting the tiny crimson fruit. "Right now, color is our main issue with the warm weather we're having. All that white pulp mixed with that little bit of red gives us a terrible color, all of the handlers pay an incentive, extra money for tasty color."

"I don't know who is picking right now, because the color is so weird" Hannula continued. "Ocean Spray is telling fresh fruit guys to not pick, which is odd. It's almost never happened like this.”

Hannula's family-owned business Oiva Hannula & Sons is an independent, Carver-based grower that sells to companies to handle production, processing and sale of the fruit.

But Hannula also wears two other hats in the cranberry industry. He's on the handler side as general manager and consultant for Decas Cranberry Products, and sits on the Board of Directors for the Wareham-based Cranberry Marketing Committee, a quasi-governmental agency whose purpose is to safeguard an orderly supply of the cranberry crop and share policies and reports with the Department of Agriculture.

The marketing committee's reports show cranberry barrel output in 2014 was 1.8 million barrels. When the Board met for the second of its biannual meetings in Wareham this past August, the projection for this year's harvest was 2 million.

Wisconsin, the state that historically has had the highest crop yield is continuing to do well this season, while Massachusetts is projected to average the same as last year. However, the marketing committee's Executive Director Michelle Hogan said the Bay State can't blame the bad winter for not bumping up the region's crop.

“Last winter's harsh weather had no effect. It's actually good when the vines go dormant,” Hogan said.

Wareham's own A.D. Makepeace, the world's largest cranberry grower, sold 368 thousand barrels in 2014, close to a record high for the company, according to Linda Burke, the company's spokesperson.

“Generally, for this year, things look good," Burke said. "But we don't like to count anything until it's in the barn. That's the term we use for final counts – 'when it's in the barn'.”

The Cranberry Marketing Committee reports will be "in the barn" for its 2015 harvest numbers at the end of January 2016.