Supplies of organic Wisconsin cranberries will be up this season.
“Last year was the first year with organic cranberries for us and it really took off. So this year we’ll be picking a substantial amount of organic,” says Kevin Tritz of Twin Lake Cranberry in Vesper, WI. “It would have been nice for the crop to be further along to cover some early orders. But the fruit that is there is fantastic.”
Indeed, Tritz notes this year’s general crop looks better than it has in years past. “The weather is a bit warmer so we haven’t seen the early blush we normally do but Mother Nature has a way of playing catch up. Our early varieties look great and are being picked as we speak,” he says.
Harvest began at the start of this week but only for a few select varieties. “After these first few early days, we get our full crew around the 4th of October and then really get to work,” says Tritz. Last year harvest lasted 18 days, but this year, with increased acreage for fresh cranberries, that should stretch to 24 days.
Demand up for 2021?
Meeting that crop will likely be greater demand. “Demand last year was up and it will be up this year again,” says Tritz. “We picked up customers so the growth is there.” He adds that consumers are responding to Twin Lake Cranberry’s mesh packaging and in turn, retailers are also beginning to support that packaging with point of sale materials educating them on why mesh is a better packaging solution over poly bags. “The organic side of the business will have the most growth year over year. We actually started down the organic road with such a small order that we considered hand raking it for harvest. However, after we got going and word got out that customers could get organic from us in our trademarked red mesh package, a few cases turned into thousands,” he says.
To manage that increased growth requires new ways to handle the challenging labor situation. For Twin Lake Cranberry, that means its first year in the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers program. “We’re excited. Last year we cycled through 40 people to fill 18 positions with our local workforce. This year, we are super excited to join forces with such a great group of people who are excited to be part of our cranberry family,” says Tritz.
As for pricing this year, like many commodities, cranberries are getting hit with increased input costs on production. “It’s been seven years since we’ve had a price increase but this year we’ll be forced to make a small adjustment,” says Tritz.