Slater grew up on a farm and after 14 years running his own excavation company, he thought it was time for a change and returned to his farming roots. He bought 100 acres not far from where he lived and in a self-proclaimed ‘A-Ha!’ moment, decided on growing cranberries.
Unknown to him before buying the land, the soil was highly acidic and had a creek running through it – perfect for cranberries! There also lots of peat moss on the land meaning it was a bog at some point in the past and might have even had wild cranberries growing in it years ago.
Slater has several cranberry bogs now on his land, each are harvested when the cranberries are ripe in October. He starts by flooding the bogs. Then he drives through them using his home made thresher that harvests the cranberries, bringing them to float on the surface. Using this machine, he can drive right over the cranberry beds without harming the plants.
From there, the workers on his famer wade into the bog and use a wooden boom to gather the cranberries together into one place. Slater then uses his ‘shovel’ (a Komatsu excavator) to scoop up the cranberries and deposit them in wagons. This takes a delicate hand as the bog is only a foot or two deep.
The cranberries are then driven by tractor to the sorting machine that takes out any leaves and debris. Once that’s done, the cranberries are sorted by hand for any discolouration and weight. We tried our hands at sorting but it’s easy to see why it normally takes nine adults to sort cranberries – it’s hard work! Only then are they ready to be sweetened or left unsweetened and then packed up, dried out or juiced!
Bridgehead uses Upper Canada Cranberries every day in our Oatmeal Triple Berry Muffins as well as in several seasonal salads we offer. We are proud to support local farmers like Lyle Slater and his team of cranberry growers whenever we can!
October 23, 2013