Cranberry COUNTRY tour Photo by: Visit Warrens Cranberries are native to the marshlands of central Wisconsin; Native Americans have harvested them for centuries. Commercial production in Wisconsin began in Green Lake County in the early 1850s. The center of the industry later moved to marshes around Tomah, Warrens, and Wisconsin Rapids. By 1956 Wisconsin had become the second largest source of cranberries (behind Massachusetts) and in 1994 became the country’s leading cranberry producer and still holds that title today. Historically, during harvest the marshes were flooded with 6 to 10 inches of water to make the berries float to the surface, where seasonal workers wielding cranberry rakes collected them. Each fall, large bunkhouses in Tomah and Wisconsin Rapids filled with migrant workers. Native American workers would set up camp on the grounds of some of the larger marshes to work as pickers. Workers were paid 75 cents per bushel, and in 1875 pickers averaged two bushels per day. 14 During the 1945 season, German prisoners of war confined in Wisconsin worked in the cranberry bogs. The prisoners worked in the marshes all summer, weeding the beds, digging drainage ditches, and assisting with the harvest. Cranberries are one of only three native fruits to North America (the other two being blueberries and concord grapes). Cranberries are produced on low growing vines that blossom in late June or early July. You can see the cranberry blossoms and the bees that pollinate them on June 30th at the Wetherby Cranberry Company during their annual Cranberry Blossom Day! If you can’t make it for the summer cranberry blossoms be sure to come for harvest time generally around October. The berries are floated to the surface of their beds and are then dislodged by a mechanical harvester. You can join Wetherby Cranberry Company for their annual Harvest Day Celebration on October 6th to see a cranberry harvest up-close and in person. (They even let you take pictures in the floating berries)!