Farmers ready for cranberry season in South Jersey

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If it's October, it's cranberry season in South Jersey. (WPVI)

If it's October, it's cranberry season in South Jersey.

At JJ White Farms in Pemberton Township, the second-biggest cranberry grower in New Jersey, an 18 foot wide one-of-a-kind floating barge passed over a flooded bog Tuesday guided by GPS and pulled end to end by a winch. It was invented by fifth generation Farmer Joe Darlington.

"It uses the same picking action as what most other cranberry growers are using but instead of mounting that on a wheeled tractor that runs around in the water on the vines, it's mounted on a barge," Darlington said.

Darlington says the floating picker has increased yield 25% and is gentler on the berries.

October is peak season for cranberries. Farmers are harvesting now to make sure the tart fruit makes its way to your Thanksgiving table.

"Just as fast as we can go, we're trying to keep moving and working so there's no down time to get it over with," farmer Shawn Miller said.

At Dutchtown Farm in Hammonton crews are working seven days a week. New York City fireman Michael Thomas spends part of his vacation helping with the harvest.

"My great-grandfather was a pioneer in the cranberry industry in 1835 in New Jersey and I've always been fascinated," Thomas said.

After being shaken from the vines, the deep red berries float to the surface and are captured in a large boom, then pushed toward a loader. They are then cleaned and taken to Ocean Spray's receiving center in Chatsworth for processing.

"Once you get into a type of rhythm it's just following through the motions, you flood, you pick, you corral, you load. There's a type of pride involved in it," farmer Jon Miller said.

Turns out the sandy, acidic soil in the pinelands is perfect for growing cranberries. and with over half a million barrels grown each year in the Garden State, New Jersey is the third largest producer of cranberries in the country.
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