John Remus III Photography | a photographers blog

Cranberry Boggin! (Yes, like the Ocean Spray commercials)

Mike Wainio, owner of the Wainio Bogs in Carver, Massachusetts.

Last week I was way out in Massachusetts wrapping up the last part of a two week trip around New England areas – a mix of work and leisure travel. For those not familiar, Carver is right outside Boston, and home to my friend Merri and her family. Well, it turns out that Carver is a MASSIVE cranberry producer – at one point in the mid 1900s being the largest producer in the US.
I had ALWAYS wanted to see the cranberry bogs and flooded fields in person. And while visiting one of the Wainio bogs I was invited to come back and see them flood the fields the next day!

You have no idea how excited I was. Hell. Yes.

Honestly I tried my best to not be pushy with my friends about coming back right on time the following day. But this chance was going to make my whole trip that much more awesome. Seriously. We’ve all seen the Ocean Spray commercials with the fields full of floating cranberries. I was about to see that in real life. Sweet!

Well that Saturday I returned to the bogs with my friend Brittany. I chatted with Tony, who runs the Berry Guys Farm Stand on location there where you can buy all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables. It was Tony who had first invited me out to see the flooding the day before and also said I could come back watch the harvesting. I then spoke briefly with Mike and Brandon who were going to be farming the field and doing the actual harvesting. They said come back in an hour or so and they’d be out there working.

No problem. To the coffee shop!

An hour later Brittany dropped me off so I could shoot – she had a couple errands to run.

I wandered out to the bog where Mike and Brandon were starting their laps on the threshers. I waved hello and pointed to my camera and threw a thumbs-up… basically non-verbally asking if it was cool to take photos of them. Mike yelled back “Wanna come out here with us?” “Uh… YEAH!” was my response.

I walked around to the ramps. Mike picked me up on his thresher, and soon I was out on the water with them harvesting cranberries! SO.DAMN.COOL. I’m sure to a degree I seemed “so Californian” to think this was as great as it was, but who gets a chance like this out of the blue?

I spent the next hour and a half with Mike chatting about everything from cranberries to motocross – Mike used to race motocross and I used to handle all photography for K&N Filters, so he was completely familiar with my old employer.
There was so much I never knew about cranberry bogging that I learned.. here are a few things…

There are two types of harvesting. Wet harvest and Dry harvest. Wet harvest is what people all know about due to photos and Ocean Spray commercials, the flooded fields. These berries are immediately brought to the plant for processing since they will spoil within about 48 hours. Wet harvest berries are used in jams, sauce, juice, etc. Dry pick berries are harvested with a different type of thresher and used for everything else (dried berries, cooked into foods, etc).

Below are 40 more images I shot while at the bogs. I encourage everyone to read on. The experience was really amazing, and I’ll share more in the captions as usual.

Click the break for the rest of the images:

Mike and Brandon starting their first lap around the bog.

The trail left from the first lap. This was “cut” right through the middle of the bog. They would only be doing half this afternoon. The other half would be done tomorrow.

Mike said the question he gets asked the most is “How do you know where you’re driving out there?” This is how. You can clearly see the area that was already been passed over with the thresher versus the part that wasn’t.
Unfortunately I didn’t have a polarizing filter with me, but the berries show up bright red through the water.

As you pass over with the thresher all the berries float to the top.

These thresher wheels/arms shake the vines underwater from what I understand. They don’t damage them at all.

Brandon follows Mike, slightly offset from Mike’s path. You can see the edge of his threshing machine follow the “line” of Mike’s tire.

Me, riding along with Mike and Brandon in the background out on the bogs!

It was cool just seeing the water all around us full of cranberries

This is after the second lap.

All the berries blow with the wind. So, depending on the direction it will determine which side of the bog fills up.

Churn, churn, churn!
I’m really surprised this doesn’t crush any berries.

As we come around on the third lap there are millions of berries floating in the water already. Visibility is getting tricky. Also, note the size of the bog here. This shows about 2/3 of the width of this particular bog. Mike said that once they’ve finished the whole bog over half the water will be covered in berries!

To make sure they’re still on the correct course Mike runs the thresher, then quickly goes in reverse to get a look at the vines below and make sure he’s still lined up properly.

But the berries quickly cover the area he just cleared.

“Let’s try that one more time…”

Leaning over for a better look below

It’s pretty bright. No sunglasses for me since I was shooting.

Back to a clear area where you can see the full vines below

Out in the middle of the bog Mike laughs that this section is hard because we’re driving into the sun… and the reflection hides a lot of color from showing through to the surface.

Making sure we’re still on course. Mike said typically to pass the time he’d have on his noise cancelling headphones and iPod so it’s just him and the music.

Here’s an idea of what we were driving into… bright sun and a completely covered section of the bog.
In the background on the shore you see my friend Merri holding her daughter (right) and her sister Brittany (left).

Wrapping up lap number 4. You can see how many more berries are on now the surface after just those few laps.

Since my friends were back to pick me up I asked Mike to drop me off. Thanked him for his time and the experience… and I took his portrait which was at the top of this blog post. haha. I promised it’d be good, so I hope he digs it. LOL

Brandon stayed in place so Mike could easily line back up after taking me back to shore.

I had to do at least one lots-of-cranberries photo

As we were leaving I noticed Mike got in the water for something. I’m not sure what. Possibly moving some of the marker flags. Those little white flags you see are placed to help them navigate around the bog. Or he was adjusting the thresher, again I’m not really sure.

Back on course and back to work. When I left I would guess they were half done for the afternoon.

Again, I had an awesome time getting to chat with Mike and learn about cranberry farming. I didn’t find out til afterward that Mike is actually the owner. They own 350 acres of farmland and bogs. This particular bog that we were on that day was originally planted in the late 1800s – that’s OLD!
Also, in the winter time, to protect the vines, they flood the fields. Once there is a thick layer of ice on the water, they drain the bogs again creating a pocket of air underneath that keeps the vines safe and dry all winter. Cool, huh?

Truly an amazing experience. I learned a ton about cranberry farming and what goes into getting those berries from the vine to your kitchen.
HUGE Thank You to Mike and the Wainio bogs, and also Tony and the Berry Guys Farm Stand!

Berry Guys recently joined Facebook: http://on.fb.me/rQGe2V

There are 2 Comments to this article

Your Dad says:
11/10/2011

What a great set of photos. That must have been an incredible time and how very nice of them to invite you back and take you out on the thresher for that experience. I’m sure they’ll love the pictures. I mean how often do they get the chance to have professional pictures taken of them doing what they do every day!

Valerie says:
11/10/2011

What great shots! I’m in love w/photography and am in awe of your work! Keep’em comin! :)

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