November 24, 2013

Maine cranberry growers say it’s hard to stay out of the red

They’re choosing different ways to respond as a glut in the market drives prices lower.

By Mary Pols
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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David Popp of Popp Farm in Dresden holds a few cranberries from one of his bogs. He refused to harvest most of his crop because of the low market price.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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David Popp fills an antique cranberry sorter with organic cranberries harvested from one of his bogs on his farm in Dresden. He plans to sell them in 25-pound boxes to local markets. He refused to harvest his non-organic cranberries because of the low price.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

“We work hard and we try to work smarter,” he said. “I think I didn’t work smart enough this year.”

In terms of thinking smarter, Nan Bradshaw of Bradshaw’s Cranberry Farm in Dennysville uses her website to find customers as far afield as Texas and Florida, shipping to people who don’t have the luxury, the way many Mainers have, of getting fresh cranberries at their local farmers market every November. She planted her four acres of cranberries during what Harker and others remember fondly as the “renaissance” of Maine cranberries.

“Physically it is very difficult work,” she said. “And as you get older you can’t keep doing it yourself, but you also can’t afford to hire anyone.”

The demographic of those who planted in the mid-1990s is aging.

“The people that went into this weren’t spring chickens,” said Bradshaw, 70.

And she knows of bogs that have gone by the wayside because of divorces, illnesses and death.

Armstrong was struck by the relative youth of the couple from Toddy Pond Farm in Monroe who called him up recently for advice on planting a cranberry bog.

“I’m 38,” Greg Purinton-Brown said. “I didn’t know that was considered young.”

He and his wife, Heide Purinton-Brown, could be part of the next wave of cranberry growers in the state. They’re hoping to get a few acres going this spring and sell only to the fresh market, or use the all-organic cranberries to enhance their cheeses. They’re not counting on boom years.

“It’s a long-term endeavor,” he said. “We’re doing the work now so that our sons can be farmers if they want to be. We’re doing this for the next generation.”

And he won’t be giving up his day job, telecommuting as a data analyst for Bank of America. Not yet, anyway. 

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: marypols

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Additional Photos

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Cranberries are available for sale at the Portland Farmer’s Market on Wednesday. Growers say that they’re grateful for consumers who buy local berries.

Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer


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