In Oregon, they call cranberry harvesting “mining for red gold.” The state’s history goes back to 1885, when Charles Dexter McFarlin started Oregon’s first cranberry bog, which is still producing cranberries today. Because of the longer growing season on the Pacific Coast, berries grown there are darker in color. The 175 growers in Oregon currently cultivate approximately 2,500 acres and harvest about 40 million pounds of fruit each year.
Farming in this area has changed since its origins in the late 19th century, and has become more precision oriented and environmentally friendly. Through the years, cranberry farming on the Southern Oregon Coast has survived many challenges. In fact, production remained limited in Oregon until 1946, when Ocean Spray extended membership to Oregon growers.
Today, Oregon is the fourth largest producer of cranberries in the United States behind Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Most of Oregon’s cranberries are produced in the Bandon area, where the McFarlin is still a popular variety. Ocean Spray has about 70 Grower-Owners in the state, along with a receiving facility in Bandon.
On their family farm in Oregon, Steve and Gary Gant work alongside their father, Tom, who is 89 years old and still actively involved in day-to-day operations. After a fire destroyed the family home in 1936, Tom’s father, Elmer, borrowed $300 to buy a small plot of land where he hand-planted his first cranberry bog. Farming quickly became the family’s way of life, and Tom and his siblings were raised to appreciate the land they farmed. This respect was passed down to Steve and Gary – the third generation to produce Ocean Spray cranberries on the property. The brothers hope that their children and grandchildren will continue the tradition. “When you buy and consume an Ocean Spray® product, I take it personally because our family farm is tied to it,” shared Steve. “We care – and so does Ocean Spray, which is why I call the Cooperative a family.”