Wisconsin grows more cranberries than any other state or province, amounting to more than half of the entire world's supply. Cranberry cultivation began here around 1860, thanks to Edward Sacket, who first harvested them in the town of Berlin. In the early days, marshes (please don’t call them bogs here) were developed by digging ditches around vines. While early cranberry pioneers faced frost, insects, weeds, diseases and fires, Wisconsin and cranberries were a natural pair, and by the end of the century, cranberry production had spread to several areas in the state.
Today, planted vines cover about 18,000 acres in 20 of the state's counties throughout central and northern Wisconsin. The counties with the greatest acreage devoted to cranberry production are Wood, Monroe, and Jackson. As a group, cranberry growers own and manage an additional 120,000+ support acres. Wisconsin cranberry growers annually harvest enough cranberries to supply every man, woman and child in the world with 26 cranberries, and the tart berry is the official state fruit.
Ocean Spray first entered into the state’s cranberry operations in the 1940s, and today, we’re proud to have close to 200 Grower-Owners from Wisconsin, along with processing facilities in Wisconsin Rapids, Tomah and Kenosha, as well as several receiving stations throughout the state’s growing regions.
The Bartling family’s cranberry marsh was founded in 1946 on just a few acres in Wisconsin. Brothers Peter and Michael Bartling together drastically grew the acreage their grandfather and father built to a 187-acre farm that celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016. Michael’s sons, Steven and David, are now positioned to lead the business as its fourth generation. “Because of our history, we feel a weight on our shoulders to move the business towards continued success, growth and innovation,” said Grower-Owner Steven Bartling. “This farm has brought our family, the community and cranberry lovers a lot of joy since the 1940’s, but we feel that we are just getting started.”
The Bible Family of Wisconsin have been growing cranberries for Ocean Spray since 1981 when Tom Bible purchased an 18-acre marsh without any prior farming experience. His son, Jim, joined his father after college to run the operation. Jim was intrigued by the variety of hats a cranberry grower must wear: working outside, running equipment and being part of the Cooperative. Tom and Jim grew their farm to 32 acres before selling it to become the State of Wisconsin’s’ Cranberry Research Station. The family started another cranberry marsh, Brockway Cranberry Inc., in 1992. Their first planting was 8 acres; today, it is 86 acres. Jim hopes that some of his four children – J.T., 34, Rachel, 31, Emma and Ethan, both 17 – will continue the family’s cranberry journey. “It has been very rewarding to have times when three generations have worked together on the marsh,” shared Jim.
The Dempzes are fourth-generation cranberry farmers, who say growing this amazing fruit is a way of life. Gary and Susan, along with their daughters, Heidi and Jenna, run the family business, Gaynor Cranberry Company, in Wisconsin. Part of the Ocean Spray Cooperative since the 1950’s, their 212-acre marsh celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2016. Jenna and Heidi’s great-grandfather, Charlie, worked on the farm as a young boy and purchased it after 30 years as a dedicated employee. “Having been born into the cranberry business, my sister and I have been inspired by the models of leadership and agriculture expertise of our parents and grandparents, as well as those who came before them,” shared Heidi. “We value the unique and special opportunity we have to carry on the tradition of cranberry growing and to enhance the farm so that it’s better for the next generation,” added Jenna.
The Detlefsens are a fifth-generation cranberry farming family. Robert and his wife, Lisl, own and operate a 140-acre cranberry marsh in Wisconsin that was originally purchased in 1871 and has been in the family ever since. Robert’s great-great grandfather, Sherman Newell Whittlesey, was one of the original cranberry pioneers, securing 240 acres of swampland in 1871 at the present site of Whittlesey Cranberry Company. Today, Robert and Lisl enjoy keeping the tradition alive and raising their two young sons on the land surrounding the marsh.
The Gottschalks are the second and third generations to care for the family’s Wisconsin cranberry marsh, founded in 1940 by Robert Gottschalk; however, they are fourth- and fifth-generation cranberry growers overall as Robert’s wife, Helen, grew up on the marsh next door! The 78-year-old marsh has been with the Ocean Spray Cooperative since the 1950’s and has grown to more than 230 acres of cranberry vines. Fawn Gottschalk owns and operates the farm with her parents, Guy and Kathy Gottschalk, and lives on the property with her sons. When they aren’t growing cranberries, the family enjoys relaxing at the lake and watching the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers football!
The Grygleskis of Wisconsin love growing cranberries – and they have been doing it for three generations! Brother and sister, Ed A. Grygleski and Mary Klouda, own and operate their marsh, Valley Corporation, part of the Ocean Spray family since 1954. Their grandfather, Edward W. Grygleski, purchased the farm in the early 1950’s and passed it down to their father, Ed J. Grygleski. Mary and Ed A.’s father had a passion for agriculture and started working on cross breeding to create a better fresh fruit variety. Expanding upon their father’s legacy, the siblings grew the farm from 100 acres to 240 acres, with 95% being the family’s own hybrids. Amongst Ed J.’s seven grandchildren, there’s hope that some will continue the tradition as the next generation of Grygleski cranberry farmers!
The Moss family’s Wisconsin cranberry marsh, Elm Lake Cranberry Co. Inc., has been in operation since 1901. Mike and Diane are the third generation of her family to own the farm, which her grandparents began working on as a young couple and were eventually able to purchase. Mike and Diane bought the marsh from her parents in 1998, continuing the tradition of cranberry growing and raising three children there. In recent years, their son John and his wife Melissa moved back to the farm to raise their five daughters. John brings an expertise in technology to the business that will shape the family’s future. “I’ve come to understand the way my parents and fellow cranberry growers love the land they work and live on,” shared Diane. “I’m continually amazed at how we as cranberry growers help each other to be successful farmers, especially in the Ocean Spray community, as we are all in this business together and are family.”
The Potter Family has been growing cranberries at Cutler Cranberry Company since 1923, when Guy Potter bought 11 acres of cranberries in Wisconsin. The farm has grown a lot over the last 95 years. Today, 4th and 5th generation family members own and manage 740 acres of cranberries. Fourth-generation owners and brothers, Martin and Brian Potter, are proud that the farm has been part of the Cooperative since its formation in 1930. The brothers and their families love to share their cranberry story with everyone they meet – hosting many elementary school students and other groups on their marsh every year at harvest time. “Cranberry growing is much more than a job; it is truly a way of life,” said 5th generation family member Jessica Rezin, who works full-time at Cutler Cranberry Company and also owns 9 acres of cranberries with her husband, Matt Rezin.
Rezin Cranberry Company was formed in 1931 by Dan Rezin when he purchased 40 acres of land in Wisconsin. It took him one year to make the first cranberry bed with nothing more than hard work, a wheelbarrow and a shovel. Today, 3rd and 4th generation father-and-son duo, Larry and Matt Rezin, own and operate more than 200 acres of cranberries, with occasional advice from retired 2nd generation grower David Rezin, who still lives on the marsh. The farm has been in the Ocean Spray Cooperative since 1954. Matt Rezin is the 4th generation to work on the farm, but a 6th generation cranberry grower, as members of his family helped to build several other cranberry marshes around the state. Matt shared, “It’s not a job when you love what you do for a living. It’s about teaching the next generation about the cranberry lifestyle.” Matt and his wife Jessica – who works on her family’s cranberry marsh, Cutler Cranberry Company – enjoy working and living on the marsh with their two children, Grace and Bruce.