Every fall Cape Cod’s cranberry bogs are transformed from dull fields into a colorful landscape of floating red berries when growers flood the bogs. This October, I spent some time photographing Ray Thacher and his crew as they harvested their berries. Thacher’s family has been growing cranberries on Cape Cod for over 60 years. As children, he and his two sisters worked with their parents on the bogs just as his own children did when they were growing up. “Growing cranberries means you have to be a farmer, a mechanic, a builder, a painter…you do something different every day,” he says. While fall is harvesting season and the most visibly busy time for Thacher and his crew, cranberry farming is demanding year-round. From maintaining bogs and equipment, to setting up sprinklers, monitoring for insects, fertilizing and pruning, dry picking, water picking and accounting, Thacher’s work is never quite done.
In recent years, cranberry growers have been threatened by a surplus of berries. “This can be a huge problem for growers because the price of cranberries plummets and unless you’re part of Ocean Spray–a grower-owned cooperative–you can’t make a profit,” says Thacher. His family is lucky to have joined Ocean Spray decades ago so they are less vulnerable to dips in prices. “It’s sometimes tough working outside in the winter but mostly, it’s great to be growing food (and juice) that is enjoyed world-wide,” says Thacher. During my time photographing Ray and his crew, I was struck by the beauty of the setting and the camaraderie of the crew. Below are some images from my time with them.
Ray Thacher and Richie Gault use “dry pickers” to dry pick berries in late October. The berries
are put into burlap sacks and then dumped into containers. Dry berries are sold bagged at the
grocery store for use in fresh recipes.