Cranberries - it's all this family has known for more than 100 years.
The Wetherby Cranberry Farm is owned and operated by Nodji Van Wychen, her husband Jim, and their children. The farming tradition started with her grandfather more than a century ago, in 1903, and it's still continuing - some of the equipment Nodji used up until a few years ago are the very machines she watched her parents use when she was a child.
"It's a piece of history. It's a part of our tradition," Nodji said of a piece of equipment she calls the "bounce machine" - built in 1923, its wooden cogs sort fresh cranberries from rotten ones by testing their buoyancy.22537196
"A good berry will bounce, and a bad berry will not," she explains as she recalled the decades she used the bounce machine. "[My grandfather] would prop me up on a stool, and I would sit there and hand sort."
The bounce machine retired just seven years ago as Nodji and her family switched to newer technology to speed up the sorting process. But while high-tech equipment prevails in the Wetherby Cranberry Farm packing center, tradition continues - Nodji requires an extra set of hands to double-check her new machine's work.
"It's a last little double check to make sure it's only high quality berries that make it in the grocery store," explained Mike Gnewikow, Nodji's son-in-law.
Mike has spent the last several weeks in the packing center, and when he's not here, he's out in the bogs. October is harvest season for the cranberry farm. During this month
, Mike, Nodji and the family virtually eat, sleep, breathe and wade through cranberries as they prepare for the holiday season. According to Mike, the family won't stop to rest until Thanksgiving, when the cranberries have been shipped off to be made into juices and jams.
But that's not all Nodji's cranberries are used for - about 1/4 of the Wetherby crop is used for the kind of fresh fruit you can find in your grocery store. Wetherby is unique in that aspect - it's one of only two cranberry producers in the state that yields fresh fruit that won't be used for processed foods. Indeed, it's a rare phenomenon in the entire cranberry industry, as only about 5 percent of the crop comprises fresh berries.
"We're very, very close knit family. You kind of find that in cranberry growing families," Nodji says. She's got eight grandchildren, four of which are Mike's boys, and she has no qualms about the future of her cranberry tradition.
"If Grandma has anything to do with it, I hope that will be the 5th generation on this marsh."
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