A “Berry” Good Harvest

The cranberry is a little, red, tart fruit with a big punch. Wisconsin produces more of this berry than any other state. David Bartling, owner of Bartling’s Manitowish Cranberry Company says they finished harvest two weeks ago and he’s happy with their yields.

“We have just under 200 acres and produce an average of nine thousand pounds of cranberries per day during harvest. This year was no exception,” explains Bartling.

Cranberry farming in Northern Wisconsin presents unique challenges due to the colder climate and shorter growing season compared to the central part of the state. The farm grows the same cranberry varieties as those in the central sands, but the shorter growing season can affect crop yield. Harsher winters and an earlier onset of fall limit the number of growing degree days, which impacts the development of next year’s crop. However, Bartling says this region benefits from more sunlight and reduced pest pressures due to the frigid winters.

Bartling’s Manitowish Cranberry Company is part of the Ocean Spray cooperative. Bartling says they clean and bin their fruit into 1200 pound bins on site at the farm. This makes them unique as others in the cooperative take their fruit to the receiving station to have it done.

“While this takes more logistical planning, my brother and I have changed a lot of our processes here so it’s less labor intensive,” says Bartling. “We’re also lucky that we have a lot of retirees in our area as well that help out when needed.”

Bartling’s Manitowish Cranberry Company is a finalist for the 2023 Wisconsin Leopold Conservation Award. Bartling says it’s an honor to just be recognized and claims it has to do with the fact that a commitment to conservation has been deeply ingrained in him from his parents.

He adds, “We have an integrated pest management plan that we scout for pets ourselves. We have tensiometers to help monitor our soil health and we’ve also created pollinator prairies to support our local environment.”

Bartling added that they have a more targeted approach to using pesticides. He says this helps protect beneficial spiders, and reduces their need for broad-spectrum applications.

In an environmentally conscious effort, the farm has turned its cranberry byproducts into a valuable resource. The leaves removed during the harvest process are composted and sold to local gardeners and landscapers. 

“It is a high-quality compost that’s rich in nutrients, pH-neutral, and free from weed seeds,” says Bartling. “This helps us to not only reduce waste but also continue to be sustainable.”