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Canadian Cranberries, Eh?

Canada is the second largest cranberry grower and producer in the world! Just more affirmation that we’re a natural resource powerhouse. But unlike, nickel, uranium, oil, lumber or even maple syrup, cranberries are so, so much healthier. And you know what?...they can be made to be just as delicious as maple syrup.

But if you’re asking (or even if you’re not), where and who exactly grows these delectable functional-food jewels, here is a quick summary of where cranberries grow a mari, usque ad mare.

I will go region-by-region, just for fun, and maybe tell you something unique about that area’s production.

 

A Contribution from the Indigenous Peoples


With the recent and long overdue introduction of the Day for Truth and Reconciliation, we would be remiss not to mention the contribution and introduction of this wonderful berry to Canadian and American settlers. Settlers were introduced to the cranberry’s usefulness by local indigenous people who not only ate the berry raw, but also used it in sauces, puddings, breads, and a high protein, “to go” meal called pemmican. Pemmican was a mixture of dried strips of meat or fish, fat, and berries that had been pounded into paste. The mixture was then shaped into a cake and dried in the sun – a power bar of sorts. Pemmican stored well and was often used as a meal on long journeys.


As it turns out, current research indicates that cranberry concentrate serves as a preservative. It inhibits food borne pathogens. Indigenous tribes also used the cranberry to make dye for their rugs and blankets and found the cranberry plant to be valuable for medicinal purposes, using it both to treat wounds and to help prevent certain illnesses.


The Wahta Mohawks of Bala have farmed and processed cranberries until a few years ago in the Muskokas. See our “Ontario” section and to read more click here: https://cranberry.ca/iroquois-cranberry-growers/

Early photos of Iroquois Cranberry Growers operations, Source: www.cranberry.ca


 

Atlantic Canada


It’s not surprising that a number of cranberry growers live in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. History was made in 1872 when William McNeil planted a small area of his farm at Melvern Square with cranberries, the first commercial planting of the fruit in Canada. By the early 1890s cranberries were an established, if still a minor commodity in the province and had begun to replace berries imported from New England.


The Annapolis valley, besides being a beautiful location, is a perfect place for bottling it’s famous Apple-Cranberry ciders. Some claiming to be made with at least 200 cranberry berries per bottle!


In New Brunswick, commercial plantings began in 1994. In 2014 there were 25 cranberry farms with approximately 873 planted acres. NB is the third largest producing province of cranberries today, in a nation that is the second largest producer in the world.


Conductor Cranberry Cider, Annapolis Valley fermented apples blended with local organic cranberries for that extra tartness. (Photo Courtesy of: www.maritimeexpress.ca)



Photo courtesy of: Terra Beata Farms


 

Québec


History


Created in 1994 by seven cranberry growers, the Quebec Cranberry Growers Association (or L’Association des producteurs de canneberges du Québec (APCQ) for those who are bilingual). Now with over 80 cranberry farms spread across six regions of Quebec, the Centre-du-Québec region alone boasts 90% of these growers. The office is located in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, in the heart of cranberry country.


Quebec produces a volume of cranberries that now reaches 32% of the world market, 3/4 of which is processed locally.


With 10,000 acres of cranberry production — most of which is near the provincial capital — it is big business. Last year, the province’s 82 cranberry producers harvested about 215 million pounds of cranberries — production that is second only to Wisconsin.


Quebec is also a leader in organic production, something in which the U.S. lags behind. A lucrative effort since conventional cranberries fetch about 25 cents a pound, while Quebec’s 30 organic producers receive about 60 cents/pound.




White cranberry juice? But cranberries are red! – Well, before turning red when ripe, cranberries are white. The berries that are used for white cranberry juice are simply picked a couple of weeks earlier. White cranberries also tend to be a little less tart. (Source: www.notrecannberge.com)


 

Ontario


Ontario has only two commercial plantings or bogs: the Johnston Cranberry Marsh near Bala and Upper Canada Cranberries, at the south end of Ottawa.


Upper Canada Cranberries is the only commercial cranberry grower in Eastern Ontario. In fact, theirs is the only farm that is located in an urban setting, right in the City of Ottawa proper.


Iroquois Cranberry Growers was community owned and operated by the Wahta Mohawks. It was started in 1969 with three acres and grew to sixty-eight acres, becoming the largest cranberry farm in Ontario. By the mid 1990’s Iroquois Cranberry Growers was the single most successful Aboriginal Community owned business in Canada. High cranberry prices encouraged more production across North America until supply outstripped demand. A decades long world wide surplus of cranberries and the resulting collapse in cranberry prices has made continuing operations at Iroquois Cranberry Growers untenable and they seized operation in 2017.


Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh, in Bala, have been growing cranberries for three generations. Their farm is Local Food Plus certified for sustainable growing practices and they manage 27 acres of cranberries on a 350-acre farm. Most of their farm is natural wetlands, buffer zones, reservoirs and woodlands with a trail system that allows visitors to explore some of these areas. They are famous for being an integral part of the Bala Cranberry Festival.


They sell fresh berries in season, as well as frozen berries year-round. The balance of the crop is made into wine and other products.


You can visit the festival’s home page here. https://www.balacranberryfestival.on.ca/




 

The Prairies


Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta don’t have any sizeable cranberry growing and production. Their cranberry presence is mostly limited to some hobby and U-pick farms.


 

British Columbia


The BC cranberry industry is comprised of approximately 80 growers producing up to 84 million lbs (840,000 barrels) of fruit annually. Most cranberry production has been traditionally used in the juice market, but more recently, licensed vendors have emerged selling specialty products such as wine, dried sweetened cranberries and fresh and frozen fruit.


BC cranberry production constitutes approximately 12% of North American production and although it was largest in early 2000s, it has now been surpassed by the Province of Quebec.


Cranberries are grown in the lower Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island with over 95% of cranberries grown by BC growers being shipped to the USA for use in value-added Ocean Spray products such as juice and Craisins.


Ocean Spray is a grower owned cooperative that includes many of the growers in BC, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.


Vancouver Island’s fresh Yellow Point Cranberries ready for the store shelf.



 

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