Why do cranberries grow so well in Oregon? Farmer explains


Oregon is the third largest producer of cranberries in the U.S., according to the USDA

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — If cranberries are on the Thanksgiving menu this year, there’s a chance they came from Oregon. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon produces more of the firm, red, tart berries than any state besides Wisconsin and Massachusetts. 

Dennis Bowman, who owns Bowman Bogs Cranberry Farm in Bandon, said Oregon’s climate is what makes the crop so successful. He said the state’s humid climate and cool, foggy nights are perfect for growing cranberries. 

“Oregon is known for having the longest growing season out of any other region of growing cranberries and that’s why our berries, we have a darker red or fruit with less acid and a higher sugar content,” he explained. 

While Wisconsin and Massachusetts both have high humidity, their winters arrive sooner and are much colder, leaving less time to grow cranberries. Bowman said in some ways, it’s a blessing because the long season allows great fruit to grow, but on the other hand, it means farmers are working longer in Oregon. 

Top U.S. cranberry producing states, USDA
In the 2020-2021 season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Oregon produced the third most cranberries, behind Wisconsin and Massachusetts. Image courtesy USDA

Oregon’s harvest takes place in September or October. Bowman said he had his berries harvested by mid-October and then began helping his family members and neighbors with their harvests. 

Bowman considers his farm a mom-and-pop operation and in 2021, most of his berries were freeze dried and used for supplements in Europe. 

However, he said about half of Oregon cranberry farmers supply their berries to the company Ocean Spray, which sells products like cranberry sauce, fruit juices, fruit snacks and dried cranberries. 

Bowman also turns some of his berries into a syrup, called Grandpa Jack’s cranberry syrup, that he sells locally at his farm stand. 

Bowman Bogs Cranberry Farm Oregon
Dennis Bowman holds two bottles of Grandpa Jack’s Cranberry Syrup. He makes the syrup with berries grown on his farm in Bandon and sells them at his farm stand. Photo courtesy Bowman Bogs Cranberry Farm

He said he’s glad to see cranberry prices are slowly increasing again. He said about 10 years ago, he was selling his berries for 90 cents per pound. Within a few years, that number dropped to 12 cents per pound. At one point, the market was so over-saturated with a surplus of berries, Wisconsin growers were throwing away a quarter of their yield

“It’s been difficult for everybody the last few years with the depressed prices, but everybody that is here is committed to trying to hold on and stay in the business and keep it going here,” Bowman said.

This year, Bowman sold his berries for about 33 cents per pound and he said he had a good harvest. 

In the off season, Bowman said he’ll continue to help neighboring farmers with their land and crops before he starts caring for his early-blooming varieties again in February or March. 

Washington State University says Washington is the fifth largest producer of cranberries in the U.S. Like Oregon, its cranberry farms are also mostly located on the coast. 

Cranberries aren’t the only Thanksgiving staple that grow well in Oregon. The state also produces the fourth most green beans and potatoes in the U.S., according to the Department of Agriculture.

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