Cranberries are a perennial crop grown commercially in man-made wetlands or bogs in primarily five states in the U.S. Americans consume nearly 400 million pounds of cranberries per year, 20 percent of them during Thanksgiving week. The U.S. per capita consumption of cranberries is 2.3 pounds, almost entirely in the form of juice or juice blends. Cranberries are at the top of the list of healthy foods. Besides being high in vitamin C, manganese and fiber, cranberries are rich in phyto-nutrients (naturally derived plant compounds), particularly proanthocyanidin antioxidants, which are essential for all-round wellness.
Native Americans on Oregon's northern coast gathered wild cranberries. But it wasn't until 1885 that Massachusetts native Charles McFarlin realized that cranberries would thrive on Oregon's sandy South Coast and planted the first vines.
Commercial bogs were few until 1946, when the Ocean Spray cooperative extended its operations to Oregon. There are now approximately 150 cranberry farms in Coos and Curry counties. Sixty-four percent of Oregon growers are independent and not affiliated with Ocean Spray.
Cranberries are an important source of farm income in the Coos and Curry county area. Beds along the South Coast produce 99 percent of Oregon's cranberry crop. Sandy, elevated, marine terraces provide a good foundation for cranberries. Oregon-grown cranberries have consistently excellent red color content valued by processors for blending.
Cranberry farms are also a market for beekeepers who offer pollination services. About 3,500 Oregon hives are placed on cranberry farms during bloom. Cranberry farms also utilize the services of several custom operators who build, prune and resand beds. Local fabricators and machinists help to build specialized equipment for cranberry farming.
Cranberries, once traditionally consumed seasonally with holiday turkeys, are now consumed year round in processed forms. Fresh market cranberries are stored following harvest until it is time to package and ship berries out for the U.S. holiday market. Only about 5 percent of cranberries produced in the U.S. are sold fresh and the remaining 95 percent are processed, most commonly for juice and juice blends. Most cranberry growers sell their production on contract. A handful of companies purchase cranberries directly from growers. Massachusetts-based Ocean Spray accounts for about 80 percent of raw cranberry purchases. Other handlers include Northland Cranberries, Inc., Wisconsin; Decas Cranberry Products, Massachusetts; Clement Pappas & Company, Inc., New Jersey; and Cliffstar Corporation, New York.
The forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2015 was up slightly from 2014, at 841.27 million pounds. Wisconsin is the leading producer of cranberries, producing nearly 60 percent of the crop. Other leading cranberry producing states include Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington. (USDA NASS 2015). The total acres harvested in 2014 was 40,500, with average yield per acre of 10.3 tons, ranging from 4.9 to nearly 12 tons per acre. Domestically, the cranberry industry is dominated by a handful of grower/processors. Ocean Spray, one of the oldest grower-owned cooperative in the United States, represents about 600 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington as well as in British Columbia and other parts of Canada. The total value of the utilized US production was $254.41 million, 93 percent of the value coming from processed cranberries.
The South Coast's small growers have good seasons and bad, and the price fluctuates. In recent years, some independent growers have received less per pound than it costs to produce the fruit. Many growers are looking to create value-added cranberry products or explore new markets worldwide for their berries. But cranberry growing is still a South Coast industry that won't go away.
The city of Bandon has celebrated a Cranberry Festival in the fall each year since 1947.