March 12, 2018
My FarmHer visit to Massachusetts was most definitely one of the most unique farms I have ever visited. The FarmHer of the farm, Erin Williams, grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania with a love of cattle. She went to Cornell University and started working on the east coast for Farm Credit. While on the East Coast, she met her husband Cass, a generational cranberry farmer, and the rest is history. A few years back Erin decided it was time to bring cows back into her life and she started her own operation, Bogside Acres. She rents a little land in town and raises cattle, pigs and chickens. She has also started an event business at the cranberry bog, showing others what it’s like to be a cranberry farmer for a day.
The day I met Erin in Plympton, Massachusetts was a sunny, crisp, clear fall day. We started out with her regular morning routine, checking cattle at the various plots of land around the small town. We then made a stop back at the house to check the chicks and feed the pigs some cranberries (of course). Erin is working to bring a locally raised, pasture based meat option to consumers in her town and is very proud of the farm she has started. She isn’t a full time farmher though. Since she still works in banking she does chores before the sun is up, and after the sun is down.
When we were done with the chores at her operation, we loaded up the old gray truck with all kinds of props and supplies for the upcoming dinner at the cranberry bog, and headed that way. We arrived to the bog just in time to see the very first load of cranberries being loaded onto the semi truck. It was day one of harvest at the bog. Erin’s husband, Cass explained the unique process to me. It first starts with the decades old cranberry plants, some as old as the 1920’s. The vines grow all year and once the fruit ripens, the bog is flooded. All of the vines are then under water and Cass drives the harvester through. It beats the bushes and the cranberries pop off and float up to the surface. They then corral the berries with a large floating rope type system, pulling them into the machine that brings them out of the water where they are washed and put in the semi and taken to the nearby Ocean Spray plant.
The entire process was amazing to watch from afar, and even cooler from inside the flooded bog with a pair of waders on. Erin showed me the ropes and made me a cranberry farmHer for the day. She is a smart, strong and focused young woman who is using her passion for agriculture to help build a stronger future for both her new farm and her husband’s family operation. Regardless of whether her feet are on the land or in the bog, one thing is clear; this young FarmHer was a joy to visit.
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