Discover the heart and taste of cranberry farming with a fall tour of the Cranberry Trail in West Central Wisconsin.
Cranberries are definitely the go-to for Thanksgiving, as well as the holidays. So where does this delicious fall fruit come from and how is it grown? These questions I hope to answer as we travel the Cranberry Trail in west central Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Cranberry Farming Revealed
You might not know this but cranberries are the number one fruit crop in Wisconsin. In fact, the U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee estimates that in 2019 alone, Wisconsin will produce over 5.9 million barrels of cranberries.
This makes up 60 percent of America’s total cranberry crop and the world’s largest grower of cranberries. That’s pretty amazing!
Here in Wisconsin, there are over 250 growers located across 20 counties in West Central Wisconsin and as far north as Manitowish Waters and Eagle River.
While you’re in the vicinity be sure to stop by the Vilas Cranberry Company, which has been churning out cranberries since 1946.
What Is the Cranberry Trail
The Cranberry Trail is a 50 mile self-guided grand tour of century-old cranberry marshes indicative of this region.
If you follow the Cranberry Highway, you will find yourself immersed in the richest area in Wisconsin that grows cranberries. Between September and October, the local marshes are ablaze with the signature bright red that can only be cranberry fields.
It’s best if you start in Warrens as it’s not only the center hub of cranberry heaven, being the “Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin” but it is also the home of this fun destination: Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center, Website: http://www.discovercranberries.com.
There you will learn about the cranberry industry, farming and growing practices to tasty endeavors.
And, don’t forget to set aside time for the Warrens Cranberry Festival. This must-attend event that occurs every year on the last weekend of September plays host to over 100,000 visitors who want to get their fill of everything cranberry, including cranberry brats–YUM!
How Are Cranberries Grown
While traveling on the Cranberry Trail you’ll be immersed in the gorgeous views of the cranberry marshes you’ll see from your window. The fields might even be flooded at this time (if you are traveling between September and October). But don’t be fooled–cranberries do not actually grow in water.
In fact, they are actually fruit grown on viney plants that can be harvested with or without water.
But that being said, most cranberry farmers use the water method as it bruises the fruit less and is easier to harvest.
Cranberry fields are flooded at harvest time and harrow machines that have paddles, knock the berries off the vines. Then the berries are collected in large, floating booms that make it easy for berry pumps to load the cranberries onto awaiting trucks.
Habelman Brothers Cranberries
As mentioned above, cranberry growers play a large part in Wisconsin’s economy. One local grower that has a very long history of growing cranberries in Wisconsin is Habelman Brothers Cranberries, located in Tomah.
This fourth generation family has been growing cranberries since 1907 and supplies one-third of the world’s fresh cranberries. (Source: HabelmanCranberries.com)
Check out this short video on the Habelman Brothers Cranberry Company.
Finally, after you’re home from traveling along the Cranberry Trail, be sure to get your cranberry fix with these cranberry-inspired recipes.
One of my all-time favorite recipes that’s perfect for Thanksgiving and packed with healthy goodness: Homemade Fresh Cranberry Sauce Recipe
And, be sure to try these delicious recipes, too!
- Cranberry Bread Recipe – A Side of Sweet
- White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies – Trisha Yearwood (Food Network)
- Nutty Oatmeal Cranberry Bars – She Wears Many Hats
- Gluten-Free Cranberry Bliss Bars – Joy Filled Eats
- Cranberry Christmas Cake – Barefeet in the Kitchen
- Fresh Cranberry Chutney – Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
And, for more information on the Cranberry Trail and Cranberry Growers: