The future of the Massachusetts cranberry industry depends on innovation and technology, renovation of bogs and smart market expansion, according to a new study by the UMass Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research.
"The world's most experienced cranberry growers must now use their ingenuity to compete in the industry they have dominated for so long," said the study written by Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, the director of the Center and a marketing professor at the Charlton College of Business at UMass Dartmouth. "It is time to reexamine the state of the industry in Massachusetts and find a way to innovate so the proud growers of cranberries can literally enjoy the fruits of their labor."
According to the study, which included a survey of Massachusetts cranberry growers:
- The average Massachusetts cranberry grower is about 56 years old, has farmed approximately 25 years and farms less than 20 acres. The majority run family-owned farms.
- While most growers plan to keep their farms, 42% are currently employed off the farm to supplement their income. Of those, most work full time "off bog."
- 21% (42 growers) report plans to transfer or sell their farms in the next five years. Eight percent (17 growers) are undecided. Of these 59 growers, almost one-third plan to sell their farm for continued cranberry farming, and nine percent will do some combination of cranberry growing, development and conservation.
- About 60% of farmers have not made any changes in how they farm over the past five years. Those that have made changes, report using more technology and more temporary employees or contract workers.
- Over a third of the growers surveyed report it is likely that they will renovate producing acres in the next two years of five years. Over half of these growers would choose to use low or no interest loans for such a project, if available. The two biggest incentives to renovate bogs are poor yields or good prices per barrel.
- Estimates on renovation costs per acre vary widely with 26% putting the cost at under $10,000 per acre, 22% estimate $10,000-$15,000 per acre, 29% estimate the cost to be over $15,000 per acre. In addition there are another 22% of growers who said they did not know how much it would cost to renovate their bogs.
Among the study's recommendations:
- Develop a young farmers network to encourage new farmers and provide them with mentoring and support.
- Conduct informational workshops/programs on bog renovation and innovation.
- Research markets for new cranberry products.
- The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association should continue its close attention and focus on frost warnings.
- Support for pesticide research and technical assistance should be expanded.
The entire study can be found at www.umassd.edu/cmr/studies/cranbgrow.cfm
Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508.999.8756.