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Field Notes | Dry-Harvested, Organic Cranberries from Ruesch Century Farm

clamshell filled with organic cranberries sits on a white background

Ruesch Century Farm is a family-owned organic cranberry farm nestled almost perfectly in the middle of central Wisconsin. With four acres of organic cranberry bogs, Ruesch Century Farm is one of five organic cranberry farms in the state. It’s also the smallest. 

On paper, the fourth-generation farm is a small cranberry in a big cranberry bog. But, folks will drive hours just to partake in the magic of the farm’s organic cranberries. Besides being organic, what’s the secret behind the magic of Ruesch Century Farm’s organic cranberries? They are dry harvested.

Brian Reusch, the owner of Ruesch Century Farm, took some time to chat with us about the farm’s history and the benefits of dry-harvested cranberries. We also discussed why Wisconsin ranks number one in cranberry production.

Brian Ruesch, the owner of Ruesch Century Farm, took some time to chat with us about the farm’s history and the benefits of dry-harvested cranberries. We also discussed why Wisconsin ranks number one in cranberry production.

Tell us a little bit about the history of Ruesch Century farm.

Our great grandparents purchased the land in 1879. They dairy-farmed it for many years. In the early-nineties my father developed a quarter acre cranberry bog just to see if he could grow cranberries there. He bought the farm for $3,500 back in the mid-forties from the family. He actually paid off the farm when he was in his early twenties by racking cranberries in the fall harvest for local growers. 

My wife and I bought the farm in 2005. This year marks 144 years that the farm has been in the family name.

When did the become organic certified?

My dad received organic certification for the farm in 1995. I believe we were the first organic cranberry farm in Wisconsin. Co-op Partners in Minneapolis called him and told him that they could pay him more money if he received organic certification for what he was already doing. So, he said why not? He was never really big on sprays so it was just a natural transition for him.

Your cranberries are dry-harvested. What are the benefits of dry-harvested cranberries?

Dry-harvested cranberries don’t take on any water in the stem before they come off the vine. Consequently, they don’t spoil like a wet-harvested berry. The wet-harvested berry is fine, except you have to get them off, dried, and in a cooler right away. And then they have to stay in that cooler all the time. 

The ultimate benefit to the consumer is that they’re  going to have a high quality berry long after they’ve been picked. Dry-harvested cranberries are like apples. You can leave them on the counter for weeks and nothing happens to them. And if you store them in a cooler, which I’m sure you do, they will be good for months. You can buy dry-harvested cranberries now, put them in the cooler, and they will still be good for Thanksgiving. They will most likely last through December.

two farmers dry harvesting organic cranberries in a field

Why did you choose to dry-harvest your organic cranberries?

The size of our operation didn’t merit the expense of drying equipment and a big cooler needed to accompany that. If we had 40 acres or 100 acres, we would be forced to wet harvest our cranberries. You have to harvest cranberries in a short span of time. I mean within two weeks, we could have three inches of ice covering the tops of the cranberries. If you have a big marsh, you don’t have the luxury we have. We can wait for a nice, sunny, warm afternoon to harvest cranberries. 

Why is Wisconsin the best state for cranberries?

The climate is perfect. Way back (I’m talking between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago) when the glaciers receded in Wisconsin, they left this flat area of the state where the glaciers went over and stripped everything out. The sand that we have down here that is a requirement for cranberries came from Canada. All the sand from 500 miles north of us was scraped away when the glaciers melted and was left right here. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your childhood on the farm? 

In high school before we started the organic cranberry farm, we used to help with the cranberry harvest at the local marshes. I really enjoyed doing that for the fall colors and the cold, fresh air. 

Our farm sits on a ridge and we have this sledding hill that we still use. We call it Mt. Rueschmore after Mt. Rushmore. My aunts who were born in the 1930s said they used to sled down the hill when they were kids. So, we’ve been sledding down the hill for almost 100 years.

If you are a buyer for national or regional supermarket chains, independent stores, or food services and would like to offer organic cranberries from Ruesch Century Farm, fill out our contact form

And if you’re looking for some cranberry-recipe inspiration, check out our organic cranberry margarita recipe! 

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