Canneberge en fête!

Monique Thomas - passionate ambassador


Welcome to Saint-Louis-de-Blandford

Welcome to Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, the cranberry capital!

Here, in Centre-du-Québec, you will find the largest concentration of cranberry bushes in Quebec. In fact, 85% of the production in Quebec comes from this region.


Quebec, or more specifically Centre-du-Québec, is the world leader in the production of organic cranberries.
 

80, rue Principale, Saint-Louis-de-Blandford

Get your event pass for “Canneberge en fête!” by stopping by the welcome area. Then, hop aboard the bus so you can witness the harvesting of the cranberry fields in action.
 

Welcome to Canneberge en fête!

It’s only in the fall, during the “Canneberge en fête!” celebration, that visitors can see the cranberry fields while onboard a bus and tractor-drawn wagon. Depending on where the harvest is taking place that day, different producers open their doors to visitors so that they can admire the beauty of the harvest first-hand. 

*Visitors cannot go directly to the producers for legal reasons.
 

The history of the cranberry

In Quebec, Edgard Larocque introduced cranberry cultivation to the small municipality of Lemieux, in Centre-du-Québec, in 1939. 

In this photograph dating from that time, Mr. Larocque is receiving the first cranberry plants from Cape Cod, in the United States.
 

Producers from one generation to another

The Larocque family’s operation is a 3rd generation farm. It is the oldest cranberry farm in Canada. You may get the chance to visit it during the festival!
 

The cranberry plant

Contrary to popular belief, cranberry plants don’t grow in water!

Cranberries are wild, perennial plants that belong to the ericaceous family. The cranberry plant has an impressive life span and can produce fruit for nearly 100 years. These plants can reach a maximum height of 30 cm.

Farmers can expect to harvest their first cranberries 3 years after planting.
 

The 4 seasons of cranberry cultivation

Growing cranberries is a year-round activity, and the proper development of plants and fruit requires a few steps.

Each season, cranberry producers have to prepare for the harvest during September and October.

In the wild, cranberries grow in peatland, but for agricultural production, fields are generally started in sandy and acidic soil, an environment that is also conducive to plant growth.
 

Spring

In the spring, producers work on planting in the fields, plant pruning and mowing.

Unlike other crops, farmers mow only once every 15 years to avoid crushing the plants.
 

Summer

During the summer season, producers work to prevent and eradicate weeds.

In order to encourage flower pollination, producers install 1 to 2 beehives per acre. The quality of pollination is decisive in the quantity of fruit produced and therefore influences crop volumes.
 

Fall

Fall is a busy time for cranberry producers.

As soon as the temperature fluctuates between 1 and -5 degrees Celsius, growers have to monitor the risk of frost very carefully. The fields are equipped with irrigation systems and sprinklers to water the plants and protect the fruit before harvest time. This operation often takes place at night and in the early morning hours.

Producers also have to monitor the ripening and colouring of the fruit so that they pick the cranberries at their peak.

Cranberry harvesting is an extraordinary thing to see. It takes place over a very short period of time and is carried out in several stages.
 

Methods used in the past

In times past, cranberries were harvested dry, using combs, as is the case with blueberries. Then, the cranberries were placed in jute bags for easy transport.

Over the years and with the expansion of crops, methods progressed and became mechanized.

In the picture, you can see a producer harvesting his field the traditional way.
 

Flood harvesting

Flooding fields is the fastest and most efficient way to harvest large areas under cultivation.

A cranberry farm has several fields or ponds. They are connected, following a model that is compatible with farming methods.

Using a finely detailed network of canals linked to large water reservoirs, cranberry fields are flooded with 15 to 20 cm of water in order to thresh the fruit. With the help of specialized machinery, the fruit detaches from the plant.
After threshing, an additional 35 to 40 cm of water is added to completely submerge the fields and make the fruit drive easier.   
 

Fruit floating

As you can see in this image, cranberries have empty cells that act as small air pockets. This is makes it possible for the fruit to float on the surface of the water.

The floating cranberries create huge pools of red fruit that can be admired at harvest time in the fall!
 

Boom work and pumping

Using booms, the fruit is collected and brought to the fruit pump. The cranberries are sucked up and then dumped into a dump truck.

Booms are pulled by tractors placed on either side of the basin, or more frequently by employees dressed in large boots (waders) like the ones worn while fishing. Workers need physical strength and to be able to work outside for long periods of time regardless of the weather.
 

Transportation to the factory

Once the pumping is completed, the cranberries are then transported from the field to the factory using dump trucks.

In Quebec, the volume of cranberries harvested is estimated at 43.7 metric tons, with the majority coming from the Centre-du-Québec region. Can you imagine the number of dump trucks needed for that many cranberries? 

In September and October you are sure to see these trucks on your way to Saint-Louis-de-Blandford and in the surrounding municipalities!
 

Cleaning the cranberries

At the factory, the cranberries are cleaned, stripped of their leaves and hulled.

The fruit is then sent to freezer plants for processing throughout the year or packaged for sale.  
 

Winter

Cranberry farmers don’t stop working when the cold sets in!

At the beginning of winter, the cranberry fields are flooded again to form a layer of ice. The plants are therefore trapped under the ice to protect them. This is called the glacial period.

A bit later in the season, when the fields are frozen, the owners blow the snow covering the fields. They then spread a layer of sand over the ice. In the spring, as the ice melts, the sand settles to the bottom of the pond which stimulates both rooting and regeneration of the plants.

This operation is carried out every 3 to 4 years.
 

Enjoy your visit

The cranberry producers invite you to visit the "Canneberge en Fête!" website for more product information and delicious cranberry recipes.
 



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English version: Vitrine gourmande Centre-du-Québec goûtez-y

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