Cranberries: biography of the state’s signature fruit

Colleague and fellow folklorist Millie Rahn brings us this guest blog:

Steve Cole was introduced to cranberry growing through his great uncle, who spent a lifetime in agriculture in southeastern Massachusetts. There, Steve writes, he learned about the local crop “via an irrigation system that needed installation.” He adds, “For some, the cranberry has provided a comfortable living for five generations; for others, only enough money to make it through each winter. When something so dominates the lives of people, it is worth knowing about.”

Steve and his wife, photographer Lindy Gifford, are the authors of The Cranberry: Hard Work and Holiday Sauce, just published by Tilbury House Publishers in Maine. Steve and Lindy did much of their research in the early 1980s, while living in Wareham, near where Steve grew up. The book is based on interviews with cranberry growers in Plymouth County and Cape Cod, as well as extensive historical research. It is illustrated with contemporary and historical photographs and documents drawn, in many cases, from archival collections throughout Massachusetts.

Steve and Lindy recently held a launch party and book signing at the Ansel Gurney House in Marion, and also appeared in the book tent at the Working Waterfront Festival in New Bedford, which this year featured discussion of issues shared by fishermen and farmers.

Photo (l to r): Cranberry grower Wilho Harju, author Stephen Cole, Lillian Harju, and author Lindy Gifford at the book launch in Marion in late September. Wilho and Lillian Harju were among those interviewed about Finnish people’s contributions to cranberry growing. Photo by Phoebe Cole.

The authors will be signing their book throughout the fall, including the following dates and locations:

Saturday, October 10, 11 am

Cranberry Harvest Celebration at A.D. Makepeace Co. headquarters

Tihonet Village, Wareham

Saturday afternoon, November 7

Titcomb Books on Route 6A in East Sandwich

Sunday, November 8, Noon-2 pm

Where the Sidewalk Ends Bookstore on Main Street in Chatham.

More dates will follow at Plimoth Plantation, and in Boston and Concord.