CT Public NPR Thanksgiving Interview Features Killingworth Cranberries
“Chef Plum and Marysol Castro ask chefs to talk about the real stars of Thanksgiving dinner. Plus, we talk to farmer Keith Bishop, owner of Connecticut’s one and only cranberry bog about what it’s like to cultivate the farm’s ruby vines.” Listen here for Keith at time mark 35:00 for a 7 minute interview dated NOVEMBER 18, 2021 “Turkey can stuff it. We’re all about the side dishes this Thanksgiving”
Cranberry Harvest 2021 finished on October 1st
The crop yield this year is down by 40% from 2020 due to sanding of the field this spring, dry, then extra wet weather conditions this spring and summer, including abnormal in-season flodding in early July and again in early September. We harvested our 2.5 acres with a crew of 3, over 4 full days, not includign setup, transportaion and cleanup. While the volume is down, the keeping quality and volume of berries will be enough to have berries available for sale at Bishop’s Orchards until Christmas.
Cranberry Harvest 2020
Perfect weather the last week of September 2020 provided dry and mild conditions to dry harvest our Scarlet Knight variety of premium cranberries over 5 days. The extra dry growing season along with other factors decreased the expected yield and was 25% less then 2019. The quality is excellent, They are packed in 1 qt containers for retail sales at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford and other select farm markets and stores.
FOX-61 Meteorologist Matt Scott did a live broadcast on from the bog on September 25, and followed up with a feature story that can be viewed here: Matt Scott – YouTube Killingworth Cranberry interview 9/25/20.
Cranberry Harvest 2019
Our first dry harvest of cranberries was completed in early October 2019 over the course of 7 days. WTNH Meteorologist Sam Kantrow visited the Bog during the harvest, and produced this story on our operation.
The Century old Cranberry Bog
Connecticut’s only productive cranberry bog was originally started by Cyrus Evarts in 1896 when he purchased the land on Pond Meadow Road in Killingworth. In 1911, the first cranberries were started. His son Sydney took it over, followed by his grandson Kenneth. In 2012, Keith Bishop purchased 4.5 acres of the original 25+ acres, and renovated and replanted to current standards and technology.
Renovation and Planting: 2013-2016
In 2016, the engineered renovated bog, with new drainage, an irrigation pond with tailwater recovery design, interior ditches, dikes, water control structures, remote controlled pop-up irrigation system and new sand base was planted with Scarlet Knight Cranberries, a new Hybrid variety developed by Rutgers University. The perennial plants take 4 years to come into full production.
KILLINGWORTH CRANBERRIES RENOVATION
Diversification in Agriculture continues by the Bishop family, as cranberries are now a new crop taken on by Keith Bishop, taking the reins from the Evert family’s century old bog.
The Evarts family has continually grown cranberries in their Killingworth, Ct. Pond Meadow bog since Cyrus Evarts purchased it in 1896. His son Sydney followed by grandson Kenneth continued the annual care, production and harvest on a 4.5 acre section of the original 30+ acre bog. The Killingworth Land Trust purchased a portion of the bog in 2000, and was donated additional land as part of a subdivision open space plan. The KLT stewardship has maintained limited wild production of cranberries.
One of the largest retail market purchasers from 1970 on of Killingworth Cranberries from the Evarts was Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford. Like the Evarts, the Bishop family roots are deep. John Bishop signed the Guilford Covenant in 1639 with Henry Whitfield et al. The land the Bishop farmstead now occupies was purchased in 1871 by Burton Walter Bishop when he moved his family back to Guilford from Orange, Ct.
Kenneth utilized assistance from Bishop’s Orchards multiple times to weed and care for the bog. Needing help again in 2011, he talked with Keith Bishop about options, and discussion turned to long term production renewal, ways to increase production yields, quality and then marketing options. Both realized they had common agricultural goals, family traditions and the desire to continue cranberry production. Kenneth and Sandy Evarts’ children and grandchildren grew up with the fall cranberry harvest ritual. They all have other jobs and interests that precluded them from active involvement in the work to keep the bog productive and keep ownership in the family.
5th generation Keith Bishop dug in to research cranberry production, growing techniques and knowledge that is needed to commercially grow cranberries. Keith’s involvement in numerous Northeast agricultural groups and contacts through the College of Agriculture at his alma mater Cornell, helped him connect to cranberry growers and suppliers in New Jersey and Mass. Keith, his father Al, and his son Ryan, (Cornell 2012, Plant Science) visited with Cape Cod Cranberry Growers and a business plan evolved, with experts consulted to evaluate soils, growing conditions, water management and renovation requirements. In January 2012 the bog renovation plan was accepted as meeting the Agricultural requirements by the Killingworth Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, and Killingworth Cranberries took on a new life.
The 4.5 acre property on Pond Meadow Rd was bought by Killingworth Cranberries LLC in June and the renovation started. A new hybrid variety of cranberries, Scarlet Knight, developed by the Rutgers University breeding program was selected for planting in July of 2016 and 2.5 acres of Scarlet Knight cranberries are now growing. Only 3 acres of this new variety were in production worldwide in 2011, with 21 acres being planted in 2012. Scarlet Knight produces a large size, dark red, long keeping berry, well suited for retail fresh fruit sales from late Sept. through the winter. Bishop and his children look forward to bringing the bog to full production capabilities and herald Killingworth as Connecticut’s Cranberry Capital once again. Bishop’s well known expertise in agriculture and dedication to the preservation of farmland and production of local crops will now provide an abundant local source of cranberries when full production is reached in 2019, 3 years after replanting. Like most other fruits (blueberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, peaches and pears) plant development takes several years before substantial fruit is produced. Keith is optimistic that the family stewardship, dedication and farming knowledge will combine with community support to produce plentiful crops of cranberries for decades to come while protecting and respecting the bog environment and its history.
Live Weather at Pond Meadow in Killingworth
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Visit our Gallery for photos of the renovation, planting, growing and harvesting of cranberries at Killingworth Cranberries.