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Cranberries Harvest Could Return to Connecticut

A restored bog may once again crown Killingworth as the cranberry capital of Connecticut.

Cranberries Harvest Could Return to Connecticut

Fans of the bright and healthy cranberry may have something
 new to look forward to soon: big, fresh, juicy, red cranberries harvested in Connecticut.

To many, it’s a secret that there is a viable cranberry bog 
nestled in Killingworth. Now, thanks to agricultural expert and fifth 
generation Bishop Farm family member, Keith Bishop, three acres of the original
 30 plus acre bog will be up and running in full production in about three years. Hopes are that the bog’s restorations will once again crown
 Killingworth as the cranberry capital of Connecticut.

The original bog was 
reportedly purchased in 1896 by the Evart family, who have continually grown
 cranberries there ever since. It was the only commercially producing cranberry 
bog in Connecticut. Twenty-five acres of the bog were in production at its peak.

The Evarts and the Bishops came together when Bishop Orchards Farm Market in
 Guilford started selling the local fruits in the 70’s. In 2000, the
 Killingworth Land Trust purchased a portion of the bog and the stewardship has
 maintained a limited wild production of cranberries there.  

Cranberries are somewhat of a 
fickle fruit, requiring just the right conditions for growth such as an adequate,
 fresh water supply, a growing season that extends from April to November and
 acidic soil with peat and clay. The parcel of land off Pond Meadow Road happens
 to have the perfect conditions for this crimson, tart crop to prosper in.

 to have originated from glacial deposits, bogs are layered with sand, peat and 
clay that grow the cranberries on low-lying vines in beds. They were originally 
a hardy Native American wetland fruit that are said to grow indefinitely if not
 damaged. In fact, some famous Cape Cod cranberries have histories dating back
over 100 years.

The Killingworth bog will be 
yielding a new hybrid variety of cranberries called Scarlet Knight, which were 
developed by Rutgers University breeding program. According to Bishop, who is
 undertaking this business endeavor on his own, this specific variety of
 cranberries was chosen because they produce a large, dark red, long keeping 
berry, which is well suited for retail fresh fruit sales from late September 
through the winter months.

With a family history steeped
 in agricultural expertise, preservation of farmland and production of bountiful
local crops, Bishop seems like the perfect person to undertake this project. With a
 passion for new projects, he is excited about bringing back such a distinctive part
 of Killingworth’s rich history by renovating the bog.

“Stewardship of our natural
 resources is a natural for farm families,” says Bishop of his new undertaking. “This bog will provide a healthy local food source, re-create a more diverse habitat, provide seasonal work and hopefully inspire others.”

To get started on this 
renovation mission, Bishop called on contacts from Cornell University (the
 college he graduated from in 1977 with a BS in Agricultural Economics) and
 connected with cranberry growers and suppliers in New Jersey and Massachusetts. He
 extensively researched the innards of the business of cranberry production.

also attended an intensive University of Massachusetts/Cape Cod Cranberry
 Growers Association continuing education class along with his father, Al, and his 
son, Ryan (a senior at Cornell majoring in Plant Science). From
 there, he consulted with experts to evaluate the soil of the property, the
 growing conditions, water management and renovation requirements. He then formulated a business plan.

January of this year marked
 the acceptance of the bog renovation plan by the Killingworth Inland Wetlands 
and Watercourses Commission. The property was then officially purchased from
 Sandy Evart's children and grandchildren (all of whom have other jobs and 
interests that preclude them form active involvement in the work to keep the 
bog productive and to keep ownership in the family) in June.

Wasting no time,
 Bishop began renovations in July and has hopes (along with his four children) of 
bringing the bog to full production in 2016 with several decades of cranberry 
crops for years to come.

“I love challenges and new 
opportunities,” says Bishop positively.

“Diversity has helped our family to weather 
the farming cycles in the past. This opportunity may be a semi-retirement way, 
in the next six to seven years, to step out of the day to day management at 
Bishop’s Orchard and allow the sixth generation of Bishops the opportunity to 
take a bigger role in that business. This will keep me busy, occupied and
 excited about something new.”

So local chefs, cooks and
 cranberry lovers start stock piling your favorite cranberry recipes-test them
 out and hone them to perfection readying them for this future native crop to
 once again hit the shelves at Bishop Orchards Farm Market.

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