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Thursday, October 22, 2020

I attended the birth of the Craisin.

It's one of my few claims to fame.

I was a young reporter for the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune and as part of the business beat, I covered the cranberry industry, which circled the city like, oh, I don't know -- a cranberry bed. (Cranberry trivia No. 1: In Wisconsin, cranberries grow in beds. In Massachusetts, they grow in bogs.)

A story in the Milwaukee newspaper reminded me of this exciting time following how a TikTok video of a dude drinking Ocean Spray while skateboarding and listening to Fleetwood Mac has helped sales for the cocktail. (Cranberry trivia No. 2: A fruit drink cannot call itself a juice unless at least 51 percent is the actually the juice itself. It's common in the juice industry to sweeten tart juices with a concentrated and naturally sweet apple juice.)

Here's the story:

So there I was, sitting in a meeting of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association when the director gave updates on the Craisin.

"Still too tart," said Tom Lochner. Test audiences wanted the taste of the cranberry but not the natural tartness. They had grown accustomed to the sweetness of cranberry sauce. Me? I can eat a handful of raw cranberries like Beer Nuts.

The newspaper reported on it, just as we reported that a study showed cranberry juice can be helpful in fighting off urinary track infections. (Cranberry trivia No. 3: The cranberry juice needs to be at least 27 pure cranberry juice before it's effective with UTIs.)

As part of coverage, I visited the Ocean Spray processing center in Babcock, Wisconsin, where the berries are processed in the millions of pounds. (Babcock trivia No. 1: One time, a dude who lived in a trailer home across the street from the cranberry plant smelled a gas leak. So he opened the small door to his gas heater and lighted a match to see what was going on. Dude survived because a trailer home doesn't hold in the explosion. But he was the biggest thing EMTs found when they arrived.)

I visited a number of cranberry farms in my time and found out how good they are for the environment. I saw beavers slip from one flooded bed to another. (Cranberry trivia No. 4: Cranberries are hollow so when harvest time comes, the beds are flooded and a paddle wheel-like device smacks them off the plant and they can be collected more easily as they float on the water.)

Oh, I was a fine cranberry reporter.

Now that I've assured you of that, I'm going to take a three-day weekend.

And I wish you peace and cranberries my sisters and brothers.


  1. When you were running the daily rag in my community, I was confident the info was square. It was not "internet instant" - but I knew I was getting the depth and range of pertinence. WHEN you get your newsroom back, somehow someway, I will plug into said newsroom.

    Cranberries. Fabulous euphemism.

  2. Hi Rich, I hadn't heard about your job transition until today, when for some reason I wondered what you were writing for the Indiana paper. Sorry to hear!! I lost my job bc of COVID, but I wasn't living in company housing. I've "pivoted" professionally (a really hip verb now), but I'm not blogging about least, not yet! Spending a couple of years blogging actually did help me develop as a writer, my intention.

  3. This triggered my memory of visiting the Ocean Spray Cranberry bogs in New Jersey as a little kid. I think my class collectively agreed that the field trip to the Hershey factory in Hershey, PA was much more to our liking. I would like to chat a bit, get in touch if you can. Cheers.

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