Aug 6, 2012
Growers use education as ag tourism opportunity

Education plays a vital role in the day-to-day operations of the Wetherby Cranberry Co. in Warrens, Wis.

The family-owned cranberry marsh, in business for more than 100 years, is operated by Jim and Nodji VanWychen, their son Henry and son-in-law Michael Gnewikow. Their work to educate consumers about cranberry production and benefits has turned into an agritourism opportunity. That includes their Public Harvest Day, which is an annual event.

“I’m not even sure how long we’ve been doing our Public Harvest Day,” said Nodji Van Wychen. “But it grows every year and now our children, our children’s spouses and even some of our eight grandchildren are involved.”

Set for Oct. 6 this year, Public Harvest Day gives visitors a chance to see cranberries being harvested. It’s held regardless of weather, because harvest would proceed in any sort of weather, Van Wychen said. Several cranberry beds are set aside to showcase different stages of harvest. The VanWychens also demonstrate several harvest methods and incorporate history by using older methods and tools. Public Harvest Day also is an opportunity to sell fresh cranberries and other produce.

The family offers fresh cranberry sales out of their warehouse from September through Thanksgiving, until they run out. Last year, they sold out of fresh cranberries. They also invite Internet and phone orders and ship cranberries across the United States.

In 2006, Wetherby partnered with the Wisconsin Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens, Wis., to hold Cranberry Blossom Day. Held the last Saturday of each June, it’s an opportunity to show the blossoming vines.

Due to the success of these events, the Van Wychens won the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association’s Member of the Year for 2012. The award was presented in January at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference in Wisconsin Dells.

The award is new, recognizing members for having a successful business, creating a new event or hosting a successful ongoing event, said Kelly Murray, the association’s outgoing president.

For more information about Wetherby Cranberry Co., visit www.freshcranberries.com, or call 608-378-4813.

By Derrek Sigler, Assistant Editor





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