Floating Our Way to the End of Our MA Stay — Building Ships and Harvesting Cranberries

A bright start to a new day and new adventure starting in New Bedford. We had split up for dinner, and were regrouping in familiar territory, the hotel lobby. The New Bedford Harbor Hotel was nice, but like our navigation through Massachusetts, getting where you needed to go wasn’t always so straightforward. Here, getting to and from your room or to an elevator on the first try was…“interesting.” I’m pretty sure most of the group weren’t familiar with having to go through a door to get to an elevator.

After a quick drive (for most of us), we reconvened at Fairhaven Shipyard and met with Owner Kevin Mclaughlin and Cynthia Stiglitz, Farm Credit East. Farm Credit East is part of a network of financial lenders for agricultural operations and is a part of a greater network comprising 73 lenders across the U.S., including one in Hawai‘i. For more information see https://www.farmcrediteast.com/ or https://farmcredit.com/.

Kevin provided us with an overview of his company and the fishing industry of Massachusetts. He said that the shipyard is a one-stop-shop for all boating needs including boat repair, retrofits and even building boats from scratch! He said that he had 105 full time employees, with the shipyard being one of three properties (we were in the north yard) encompassing a total of 30 acres. Then the tour began, and boy was this an unexpected change from the normal tours we had grown accustomed to.

We got an all access tour! We got to see different fishing vessels, even boarding a scallop boat. I’m sure some are wondering what fishing has to do with agriculture, but it comes down to resource management. Fisherman and farmers both work to protect the thing that provides them with their livelihoods, the land and ocean. There was discussion about how regulation works and the fishing industry could provide some good insight into what diversified agriculture deals it. Regulatory mechanisms are based on a board consisting of government, scientists, politicians, and industry who work together to come to a consensus on how many days at sea, sizes that can be harvested, and catch quotas should be. Kevin summed it up with how scallops work: there are open and closed areas. In an open area, you can catch as many legal sized scallops as you like, but can only fish for 24 days a year. In a closed area you can catch up to 18,000 pounds, but have an unlimited amount of time to do so. This system clearly works as 35,000,000 pounds of scallops are harvested annually and the port is the most productive in the U.S.

The tour then finished with seeing a new boat being built, some dry dock ships, and new employee facilities. The pictures will do the talking. Kevin showed us a few of the boats being worked on. As Kevin put it to us, “Steel and saltwater is a beautiful thing.” We got to go in a brand new boat. Kevin said it takes about 14 months to build, is 90 feel long (the warehouse barely covered it), and costs a whopping $4,000,000 dollars. Though, after seeing the boat and work put into it, I thought it would’ve been more. For more information about Fairhaven Shipyard, go to https://www.fairhavenshipyard.com/.

After the tour, we had a bit of time and took a little unscheduled detour to Ned Point Light, or Ned’s Point Lighthouse. It was a very beautiful place and was a great place to do a bit of relaxing and cap off our maritime experience. You can get further information about the lighthouse by going to the National Park Service website at https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/maritime/ned.htm.

After another hour of driving, we ate lunch at The Little Red Smokehouse, then off to the Decas Cranberry bogs. Parker Mauck, Director of Grower Relations and Corporate Procurement, began with an overview of the company. He explained that the company was started by three greek brothers and now the company has its own processing plant that runs 24/7 and processes 60,000,000 pounds of cranberries annually! The tour of the bogs started at the first bog purchased, and known as Mary’s pond. Parker showed us about the biology, harvesting, and maintenance of the cranberry bogs. As you can see, the bogs are rather dry and counter intuitive to what one normally would consider a bog to be.

Parker opined on other things we’ve heard before: honeybees are a major part of pollination for their crop and that global warming is real. For Cranberries, regular weather changes are key to flavor, fruit color, harvesting and bog maintenance. All these things, especially harvest times (getting later) and bog maintenance (October/November freezes are needed and used to be consistent. Now are are intermittent.). He also discussed three of the industry’s current challenges: 1. The trade tariffs are a big deal because Canada also produces cranberries; 2. The use of sugar to combat sweetness, particularly in North America; and 3. The previous two factors have resulted in an oversupply (one well-grown acre of cranberries can produce 30,000 pounds of fruit a year). The pictures don’t show it, but they were chock full of fruit.

We took a short drive to their processing plant and got to see a video of their harvesting process before touring the processing facility. Because of the processing features, food and worker safety requirements, we suited is coveralls, hairnets, and no cell phones. The facility was very impressive with almost complete automation, even the making of boxes for product, stacking of boxes on pallets and wrapping of pallets is done by machine!

To learn more about Decas, please visit: https://www.decasfarms.com and https://www.decascranberry.com for more information about their company and products. Their products unfortunately aren’t in Hawaii at this time, but are available on Amazon if you are interested in them.

Parker allowed us to use the Decas conference room to do a Massachusetts debrief since there wouldn’t be a really good time to do it on Friday. At this point in the trip, the group was running on fumes and while we were able to get through it, there we a couple of issues that really didn’t get to be addressed. Hopefully we can get to them at the Ag conference.

With the official day over, we drove to Boston with some in the group hoping for some time possibly go and explore. The drive there was a wild one and we were stuck with the Mass**les (if you know, you know) in a tunnel for about 30 minutes. The time and separation made for some pretty hilarious text messages. Try having Siri read your group text messages with an Australian accent, right Mr. Legit? After getting to the hotel much later then expected (and it was at 96% occupancy!), the wild drive over, and STILL having to return the cars, everyone decided that the idea of going out wasn’t the best. Thanks to the drivers for putting up with another rental debacle as well. Thankfully the hotel restaurant and bar wasn’t too crowded and those of us who weren’t too pooped were able to grab some food and bev. Tomorrow was the last day!

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