Cape Cod Cranberry Heritage Area

Recognizing the contribution of the cranberry-growing region of Cape Cod to Massachusetts’ landscape and cultural heritage, a special commission was established in Massachusetts (United States) to explore the creation of a cranberry heritage area in 2008. In the years that followed, as other issues took precedent in the state as the result of an economic downturn, the legislation that established the commission was revived in 2010. The proposed heritage area is still in the process of moving forward as it remains an important priority for Massachusetts legislators.


Cranberry production, indigenous to the cool northern climates of North America, encompasses a distinctive American landscape complex. Cranberry bog owners in Plymouth and Barnstable counties in Massachusetts are stewards of an important environmental, economic, and cultural resource of 14,000 acres (5,665 ha) of rare wet­land agricultural systems that are globally unique.  


Encouraged by the Cranberry industry including Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association, the State of Massachusetts established a commission to explore the creation of a state heritage area. It would be the second heritage area in the United State based on a native food product. Limited resources and a recent downturn in cranberry prices have put all plans on hold. In the meantime, numerous efforts to preserve the cultural and landscape heritage of the region have been undertaken by land trusts, including:


Murphy Freedom Cranberry Land: Wareham Land Trust

The Beaton Property: Sippican Land Trust

Coombs Bogs: Barnstable Land Trust

Rodriques Bogs: The 300 Committee Land Trust



For more information, click on the following links:







A scenic cranberry bog, a common sight along the byways of southeastern Massachusetts. The sand on the periphery of the bog makes this an excellent site for producing one of America's only commercial native fruits.






The South Carver, MA, cranberry bog landscape complex. Converted from natural wetlands, the bogs have easily discernable boundaries; the light areas are sand banks that supply sand to lighten the soil of the bogs. The industrial buildings at the center of the image are those of a cranberry processor.






A close-up of a bog complex. Members of the Blackmore Pond Association filed complaints against the bog owner for allegedly affecting their water quality. The Cranberry Research Station nearby is working with the grower to mitigate the impact of the bog, and there is the possibility of a good outcome if water quality continues to improve.




Three-and-a-half story screen house. The Federal Furnace Cranberry Bog Company in Carver, MA, boasts perhaps the finest example of a cranberry "screen house" (c. 1895) in the region. Screen houses or bog houses are traditionally where post-harvest handling of fresh cranberries takes place, including removing stems and rocks, and "bouncing the berries" to identify and remove rotten ones before shipping to processors like Ocean Spray.

By Duncan Hilchey


Member of the World Rural Landscape - North America Committee.

Agricultural consultant and Editor in Chief of the Journal

of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development.