http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/7109800.htm It takes a family effort to gather up cranberries No more bounce test, but harvest time is busy at this N.J. farm. By Joseph A. Gambardello Inquirer Staff Writer SPEEDWELL, N.J. - Cranberries bounce. They also float. And they are not necessarily crimson. Stand thigh-deep in water in a flooded bog, surrounded by millions of cranberries, and your eyes will be drawn to small details not seen at a distance. Most striking are the berries' many shades of color. Some are white, or pink, almost blue or even black. And many are two-toned. Another eye-catcher is the sight of so many spiders, crickets, and moths scampering across the island formed by corralled berries. It is harvest time for cranberries in the Pinelands and a working visit to the Lee Brothers farm in Speedwell, Tabernacle Township, last week offered an up-close view of an American original. The day began at red-sky daybreak in a flooded six-acre bog where berries of the Early Black variety waited to be picked. At the Lee farm, the picking is done by a machine designed by Abbott Lee. It features three pairs of rotating water-reels mounted to a tractor-like vehicle powered by an engine on a flat-bottom boat. The reels knock the berries off the small-leafed, evergreen vines underwater, allowing them to pop to the surface. As employee Herb Armstrong drove, Stephen V. Lee IV led the picker, trudging through knee-high water following the line between vines that had been picked and those with fruit. "It's amazing how much time it saves," Lee said of his uncle's machine. He explained that water harvesting has been around in New Jersey only since 1960 and that, before then, the berries were dry-harvested in a more time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Some are still dry-harvested, using a machine that looks like a lawnmower. Those are the fresh berries you will find for sale at market. Wet-harvested berries are destined for juice or cranberry sauce. The workers this day included some local hires as well as friends and other family members. Among them was Stephen Lee's sister Jennifer, a medical lobbyist from Washington who had taken a week off to help out. "You get up at 5 o'clock and work until dark. Now, that's a vacation," Jennifer Lee said. "I could be in Washington the whole week. Wearing a suit." Her brother had been in the hospitality business for 10 years before returning to the family farm. "It gets in your blood and it never gets out," Stephen Lee said. After the picker finished its work, the crew rolled out a modified oil-slick containment boom and strung it around the six-acre bog to corral the berries, which the wind had blown to a corner of the bog opposite to where the harvesting machine waited. Stephen V. Lee III said that not too long ago, workers strung together booms made of cedar planks and pushed them through the bog to round up the berries. The oil-containment boom has made the work more efficient. Pulled together by the boom, berries formed a six-inch layer on the surface of the bog. Workers wearing chest-high waders climbed into the midst of them and, using the old-style cedar planks, guided the fruit into a suction pump that carried the berries to the harvesting machine. After washing the berries and separating them from leaves and other chaff dragged into the pump, the machine conveyed the fruit into a yellow container that can hold about 300 barrels, or 3,000 pounds, of berries. Stephen Lee III noted that, where once it could take a day to harvest 400 barrels of cranberries, that can now be done in less than an hour using all the new equipment. And the farm - which has been in the family since the 1860s and used to dry, sort and pack the berries on its own - now sends the fruit straight from the bog to an Ocean Spray farmers-cooperative facility on Route 563 in nearby Chatsworth. Stephen Lee III said ripe cranberries bounce - and before they could be packed, back when his family processed them, they had to bounce into the packing box. "They got three chances to make a good bounce," he said. Trucker Bob Franklin, of Chatsworth, hauled a load to Ocean Spray. "It's a beautiful time of year," he said. "The trees are changing and the berries are on the bogs." At Ocean Spray, the load was weighed and graded, before being dumped into a river of reddish fruit that would be sent off to become juice or sauce after additional sorting and cleaning. Back in the bog, the work to push the berries to the intake box was slow and methodical, even meditative. Where other farmwork can take a toll on hands, this demanded steady and strong legwork. And it became apparent that the three things that make for a good harvest are ripe fruit, good weather and dry waders. But as one harvester with a small leak in his waders discovered, two out of three ain't bad.