KILLINGWORTH CRANBERRIES RENOVATION
Diversification in Agriculture continues by the Bishop family, as cranberries are now a new crop taken on by Keith Bishop, taking the reins from the Evert family’s century old bog.
The Evarts family has continually grown cranberries in their Killingworth, Ct. Pond Meadow bog since Cyrus Evarts purchased it in 1896. His son Sydney followed by grandson Kenneth continued the annual care, production and harvest on a 4.5 acre section of the original 30+ acre bog. The Killingworth Land Trust purchased a portion of the bog in 2000, and was donated additional land as part of a subdivision open space plan. The KLT stewardship has maintained limited wild production of cranberries.
One of the largest retail market purchasers from 1970 on of Killingworth Cranberries from the Evarts was Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford. Like the Evarts, the Bishop family roots are deep. John Bishop signed the Guilford Covenant in 1639 with Henry Whitfield et al. The land the Bishop farmstead now occupies was purchased in 1871 by Burton Walter Bishop when he moved his family back to Guilford from Orange, Ct.
Kenneth utilized assistance from Bishop’s Orchards multiple times to weed and care for the bog. Needing help again in 2011, he talked with Keith Bishop about options, and discussion turned to long term production renewal, ways to increase production yields, quality and then marketing options. Both realized they had common agricultural goals, family traditions and the desire to continue cranberry production. Kenneth and Sandy Evarts’ children and grandchildren grew up with the fall cranberry harvest ritual. They all have other jobs and interests that precluded them from active involvement in the work to keep the bog productive and keep ownership in the family.
5th generation Keith Bishop dug in to research cranberry production, growing techniques and knowledge that is needed to commercially grow cranberries. Keith’s involvement in numerous Northeast agricultural groups and contacts through the College of Agriculture at his alma mater Cornell, helped him connect to cranberry growers and suppliers in New Jersey and Mass. Keith, his father Al, and his son Ryan, (Cornell 2012, Plant Science) visited with Cape Cod Cranberry Growers and a business plan evolved, with experts consulted to evaluate soils, growing conditions, water management and renovation requirements. In January 2012 the bog renovation plan was accepted as meeting the Agricultural requirements by the Killingworth Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission, and Killingworth Cranberries took on a new life.
The 4.5 acre property on Pond Meadow Rd was bought by Killingworth Cranberries LLC in June and the renovation started. A new hybrid variety of cranberries, Scarlet Knight, developed by the Rutgers University breeding program was selected for planting in July of 2016 and 2.5 acres of Scarlet Knight cranberries were planted. Only 3 acres of this new variety were in production worldwide in 2011, with 21 acres being planted in 2012. Scarlet Knight produces a large size, dark red, long keeping berry, well suited for retail fresh fruit sales from late Sept. through the winter. Bishop and his children look forward to bringing the bog to full production capabilities and herald Killingworth as Connecticut’s Cranberry Capital once again. Bishop’s well known expertise in agriculture and dedication to the preservation of farmland and production of local crops will now provide an abundant local source of cranberries when full production is reached in 2019, 3 years after replanting. Like most other fruits (blueberries, raspberries, grapes, apples, peaches and pears) plant development takes several years before substantial fruit is produced, and cash flow starts to repay the capital investment. Keith is optimistic that the family stewardship, dedication and farming knowledge will combine with community support to produce plentiful crops of cranberries for decades to come while protecting and respecting the bog environment and its history.
The Killingworth Cranberries brand is now available at Bishop’s Orchards