By Kathy Brown.
The Bishop family of Bishop’s Orchard has been farming in Guilford since 1871. The Evert family owned a cranberry bog on Pond Meadow in Killingworth since 1896. Since the 1970’s, the Everts has been selling the Bishop family cranberries, and later Everts approached the Bishops about buying the bog. In 2012, Keith Bishop decided to take on the bog, and purchased the 4.5 acre section of the cranberry bog from the Evert family. The Killingworth Land Trust purchased a portion of the bog as well, and maintains wild production of cranberries. Haddam-KillingworthNow.com had a chance to talk to Keith Bishop recently, and find out more about the history of the bog, and Bishop’s plans for the future.
In January 2012, the bog renovation plan written by Keith was accepted by the Killingworth Inland Wetlands Commission. Keith has been researching cranberry production, growing techniques, the effect of weather, and more as he stepped into a new agricultural business to understand growing cranberries, which grew a little differently than most of their crops. According to their website, “In 2016, the renovated bog[was engineered], with new drainage, an irrigation pond with tailwater recovery design, interior ditches, dikes, water control structures, remote controlled pop-up irrigation system and new sand base.”
They use what is known in the business as IPM, or Integrated Pest Management. In short, it means that they make their crop as inhospitable to pests as possible, so that they rarely need to use chemical pest control.
Since 2016, Keith Bishop has grown a type of cranberry called Scarlet Knights at the Killingworth bog, which is a hybrid variety developed by Rutgers University. It’s darker than the average cranberry we see in the grocery stores this time of year. When the crop is at peak production, it will yield 200-300 barrels per acre. The average barrel is 100 pounds of berries. That’s a lot of berries! Keith harvests between late September and the end of October. So far all of the berries are used at Bishop’s Orchard. When production increases, Keith plans to sell to other farm stores and farm markets in Connecticut.
Keith said there has been “a steep learning curve,” but he’s “excited” because this crop “is different than what Bishop’s is used to.”
Some of Keith’s favorite ways to use cranberries are in cranberry nut bread and dried cranberries to snack on. In the future, Bishop’s Orchard is hoping to make cranberry wine and cranberry hard cider. We’ll be watching to see what Killingworth’s cranberries do.
Photos courtesy of Keith Bishop.