Jim Bible bought 16 acres of cranberry marsh near Millston in the early 80s, and has since expanded the operation to 32 acres using his own blood, sweat and tears.
“It was first founded by Art Janke Jr. and his father in the 1930s, who had about 16 acres when we bought it,” Bible said.
Bible is selling his marsh to the Wisconsin Cranberry Grower’s Association this year to make room for a new research center.
Bible said he hadn’t really considered selling his land until he received the letter from the WCGA looking for land for a research center.
WCGA sent out a letter to a lot of marsh owners to let them know they were looking to purchase land, and Bible thought his land would make sense for them and allow him and his family to restructure their business as well.
“I told them in some ways this is kind of emotional,” Bible said of selling his land to the WCGA. “This is where I learned how to do a lot of things in the business.”
The transition is made easier knowing that his land will stay within the Wisconsin cranberry industry and there will still be chances to visit and see it during grower’s meetings and tours.
“There’s nobody better I’d rather pass it on to than the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association,” Bible said.
The chance of a new research center has buzz growing in the county as well, as it is a unique venture being brought in.
“I think that coupled with the Cranberry Discovery Center in Warrens, which is just up the road, really gives us a bunch of solid information about a really important agriculture industry in Wisconsin,” executive director of the Black River Area chamber of commerce Chris Hardie said. “I think that having that research station out there is another potential destination point for people to go and check out.”
Jackson County is one of the larger areas where cranberries are grown in Wisconsin, so Bible thinks bringing the research center here makes sense.
Since purchasing the land in the 80s, Bible has doubled the acreage and has now maxed out the farm.
When the farm was originally bought, Bible didn’t have much experience growing cranberries, but he did plenty of farm work beforehand.
Growing up, his family raised beef and dairy cows throughout Jackson County, but Bible soon learned that milking cows everyday wasn’t something he wanted to do long-term.
He enjoys the quality of life and freedom being a cranberry farmer offered him, “Being able to work and be your own boss…plus you’re never really doing the same thing every day,” Bible said.
The experience with livestock prepared him in some ways for his new life, but it was also a lot different going from cows and animals to a crop and plants.
“No matter what you do in agriculture, the more work and effort you put into it, the better your operation will be,” Bible said.
The marsh will stay with Bible for a few more months before it changes ownership, so Bible is glad he has some time to say goodbye.
This won’t be the end for Bible’s cranberry operations though, as he still owns two other marshes and does a lot of work with Ocean Spray.
Wisconsin is the top cranberry producer in the world, making up a large portion of the annual market. In 2016, Wisconsin produced about 5.2 million of the projected 8.6 million barrels of cranberries worldwide, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistical Services.