the great cranberry bust

If you read yesterday’s post you can tell that we had a great weekend in Northern Michigan. It’s truly one of my favorite places to be and it was so fun bringing my kids up there for their first visit. There was one part, however, that didn’t exactly leave us wanting more.

While driving up to the shipwreck museum at Whitefish Point in the Upper Penninsula, we saw signs for a cranberry farm. Having no idea that you could even grow cranberries in Michigan we found that fairly curious. Then, while at Whitefish Point, we saw a brochure for the Centennial Cranberry Farm “Michigan’s Only Historic Cranberry Farm, Est 1876.” The brochure claimed it to be a “Must See if in the UP.” We had to drive right past the entrance on our way back so we decided to take a little side trip. Some of our best vacation experiences have come from spontaneous side trips and we were all interested to learn more about cranberries.

We arrived and saw one other car in the small parking area. There was a very small ‘store’ – maybe 12×12 – with a few shelves of cranberry items, some handwritten ‘humorous’ signs and an older man, the owner of the farm in fact. I picked up the sheet about the self-guided tour and started to head out. He stopped me to tell me that there was a fee for the tour. I asked how much and he said “ohhh…. $10”. For how many? I asked. “Whoever you brought with you.” he answered. And as my husband noted, that should have been our first clue.

My father-in-law was standing next to me and paid for the tour and we all headed outside. The first stop was at the edge of the cranberry bog. The cranberries are a month from harvest time but they are still very, very hard to see. In fact, we were squinting out at a field of weeds and if you looked realllllllly closely you noticed that some of those plants had a tinge of red to them – cranberry plants! Okay, so this was a bit disappointing. Even the ‘informational’ signs posted didn’t do much teaching or illustrating of cranberry farming.

We turned around to walk along a path with some farming equipment and went about 25 feet before reaching the barn. That was the end of the tour.

Seriously.

We paid $10 to look at a field of weeds. Read signs next to three pieces of farming equipment. And – and here’s the best part – look at a movie about cranberry farming. I rallied the troops that maybe the movie would redeem the tour. Maybe that barn held the highlight of the tour and we’d finally see some cranberry action and learn something. In we trooped and were greeted by the one other family collapsed into laughter. Huh – a comedy cranberry film? We looked up and saw a home video of a large man, sucking helium out of a balloon and reciting the ABC’s in his now high-pitched voice. The title of the segment: “Donald Duck visits the farm.” The next bit “Uncle Bill moves the jeep” showed a riveting piece about Uncle Bill trying to get the old jeep started and then lurching it down the road a bit.

I can’t make this shit up.

The next part actually showed a cranberry harvest but at this point we were all so disgusted at the “tour” and the fact that these people had the nerve to charge money to look at their farm equipment and home videos that we couldn’t hear what they were saying over our laughter. We didn’t stay for the remaining 22 minutes of home shot footage.

There were some 4H display boards posted in the barn that taught us how cranberries are harvested. That was the extent of the educational portion of the trip. Unless of course you count learning how to get screwed out of $10.

So here’s my advice, if you visit Whitefish Point DO NOT visit the Centennial Cranberry Farm. Maybe if it’s harvest season – when ironically there’s something to see but they don’t charge for tours – maybe then. Otherwise, save your money. Don’t let this family chuckle over you at the dinner table as one more sucker who paid $10 to watch Uncle Bill move the friggin’ jeep.

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