The property now known as Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc. has been producing cranberries since 1873. The 6,000 acres of property is located in central Wisconsin, about 15 miles west of Wisconsin Rapids on the north shore of old Glacial Lake Wisconsin. This lake disappeared thousands of years ago and left behind some of the finest wetlands in the state. The high water table, available sand, and acid soil conditions make the area conducive to cultivating North America’s native red fruit – Vaccinium macrocarpon - the cranberry.
A glacier melted about 15,000 years ago and formed Glacial Lake Wisconsin, a lake about the size of Utah’s Great Salt Lake and as deep as 150 feet. The last ice that held back the waters of Glacial Lake Wisconsin began to melt. The failed ice dam unleashed a catastrophic flood, and the lake’s depth dropped to 50 feet. The meltwaters cut deep, narrow gorges and unusual rock formations into the sandstone, forming beautiful passageways and towering cliffs that reach 100 feet high - now known as the Wisconsin Dells. The flood most likely cut these aforementioned gorges in a matter of days or weeks, as the swift water eroded away the soft sandstone.
What was left of the old Glacial Lake bed were acidic conditions, a high water table, and lots of sand -- perfect for growing the native fruit found in these lands...the cranberry.
The Wisconsin State Land Book has an entry shows that John B. Arpin, a prominent lumberman, acquired the land on October 11, 1873. Pioneers in the industry, like Arpin, built up dikes around native stands of vines that soon became the cultivated cranberry beds. Over the years, all cranberry varieties currently in production, have been developed from native strains of vines.
Of the 6,000 total acres that make up Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc., approximately 3,000 acres of water reservoir support 330 acres (92 beds) of producing cranberry vines, 2,200 acres are in a forestry management plan, and the balance of support land is diverse.
Basically, the same water reservoir system, as when the Arpins first tamed these wild lands, is still maintained and utilized today. Additional reservoirs, ditches, dikes and roads have been added to meet the needs for increased efficiency in the cultivation and harvesting of cranberries.
This is our home...Glacial Lake Cranberries...rich in history and steeped in family tradition.
The Arpins retained ownership of the marsh until 1923 when it was sold to the newly organized Central Cranberry Company. By 1931 the entire property was owned by the Brazeau Family. T.W. Brazeau and his sons, Bernard and Richard. Bernard Brazeau took over the management of the marsh and continued to operate the property until April 1, 1960. In the meantime, in 1939 Richard Brazeau developed a new marsh, R.S. Brazeau Cranberry Company, adjacent to Central Cranberry.
In 1960, a group headed by Richard Brazeau, bought Central Cranberry Company from Bernard Brazeau and formed a new company called Winnebago Cranberry Corporation. At this time Richard also incorporated his marsh as R. S. Brazeau Cranberry Company. Richard launched a master plan to rebuild the cranberry marsh to increase its efficiency and production which required major rebuilding of the beds to accommodate modern harvesting equipment. In February 1968, Richard purchased an adjacent property, the Sahara Cranberry Marsh, for his wife, Virginia, which they in turn named Wilderness Cranberry Corporation. This property, too, underwent major rebuilding.
Before Richard Brazeau's untimely death in July 1968, he had purchased all of the Winnebago Cranberry Corporation stock held by other shareholders. Virginia Brazeau assumed the Presidency of all the marsh properties, and in 1972 consolidated them all into R.S. Brazeau, Inc. At the time of Virginia's death in 1997, Mary Brazeau Brown purchased all outstanding shares and is currently sole owner and President of Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc.. Mary's son Stephen, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a Degree in Horticulture, is currently Vice President of Operations.
We are honored to have been featured on Wisconsin Foodie - first aired February 14, 2019.
Tune in to learn more about our family, our farm, and why we're here.