June 11, 2004

Adding value to both their cranberries and their community, is what the Iroquois Cranberry Growers have been doing for decades.
Developed in 1968 as an economic development venture, the Iroquois Cranberry Growers have provided a stepping stone for development within the community.  Owned and operated by the Wahta Mohawk Nation, the business has grown from a half-acre to 68 acres of cranberry production near Bala, Ontario.  Throughout the years, they have provided necessary employment to community members and have helped support the economic base for community government.
“We, like most businesses, started small,” says Matthew Commandant, Iroquois Cranberry Growers Manager.  “Our growth has been mirrored by growth in the community in terms of technology, and community pride.”
The Iroquois Cranberry Growers benefits the 400-plus community members.  As a business, it supports the community with five full-time jobs, 15 seasonal jobs and an additional 30 jobs during harvest.  With the harvest, production and sale of a successful line of products, the Iroquois Cranberry Growers bring revenue and pride to the community.
As a business, the owners put significant effort and funds into the community, for educational training and development.  All employees are trained on cranberry production and processing, at a local and national level.  The Iroquois Cranberry Growers are so keen on the education of their members that employees are sent to cranberry grower conferences at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Massachusetts, for training and networking opportunities.
“Agriculture and cranberry production is very important to our tribe,” says Commandant.  “Therefore, it is necessary for us to invest into the training and education of our community and employees.”
The Iroquois Cranberry Growers also place emphasis on community betterment and social programs.  While their training benefits young students, they also contribute financial assistance to programs the tribe provides.  Their investments into the community have helped to maintain clear walkways and driveways for seniors in the winter, and have also helped construct the community centre.
Complementing their community betterment platform, the Iroquois Cranberry Growers also provide an array of products focused on cranberry quality and health benefits.  Aside from selling and shipping fresh cranberries at harvest, they also produce 100 per cent pure cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, chutney, jam, and cran-maple syrup for distribution across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.  For those passing through their gift shop, they also provide a cranberry cookbook, gift baskets, clothing and other gift items.
“We take pride in producing a quality product,” says Commandant.  “Because we have a hand in the production from start to finish, we believe in our products and the quality they possess.”
Picking cranberries from this location has been a part of their history since the Wahta Mohawks arrived here in 1881 from Oka, Quebec.  They traditionally picked and sold cranberries from the same bog north of the Musquash River that is now the base of their prosperous business.
Visitors are welcomed by the Iroquois Cranberry Growers to enjoy the fascination that comes with the bog and the unique harvesting methods.  Outside visitors are attracted to the bog during the fall harvest to see the fields flooded for picking.  The Iroquois Cranberry Growers also provide visitors with beautiful walking trails and a plethora of information.  This visitor attraction has also provided more economic development opportunities within the community.
“Our community members are very proud of the business,” says Commandant.  “We are happy to play a role in their lives, and proud to be able to give value back to our community.”
The Iroquois Cranberry Growers have been nominated by the Waubetek Business Development Corporation for the Community Economic Development Award.  Their constant contribution and dedication to building and supporting their community and its members since the 1968, show their commitment to the community and motivation to expand it both economically and socially in the future.