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When families sit around the table for Thanksgiving and indulge in some delicious cranberry sauce, helicopters are probably the last thing on their mind. However, helicopters and cranberries actually have a closer relationship than people might think. In fact, in New England, Bell helicopters are instrumental in the farming of cranberry bogs.
JBI Helicopters, an aviation company located in Pembroke, New Hampshire, collaborates with various cranberry farms — which are also suppliers of Ocean Spray — to help farm and harvest the holiday fruit to perfection.
In 1979, Joe Brigham owned half of a cranberry bog while working for Wiggins Airways. It was his connection to aviation that inspired him to utilize helicopters for a very important process in cranberry farming: ditch mud removal. In the springtime, helicopters help clean out the mud and weeds from the ditches that help flood the bogs by lifting a mat carrying all the leftover mud. This was how helicopter cranberry farming in New England was born.
Eventually, Brigham sold the cranberry bog to buy his own helicopter — a Bell 206 Jet Ranger — and start JBI Helicopters.
Today, JBI Helicopters uses its fleet of Bell 206 Jet Rangers, 407s and 429s to assist in more than just ditch mud clearing. They spread fertilizer and herbicides in May all the way up to harvest season in August.
During harvest, helicopters serve as the heavy lifters, carrying 800 pounds of cranberries in a fly-off tote to a processing plant where the berries are cleaned and delivered to grocery stores. This fly-off tote was actually an innovation developed by JBI because the Oak bins originally used to transport cranberries proved to be too heavy to lift.
Ray Newcomb, president of JBI Helicopters, loves working in “Cranberry Land.” Each year he sends packages of cranberries to JBI customers with detailed cranberry recipes to make over the holidays. He believes that there are many cranberry uses from stringing cranberries up around your Christmas tree to baking a cranberry pie.
Next time you are gathering cranberries at your local supermarket for your holiday festivities, think of JBI Helicopters, working hard to make your holidays — and taste buds — happy.