Author shares cranberry story during agriculture event
Lisl Hornig Detlefsen drank cranberry juice as a child, but she never thought about how it got to the grocery store.
On Tuesday, March 21, she will make sure a new generation of children understands how the native fruit is grown and harvested in the state.
As part of Rock County/Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom, Lisl will read from her 2015 children's picture book, “Time for Cranberries,” at three Rock County schools and two libraries.
The purpose of the effort is “to teach students the importance of agriculture and the vital role it plays in their lives and society,” Sheila Everhart said.
Everhart is Rock County Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom coordinator.
In the past, students have learned about the importance of bees, soybean science, making maple syrup and other topics.
Lisl lives on a cranberry marsh in central Wisconsin, but she grew up in Janesville and is a 1999 graduate of Parker High School.
While in Janesville, she never dreamed of becoming a cranberry farmer or an ambassador for Wisconsin's No. 1 fruit.
“I couldn't wait until I moved to a bigger city,” Lisl said.
Her husband, Robert Detlefsen, changed her mind. He is a fifth-generation cranberry farmer with a passion for his work.
January snow covered the bogs when Robert showed Lisl his cranberry farm for the first time.
Later, he brought her back during the harvest when the marsh was in full autumn blaze.
“It was Dorothy stepping into Oz,” Lisl recalls. “The red berries were floating on the water, and autumn colors were all around.”
The experience inspired Lisl to write the children's book explaining how the harvest occurs. Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water but on low-running vines. During harvest, farmers flood cranberry marshes and gather the floating fruit.
Today, Lisl and Robert operate a 140-acre cranberry farm west of Wisconsin Rapids in the town of Cranmoor. Robert's great-great grandfather bought the land from the state in 1871.
Lisl describes the town of Cranmoor as “the most highly concentrated area of cranberry acreage in the world.”
“Most of the farms have been family owned for generations,” Lisl said. “It's special to have all these family businesses farming together. We all understand what the others are going through.”
In her book's dedication, she fondly writes that “Time for Cranberries” is a love letter to her husband, family and the cranberry community.
“I call it a virtual field trip,” Lisl said. “This is what the harvest is like. I want to be sure it is clear to kids who don't get to see the marsh. The book helps show people outside of the community what we do.”
Lisl knew she wanted to be an author since she was young.
“All I ever wanted to do is write children's books,” she said.
Her mother, Susan Hornig of Janesville, read to her often when she was a child.
Lisl called the publication of her cranberry book “a lifetime dream come true.”
She hopes the book inspires young people to ask questions about the origins of their food and to appreciate agriculture.
She is honored that her book will be read across the state as part of Wisconsin Farm Bureau's Ag in the Classroom day.
“I really look forward to coming back to Janesville,” Lisl said. “I really love talking to students.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.