Background photo by Don Sylor

Leo & Andrea Cakounes

Cranberry Farmers

Dan Cutrona

LEO CAKOUNES: My grandparents came to America from Greece. My grandfather on my mother’s side started a farm when he came to Saugus. It grew to be one of the largest pig farms in New England in the 1930s and 40s. From 1970 to probably 1990, it was just a straight decline where a lot of people were put out of business because of urban sprawl and that’s exactly what happened to my family. I saw my grandfather virtually put out of business. My grandfather certainly wouldn’t want me making excuses for him—he died an extremely wealthy man, he sold off lots of his farm, and we saw Route 1 come in and huge shopping malls were built on his old operation. But I think that when he died, he would have rather had his pigs instead of the pocket full of money that he had.
Andrea and I kind of ended up here after going down a long road. We both wanted to have a lifestyle that is really the agricultural lifestyle—we wanted to own land, we wanted to raise a family and have our children grow up in an agricultural kind of a world. The reality of trying to do that on Cape Cod struck real early.

ANDREA CAKOUNES: Both of us come from the same town, and it grew to be very city-like. Then we had our daughter, and to me, living here is just such a great way to grow up. To have animals, farm equipment, land. She’s not that good on the computer because we’re outside all the time. But we feel very blessed. I wake up in the morning, look outside, and I just see trees, land, animals, deer. I’m happy about where I came from, but I can really appreciate it. My daughter doesn’t appreciate it because this is all she’s known. But how cool is it to ride four-wheelers and see pigs being born and chickens hatch? You don’t get that on a computer or in a book.

Cape & Islands Voices - Harwich LEO: When I took over the presidency of the Cape and Islands Farm Bureau almost 10 years ago, my opening statement was, “I feel like I’ve just become the captain of the Titanic.” That’s where agriculture was headed 10 years ago. It wasn’t the environment we have today. In 10 years, we’ve come miles with the way people accept agriculture now. They want to know where their food is coming from, they want to know where it’s being produced. It’s an entirely different world, and it’s great.

LEO: From January on, each month on the cranberry bog is different. In the winter, we’re putting everything away, winterizing all of our pumps to make sure they don’t freeze. We do a lot of mechanical work during winter and make sure all of our machinery is in good condition. Come the spring, we do the opposite: we de-winterize everything, get the pumps and sprinklers running, repair stuff that got broken in the winter from the frost. In the summer time, we’re weeding, putting out fertilizers and pesticides. And in the fall, we harvest.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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Wychmere Harbor, Harwich