Looking out for Number Ones 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

October 22, 2005

Pear-sorting hands move just as nimbly in the final hour of the shift as in the first.

A cold-water flume runs through the warm environs of the Parkdale Diamond Fruit pre-size plant, where workers determine the quality of thousands of pieces of fruit an hour.

Pears enter in a bin and leave the plant sorted by quality and size, in another bin.

“Our main job is to make sure the bins are full of good-looking fruit,” said plant manager Doug Hedges.

Following hand sorting, the fruit moves under rollers and along chutes and onto a computerized scale for loading back into bins. From there, the bins are destined either for cold storage in Parkdale or shipment to Diamond central in Odell for packing, depending on the day’s market orders.

The pears come in cold, and when a bin full of them is submerged into the flume, it is the fruit that cools off the water.

A team of 26 people, including about 15 sorters wearing insulated gloves, processes 65 half-ton bins of fruit each hour. This week a green line of Anjous is washed and chlorinated in the serpentine flume before rollers carry the fruit up to a conveyor belt to where the well-trained sorters stand. En route, fans blow excess moisture off the pears and soft brushes sweep away leaves and other debris not removed in the wash. As pears glide by on more rollers, the sorters separate culls, unclassifieds, fancy, and U.S. Number One pears. Four sorters stand on each side of line, and they shift places periodically because the busiest sorting spot is the one closest to the wash where the pears first come up.

This is generally what they look for in pears: the culls are damaged and misshapen; the unclassifieds contain blemishes but are of better quality than culls; fancy pears bear a few small blemishes; Number One are the prime pears, well-shaped and free of all but minute markings other than a glowing green color.

The sorters are trained in judging each pear by sight and how to quickly place each one on the appropriate horizontal conveyor belt. Eye-level signs give visual aid to the size of some blemishes that distinguish a cull from an unclassified, but mostly the sorting is done by experience and concentration.

“You see the fruit. That’s it,” said Lupe Chavarria, a sorter for 10 years who now works on the “ground crew,” bringing the pears into the plant and keeping track of each grower’s batches.

The sorters must look for about 20 different factors, ranging from an off-center stem to degrees and types of russet, the brownish marking that occurs on pears.

For example, a Number One can have no punctures, scab, or scales, and “smooth, net-like russet” is permitted if less than 10 percent of the surface. Limb-rub can be no longer than a quarter-inch.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners