Pears finish strong

Labor shortages arose, posed small challenges

According to the preliminary reviews of this year’s pear harvest, the numbers are looking good.

“The harvest really was excellent because it was very dry and growers could pick most every day,” said Craig Mallon, quality control manager for Duckwall-Pooley Fruit Company.

“The quality of the fruit is excellent. The size is a bit smaller than we might expect given that it is an average year in terms of volume,” said Mallon.

“The weather was perfect until the very end,” said orchardist and County Commissioner Ron Rivers, who farms 200 acres in the upper valley. “This is a good, clean crop.”

Rivers did note one small glitch in the harvest process this year.

“Help was tight at the start of winter pear season; around Sept. 27 in Parkdale. The lower valley was still picking so we had some overlap of about a week to 10 days. When everyone was picking, we were a little short,” said Rivers. “We picked with our main crew and waited for those who arrived later.”

For Anjou pears, hanging a few extra days on the tree while waiting for pickers is not particularly a big problem. For Bartletts — which have a short turn-around time — those extra days can cause losses.

“The packing houses will be over their projected estimate on Anjou and Bartlett varieties,” said Rivers, concurring with Mallon that the overall volume was strong this year.

“I was surprised, though. I’ve seen signs on the road for pickers needed — even on some growers’ places who have housing,” noted Rivers. Farms that offer housing have generally been more attractive to workers. Posted “help-wanted” signs on those farms confirmed to Rivers that pickers were a bit scarcer this year.

“We should be finishing up in the next four days,” said Rivers on the state of the upper Valley’s last unpicked fruit. “Harvest fest is coming at a great time. We normally don’t get to enjoy it — we’re usually still picking pears, but I think we’ll get it done.”

Official reports on this year’s pear harvest will be issued after press deadline on Oct. 16. See the Saturday edition for details.

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