California pear harvest is about to commence. Harvest of conventional varieties starts this week, and organics are expected to start in the week of July 13. “A mid-July start is about average, so we are right on track,” says Roy Ruff Regional Marketing Lead with Viva Tierra Organics. The last two years, harvest started late, but this year, growing conditions after fruit set have been ideal. “Pears like it warm, but not too hot. Their growth slows down when it gets over 95⁰F and this season, we haven’t seen the heat we usually see in June and July,” added Ruff.
Lower Bartlett volumes
Nevertheless, Viva Tierra’s California Organic Bartlett supply is expected to be down from around 35,000 cartons last year to 30,000 this year. “The lower crop size this season was caused by a colder, wetter spring. California Bartlett pears pollinate themselves unlike Northwest Bartletts, but don’t tolerate excessive rain and cold during bloom very well. This is what regional growers of conventional and organic pears were affected by.” The Bosc pear, which starts late in July, was unaffected and is expected to be a bumper crop with promotable quantities right from the start. Bartlett and Bosc are the two main varieties with Abate Fetel, Seckel, and Red Bartlett being available in limited quantities.
Viva Tierra works with 6th generation farming family operation Greene & Hemly in Courtland, in the Sacramento Delta region. “In addition, we also have partnerships with growers in Lake County in Northern California as well as in Southern Oregon’s Medford region,” shared Ruff. Their pears are being packed and shipped out of the Courtland facility as well. Below is a video of Virginia Hemly-Chhabra, discussing how the Sacramento Delta region is one of the perfect places to grow pears.
Only ones in the market
It is a short and intense growing season. “We like to get the pears picked, packed and sold rapidly as Washington State is on California’s heels.” Usually, there is a very small window of about two to three weeks where California growers are the only ones in the market, which is right at the start of harvest. This year, the start of the California season looks promising. “Imports from South America are cleaned up and with an on-time harvest, the initial pricing is expected to be firm,” said Ruff. “Once Washington comes in, the pressure on the market tends to bring the f.o.b. down.”
California Bartlett pears are typically available in stores through September, but harvest could be as short as ten days. “The last several years it has been a challenge to get laborers to pick the fruit. Because of the labor situation, this year harvest is planned to end after one pick.”
Viva Tierra follows the seasons and the freshness. “Our imports from South America have ended, and we are looking forward to providing our customers with fresh and locally grown California pears. The growers in our California network grow exceptional summer pears that are fresh and right out of the orchard. They make for a delightful eating experience,” said Ruff. From California, Viva Tierra will move to Washington. “Our three-region program enables us to minimize our use of controlled atmosphere storage to a very short window between the end of fall in Washington and the start-up of the spring crop in South America.”
The Hemly Family. From left to right: 6th generation siblings Matt Hemly who runs orchard operations & Virginia Hemly-Chhabra who runs the packing house and Doug & Cathy Hemly.