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Tractors’ hum marks start of pear harvest

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

September 9, 2006

The pear harvest swung into full action this week as workers launched into picking the Anjou variety.

“The fruit is looking good,” said Chuck Thomsen.

He had 75 workers plucking pears in his orchards along Eastside Road Thursday afternoon. Swirls of dust followed the tractors’ paths as the drivers hauled bins to a loading area. Patricia Lachino went from bin to bin collecting harvest samples and placing bin card numbers in slots. A continuous flow of trucks bearing a Fruit placard in their windshield began the multiple week process of taking fruit to packing houses in the Hood River Valley.

Crew supervisor Alfredo Elisea said they began work in Thomsen’s orchards on Monday with close to 125 pickers.

“This area, close to Panorama Point, it ripens first,” Elisea said.

Many of the lower Hood River Valley orchardists had finished with Bartlett pears before the Labor Day holiday. Kent Lambert, of Lage Orchards and Ron Rivers both planned to start their Anjou harvests Friday morning.

“We’re finishing up Gala (apples) Thursday. We’ll do our tailgate planning meeting Thursday afternoon and the pickers will begin the next morning,” Lambert said.

The weather is expected to continue sunny and dry for the harvest although temperatures may climb back up into the mid-80s range next week. Pear Bureau Northwest president and CEO Kevin Moffitt said the Hood River orchardists who grow Anjous should be able to expect a good year on the market.

“Returns for the growers in Hood River should be fairly good because of the damage in Washington,” Moffitt said.

He referred to July hailstorms that damaged green Anjous in the Cashmere, Dryden, and Peshastin areas near Wenatchee, Wash.

“In terms of what this means to your local growers, the severe hail damage creates basically a short crop year so Hood River growers should have a clean crop with a good amount of fruit.”

Moffit said the industry is expecting a crop that is nine percent off of last year’s production and from a historical standpoint, the production is about eight percent off a five-year average.

“It’s a smaller crop than we have seen for a while,” he said.

The damage in Washington State took out 1.1 million boxes of pears. The traditional counting term of a box translates to 44 pounds of pears per box. The bureau represents 1,600 pear growers in four areas in Oregon and Washington, which grow 84 percent of the pears nationwide.

According to the 2006 Oregon Fruit Tree inventory, as of Jan. 1 pears other than Bartletts accounted for the most fruit trees in Oregon with 2.87 million trees. For Hood River County, that proportion holds steady with pears other than Bartletts at a count of 1,315,600 trees and Bartletts at a count of 510,900 trees.

Other varieties remaining to be harvested for 2006 include Bosc, Cascade, Comice, Concorde, Forelle, Packham, Red Anjou, Seckel, Starkrimson and Taylors Gold.

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