California Pear Growers Committed to Growing Flavorful Pears that Ripen Naturally

California Pear Growers Say No to Anti-Ripening Treatments

California pear farmers have united as an industry with a pledge to never use post-harvest treatments like 1-MCP that impede ripening and create a disappointing experience for consumers.

“California pear farmers are committed to producing pears that offer the best eating experience for our consumers,” said Richard Elliot of Stillwater Orchards. “This is why we’re pledging never to treat our pears with 1-MCP. Which would you rather have–a fresh Bartlett pear that has been allowed to ripen as nature intended or one that’s been treated to last for months in storage and may never ripen? The choice should be pretty clear.”

“What we’ve found in repeated experiments in our lab is that pears treated with 1-MCP take as long as three weeks to ripen and, in fact, they may never get soft and juicy,” explains Dr. Beth Mitcham, a postharvest researcher at the University of California, Davis.

The desire for longer shelf life and waste reduction in the fresh produce industry has resulted in suppliers’ use of 1-MCP. It might work well on items that develop their sugar and ripeness during growth, like apples, but for pears and fruits that ripen after picking, 1-MCP can have adverse effects on fruit quality.

“When a consumer buys a pear treated with 1-MCP it won’t ripen properly,” said Matt Hemly of Greene and Hemly in Courtland. “Unfortunately, the consumer has no way of knowing if the pears they’re buying have been treated with 1-MCP. And they won’t know until they buy the pear, take it home to ripen it only to find it never does.”

California pear season starts in July every year. That’s when shoppers should begin seeing new crop Bartlett pears in-store grown by local farmers. This is also the time of year when imported pears from growing regions in the southern hemisphere or domestic fruit harvested nearly a year ago — often treated with 1-MCP — may still be available and on stores shelves.

IRI/Freshlook retail scan data analyzing the pear category over the past five years shows that since 2015, the pear category overall has seen continued decline. National retail dollar sales have declined $79 million (-16.1%) and volume also declined 62 million pounds (-19.2%)

“We just don’t believe that 1-MCP is a smart choice for pears like Barletts that must ripen off the tree,” said Chiles Wilson of Rivermaid Trading Company.

California pear farmers take care to pick pears at a point when they have plenty of sugar, but they’re still green. Bartlett pears actually won’t ripen on the tree, which means they can be shipped without damaging the fruit. And because California Bartletts are not treated with anti-ripening products, these pears will ripen naturally. Once a consumer brings home a California pear, they can expect to enjoy a ripened pear full of flavor within a few days.

“Reducing waste is a great goal for and is something we should all be doing to help the environment,” said Chris Zanobini, Executive Director of the California Pear Advisory Board. “But all too often we waste food in our own homes when we throw things away instead of eating them. Pears are a wonderful fruit in this respect. Consumers can ripen them on the counter to the desired state of ripeness and then store in the refrigerator until they want to eat them. Pears treated with 1-MCP may be thrown away because they never ripen. This can actually create more waste.”

The California Pear Advisory Board is based in Sacramento, CA and represents all producers of pears in the state. A short video explaining the California pear industry’s pledge can be found here. More information about California pears, pear varieties and pear farmers can be found at www.calpear.com.

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California Pear Farmers Will Harvest in July

California Pear Farmers Set to Begin Harvest in Early July

 As the nation’s food industry is working hard to keep food on our tables, California pear farmers are preparing to harvest a crop of fresh pears in early July.

“California pear harvest appears to be on a normal schedule this year after two years of late harvest timing,” said Matt Hemly of Greene and Hemly in Courtland. “We’ve seen pear category sales affected in recent years during July because of our late harvest. This year we expect to be picking Bartlett pears in the River District within the first weeks in July. Retailers will have no problem getting American grown pears into their stores this year.”

“We want to thank retailers and all of their employees for keeping our food supply moving during this difficult time,” said Richard Elliot of Stillwater Orchards. “As we move out of this pandemic, we hope that retailers will support local growers, families and communities to put America first.”

California pear growers are taking extra steps in the orchards and packing facilities to ensure a safe, healthy supply of fresh pears during this time.

“We employ 450 people in our farms and packing house,” explains Chiles Wilson, owner of Rivermaid Trading Company, based in Lodi, CA. “We want to make sure we can give them their jobs back this year. It’s not just about us as farmers but all the people we employ and their families.”

“Flavor is most important to consumers,” explains Pat Scully of Scully Packing in Lake County. “California pear farmers take care to pick pears at a point when they have plenty of sugar, and we never treat our pears with anti-ripening products like 1-MCP.”

1-MCP is a product that impedes fruit ripening. Producers in many growing regions use 1-MCP to extend a pear’s storage life. Unfortunately, a 1-MCP treated pear may not ever ripen properly.  It may turn yellow and appear to be ripe but never soften. This disappoints consumers and prevents repeat sales.

“What we’ve found in repeated experiments in our lab is that pears treated with 1-MCP take as long as three weeks to ripen and, in fact, they may never get soft and juicy,” explains Dr. Beth Mitcham, a postharvest researcher at the University of California, Davis.

“We don’t believe that 1-MCP is a smart choice for pears like Bartletts that must ripen off the tree,” said Rivermaid Trading company’s Wilson. “We know 1-MCP inhibits the fruit’s ability to ripen, meaning no flavor and no softening.  With the increased use over the past few years, we think there is a direct correlation to retail pear category decline.”

Because Bartlett pears are picked green off the tree, they ship well and will ripen naturally.  Once a consumer brings them home, they will become a ripe juicy flavorful piece of fruit.

“We’re committed to producing pears that offer the best eating experience for our consumers,” said Hemly. “In early July, shoppers should begin seeing new crop Bartlett pears in-store grown by local farmers. Our California Pear Advisory Board representatives will soon be reaching out to retailers — even if it’s only virtually — to set up promotions for the new season. “

The California Pear Advisory Board is based in Sacramento, CA and represents all producers of pears in the state. More information about California pears, pear varieties and pear farmers can be found at www.calpear.com.

Labor Contractor Fresh Harvest Deep in Vegetable Harvests

Fresh Harvest Relies on H-2A

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Steve Scaroni, along with his wife Brenda, owns Fresh Harvest, a premier labor provider, staffing and harvesting company for the agricultural industry in the western United States.

Steve Scaroni, with Fresh Harvest.

“Expansion for Fresh Harvest is coming, but the main emphasis is crops related to salads. They even expanded into citrus last year,” Scaroni said.

Fresh Harvest has also expanded into pears. Vegetables are the heart and soul of Fresh Harvest.

“Anything that goes into a salad, a lot of lettuce, romaine, broccoli; we touch a lot of salads every day,” he said.

The H-2A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers who expect a shortage in domestic workers to bring non-migrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural services for a temporary or seasonal nature.

“If it wasn’t for H-2A, I wouldn’t be in business,” Scaroni said.

Scaroni explained that the H-2A gets legal workers to serve his customers demands for the services he offers. A majority of the demands are labor and harvesting, along with other farm services.

“We’re bringing up 100 irrigators this year to put throughout the Salinas Valley because our Salinas customers can’t get enough irrigators,” he said.

Laborers that show great work ethic will be able to work for a longer period of time. A worker could technically stay if moved from contract to contract.

“If the timing works, he gets up to three years, but then he has to go back for 90 days,” Scaroni said.

America’s First Pear to Begin Harvest July 7

The first Bartlett pears of the season are set to harvest in California’s Sacramento River growing region July 7.

According to the official crop estimate set by the California Pear Advisory Board at its June 12th meeting, the state’s total crop of Bartlett pears is expected to be just over 2.6 million 36-pound packages, slightly down from the four-year average crop size of 2.9 million packages.

The majority of the state’s Bartletts, 1.5 million packages, will come from the early harvesting Delta River growing district, with harvest in Mendocino County expected on August 4 and on August 11 in Lake County.

California pear farmers are expecting an additional 550,000 packages of other pear varieties this season including 220,000 Golden Russet Bosc and 80,000 Starkcrimson along with smaller quantities of Bosc, Sunsprites, Comice, Forrelle, Seckel, French Butter and other red varieties.

In addition to setting its official crop estimate and harvest dates during its most recent Board meeting, the California Pear Advisory Board (CPAB) adopted a new brand positioning for Bartlett pears from California calling them “America’s First Pear.”

“We realized that Bartlett pears from California are unique because they have been produced in California since the very beginnings of the state’s commercial fruit industry dating all the way back to the California Gold Rush in the 1850s,” said Chris Zanobini, Executive Director of the CPAB.

“California Bartletts are also the very first pear of the season to be harvested in the U.S. each year and consumer research shows Bartlett pears are the first choice of consumers when it comes to selecting a flavorful pear variety.   The title of ‘America’s First Pear’ just seemed to be a good fit.”

Zanobini noted that CPAB has been working closely in its hometown of Sacramento, California to promote a locally-grown image and they have become a regular sponsor of the “America’s Farm to Fork Capital” program launched in the area in 2013.

The program promotes locally-grown agricultural products to Sacramento area consumers, retailers and restaurants. The concept of giving consumers locally-grown, sustainably-produced food is rapidly gaining in popularity throughout the country.

“California Bartlett pears fit a highly desirable image because they are produced by the kind of artisan farmers that today’s consumers want growing their food,” said Zanobini.

California Bartletts are grown by about 60 pear farming families, most of whom have been growing pears on the same land for generations. The average size of California Pear farm is 130 acres and the average age of the orchards are between 30 and 100 years.

“California Bartletts provide consumers with an heirloom experience because this is the same product people can find in their local farmers market. They have been sustainably-grown for over 100 years by smaller, family farmers who are trusted and safe,” said Zanobini.

The California pear industry’s claims about sustainability are not just marketing hype, but are backed by research. During the past three years, the CPAB has participated in a program with the independent sustainability program design firm, SureHarvest, to assess the level of sustainable farming practices utilized by farmers.

SureHarvest has found an exceptionally high level of adoption among California pear farmers of sustainable practices like non-chemical treatments for pests. According to the SureHarvest assessment, well over 90 percent of California pear farmers utilize practices like pheromone-mating disruption, scouting for pests and other Integrated Pest Management practices.

CPAB plans to launch an initial trade education effort this summer to communicate with grocery stores the benefits of selecting and staying with California Bartlett pears for the duration of the California pear season.

“This strategy allows retailers to maximize the pear category and to give consumers their favorite pear for longer,” explained Zanobini. “California pear farmers are confident we can work together with buyers to optimize their pear category profits.”

Zanobini noted the trade should look for new educational materials from CPAB along with some locally based innovative on-line consumer promotions beginning this season.

For more information, please visit www.calpear.com.