Oregon and Washington’s combined pear harvest will approach a record this year, with growers and packers reporting a heavy yield of large, high-quality fruit.
Estimates made in June, well before picking began, projected a fresh market harvest of 19.8 million 44-pound boxes, the standard measurement unit. The estimate was 4 percent larger than the five-year average, and would have made it the third largest crop grown by the Wenatchee and Yakima regions of Washington and the Mid-Columbia and Medford regions of Oregon.
The record is 20.5 million boxes, set in 2011-12, with the 2009-10 harvest of 20.1 million boxes in second place. Since the June estimate was made for 2013-14, excellent growing conditions resulted in a bigger crop than expected.
Some growers were hard-pressed to find enough pickers at peak harvest in mid-September, when the Hood River Valley alone employed about 1,800 pickers a day. The crunch has passed, however. Growers in the upper valley, where fruit comes on later than at lower elevations, will finish picking soon, said Jean Godfrey, executive director of the Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers in Hood River.
“We have a very heavy crop, a beautiful crop, larger than normal,” Godfrey said.