California organic pear harvest started with the Bartlett variety last week. “It may have started one or two days earlier compared to average, but is basically right on time,” says Chris Ford with Viva Tierra Organic. Crop volume is expected to be up considerably from last year due to excellent growing conditions. “It was a good growing season, and we received the right weather at the right time,” added Roy Ruff, California Marketing Lead for the company. The hot weather has not had an impact. As a result of ideal growing conditions, the crop is clean and utilization is expected to be high. “Contrary to last season, we expect a high percentage of crop volume to make it to the consumer market this year.”
Organic Bartlett pears.
Viva Tierra’s organic pears are all packed by Greene & Hemly out of Courtland, in the Sacramento Delta region. The 6th generation farming family grows and packs their own pears, but also packs for other growers in the region selling under the Viva Tierra Organic label. “We have multiple longstanding partnerships with pear growers in the region,” added Ruff. Once the Courtland region finishes, harvest will move up further north. The Lake County district in Northern California as well as Southern Oregon’s Medford region will have supplies well into September. Bartlett and Bosc are the main varieties, but limited volumes of specialty varieties like Abate Fetel, Seckel, and Red Bartlett will be available as well.
This year’s transition from the southern hemisphere to the California organic crop is seamless. Viva Tierra just finished shipments of organic Autumn Bartletts from Argentina. “Our South American program ended just in time to start up the new pear crop in California,” Ruff said.
Harvest of California organic apples is also around the corner for Viva Tierra. Next week, picking will start with the Gala variety, followed by Granny Smith, Fuji, and Cripps Pink. The season is expected to bring a good crop size, and good color fruit. “Fruit size is expected to peak a bit smaller this year. However, that provides more opportunities for bagging,” Ford said.
Viva Tierra is committed to making a smooth transition to California Galas from the last South American apple imports arriving on the east coast. “Our mission remains to follow the seasons and offer the most flavorful, crisp apples available anytime of the year to all our customers,” Ruff added.
Both California-grown pears and apples have a strategic advantage. Usually, there is a small window of a couple weeks where California growers are the only ones in the market before Washington starts. In addition to a strategic window, retailers favor California grown pears and apples at this time because they are locally grown, have a higher sugar content and “fresher apples have more flavor elements and taste sweet”, says Bill Denevan Viva Tierra’s grower representative.
“Even after Washington’s season has started, retailers continue to offer locally grown California top fruit to provide customers with different options. Outside California, customers across the country get to experience the new crop. “California has a much broader reach than just local. The crop appeals to a large customer base, allowing customers throughout the nation to experience a new crop.”
Viva Tierra sees tremendous value in educating consumers on the source and the different fruit growing regions, thus it continues to invest in innovative and colorful packaging to convey this message. The Viva Tierra pouch bags, for example, are specifically designed to be used during the California season. “From California, we will move to Washington ensuring a continual year round supply of organic apples and pears which makes us truly Organic to the Core®”, says Ford.
Galas in California pouch bags.