Meet Shawn Phelps
Pacific Northwest Pear Grower, Zillah, WA
When and where did you get started in the pear business?
After serving in the Marine Corp, I came back to Washington’s Yakima Valley and worked for growers in the area until 1996 when I leased my first orchard. I started with 26 acres of pear trees and 4 acres of apple trees. Today I own 70 acres of pear trees (84% Bartlett and 15% D’Anjou) and 80 acres of apple and cherry trees.
What factors go into pruning pear orchards?
The age of the tree is a factor when pruning. Our orchards are laid out in blocks, based on when they are planted. For example, fruit from younger Bartlett pear trees is typically sold for the fresh market and requires more detailed attention than older trees that we harvest for canning. Having a plan in place about which blocks are going to be sold for the fresh or canned market allows the growers to prune accordingly.
A grower prunes older trees for higher yield by leaving more fruiting branches and younger trees are pruned for larger more consistent fruit size. The fruit from older Bartlett trees typically goes to the canners and they want tonnage. Over time, the older trees lose the ability to produce the larger pear size that’s ideal for the fresh pack. That said, Bartlett pear trees are a steady fruit to grow, which is why the saying “we grow pears for our heirs” is so true. Bartlett trees can stay in production for 50 to 75 years.