Good Fruit Grower

April 15

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 27 of 55

I f he were 30 years younger, Ron Meyer would be putting in new equipment to pack his pears and peaches. Instead, at 75 years, he's thinking about selling his orchards and liquidating his tree fruit business. Meyer is hopeful one of his four children will have a change of heart and decide to come back to the family farm. And there's a chance. Son Kurt, a construction contractor, returned to the farm when the building industry flattened during the recent recession and has been working with Meyer for several years. But his son hasn't made up his mind about farming long-term and is concerned about the financial aspects of pears and the future of Medford's tree fruit industry. Ron Meyer is the third generation of his family to grow pears in Oregon's Rogue River Valley in Talent, a town near Medford. The Meyer family has raised pears for more than 100 years; the first pear orchard was planted in 1910. Until 2000, Meyer packed his 100-plus acres of pears and eight acres of peaches on his own line. He installed the first Linx electronic weight sizer in the Rogue Valley, technology that later allowed him to affix labels to the fruit. "The transition from the old dimension sizers to electronic technology was a turning point for a lot of growers," he said. Up to that point, many growers packed their own fruit. "But when new technologies were needed for sizing and stick- ering, a lot of growers didn't want to make such a significant investment, and they got out of packing." Through the years, he's cultivated his own markets for pears, including a niche pear variety developed by Oregon State University called BestEver. He has also developed a strong local following for his peaches. "My pears go all over, but my best market is New York," he said, adding that he learned early in his tree fruit career while working for produce wholesaler Pacific Fruit Produce Ron Meyer is ready to retire, but what about the orchards? by Melissa Hansen that if you're going to be successful in produce, you've got to market your product to those who don't grow it. He also learned about the finicky nature of local mar- kets during his years at the produce company. "Local markets are very delicate. Once they are overloaded, you can be priced out of business and you have disaster," Meyer said. He keeps his peaches local because he can't compete with peaches produced in California. These days, he sends his fruit to Med- ford's major pear packer, Naumes, Inc. He still markets his own fruit, as well as fruit of a few other growers. Naumes packs his fruit and loads out some for railcar shipment. Pampered trees Meyer calls his pear trees "my pam- pered darlings." His orchard is uniform and very productive, averaging 15 to 18 tons per acre. He plants four rows of Comice, four rows of Bartlett, and four rows of red d'Anjou as a way to pollinize each other, and he prefers open-centered trees to central leader. His spacing for the open-centered system is 20 feet between trees, 16 feet between rows. 28 APRIL 15, 2014 GOOD FRUIT GROWER PHOTOS BY TJ MULLINAX The open-center pear trees in Meyer's orchard produce from 15 to 18 tons per acre. His production increased when he changed from a cultivated center to a grass orchard floor. Uncertain FUTURE "With farming, you just have to accept that there's no guarantees." —Ron Meyer

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - April 15