Frog Hollow Farm’s soft, sweet and juicy Warren pears are back! This year, they arrive in Bay Area farmer’s markets and on your doorstep carrying the story of our strong farming community and perseverance in tenuous political times.
Too many fruiting buds are a cause for alarm
Late last year, Farmer Al made a disturbing discovery in the 12-acre Warren pear orchard. The Warren pear trees did not look happy—their leaves were yellow and stunted and they were showing signs of stress by sending out a huge amount of fruiting buds. Fruiting buds (flower buds that become fruit) suppress new growth (leaves and branches), which means a tree can’t get the energy it needs from the sun to support the growth of the fruit it has set.
Farmer Al called in the experts. Looking at the trees, they were concerned that the graft between the root stock (the part of the tree that goes below ground) and the scion (the part of the tree that produces fruit) were incompatible.
“If nutrients and water could not get through the graft, the tree would die,” Farmer Al says. “It looked like that was happening.”
Labor shortages compound farm challenges
Farmer Al decided to try to save the trees from themselves by meticulously pruning half of the bud formations from the branches in early autumn, fertilizing the trees through the winter, and thinning them again in early spring.
The first round of pruning took three weeks.
“The idea was to reduce the amount of energy going into fruiting and shift the energy into growing new leaves and branches,” Farmer Al says.
But weak leaves and heavy fruiting buds on the Warren pear trees were only part of the problem. The controversy and uncertainty around immigration severely compounded these farm challenges. With more people leaving for Mexico than arriving from Mexico, farmers are experiencing massive labor shortages in the fields. We started to feel the pain in early spring when it was time to do the second round of tree thinning—a huge job that requires as much help as possible.
Wives, daughters, aunts and sisters save the day!
We were able to piece together a crew of women who were mostly the wives, daughters, aunts and sisters of our field workers. Under normal circumstances, tree thinning is limited to men because of the heavy ladders they use. Our amazing team of women learned to thin peaches on short, young peach trees (no ladders required) and then moved onto towering orchard ladders to help thin our 2,500 Warren pear trees. Without them, we might not have had a Warren pear crop this year.
We welcomed the rain and followed with an organic fertilization program that kicked the trees into vegetative growth so they could support the fruit on their limbs with plenty of leaves soaking up energy from the sun. We fertilized right up until July and our strategy worked!
“Cutting the fruiting buds in half brought the trees into balance,” Farmer Al says. “We produced a very nice crop.”
We started to pick the Warren pears, but with a reduced crew, we couldn’t get to all the trees before a freak wind storm hit. We lost about 10,000 pounds of ripe pears in that wind storm.
Savor Warren pears until late-December
Even with the wind storm losses, we picked a few hundred thousand pounds of Warren pears. We have an incredible crop of large, succulent pears that are green-skinned with a beautiful red blush.
“Enjoy them,” says Farmer Al. “The fruit is as sweet as ever, if not sweeter. And, we had such a long crop that you can count on having pears until Christmas.”
You can find our delectable Warren pears at these farmer’s markets:
Berkeley – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays
San Francisco Ferry Building – Tuesdays and Saturdays
San Francisco Castro District – Wednesdays
Santa Cruz – Wednesdays
Larkspur – Saturdays
Danville – Saturdays
Kensington – Sundays
Palo Alto – Sundays
If you can’t get to a Bay Area farmer’s market, or if you want to share our legendary fruit with friends and family across the country, order online at https://www.froghollow.com.
Find the best fruit recipes at https://www.froghollow.com/blogs/recipes