Harvest of Washington's sweet, juicy pears is just beginning.
And pear growers in Washington and Oregon are expecting their third-largest crop this year.
Washington is No. 1 in the nation when it comes to growing pears.
Roger Pepperl, marketing director for Stemilt Growers of Wenatchee, said Stemilt is expecting a big harvest.
Picking began a little earlier than normal, with some of the first Bartletts being harvested this weekend, and Stemilt Growers will likely pick pears up until early October, he said.
"We have a very nice pear crop," said Pepperl.
He anticipates the company will begin packing Bartletts as soon as next week.
Most of Washington's 22,000 acres of pears are in Wenatchee and the Yakima Valley, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only around 550 of those acres are in Benton and Franklin counties.
Pears, like apples and cherries, are hand-picked by farmworkers.
Washington and Oregon are expected to harvest about 19.8 million 44-pound boxes of pears, said Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House.
That's a bit above the 19.5 million boxes growers in both states picked last year, he said.
"The quality of the fruit looks really good," Kelly said. "I think we are going to have a great product."
Pears are Washington's tenth most valuable commodity, at $186.3 million in 2011, according to the USDA.
That year, Washington and Oregon pear growers harvested the largest crop on record, according to Pear Bureau Northwest.
The 2011 crop was about 20.6 million boxes, Kelly said.