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Sixth generation adding to David J. Elliot & Son’s legacy

Richard Elliot is a fifth-generation farmer for David J. Elliot & Son, and his kids Richard, Ryan and Rachel are the sixth generation of Elliots that continue the family operation today, farming more than 1,000 acres of pears, cherries and almonds — both conventional and organic. 

“We are in the process of transitioning another 38 acres of pears to organic,” said Larelle Miller, sales manager for the Courtland, CA-based company. “By handling only the product we farm we have full control — from the orchard all the way through until it hits the store shelves.”tree

The success of the Elliot family can be attributed to their dedication to quality. 

“We are proud of their Daily and Stillwater labels and do everything they can in the farming and packing process to keep the quality reputation that they are known for,” Miller said. “We also understand the need to be on top of the latest innovations in farming and packing to keep up efficiencies and reduce costs.”

This is always an exciting time at the company and for most in the pear industry, as California pears are the first fresh pears available.

“Sure, pears are on the shelves year-round, but any pears on the shelves in July, if they aren’t from California, they have spent the last 10 months in storage or have travelled thousands of miles across the ocean,” Miller said. “There is always a spike in interest for California pears starting in late-June and early-July from retailers and wholesalers looking to freshen up the pear category.”

Unfortunately, the 2018 California pear crop has endured quite a bit due to a very hard freeze back in February and a fire blight issue on top of that. 

“We have spent the last few months mitigating the effects of the blight by cutting the diseased wood, or in some cases taking out the whole tree,” Miller said. “The varietal pears — Reds, Comice, Seckel, French Butter and Forelles — were hit the hardest. On top of all of this, we are seven to 10 days later than normal.”

Pouch bags seem to be the newest way to merchandise pears and David J. Elliot & Son has found they are a great way to showcase the product in an easy grab-and-go package. 

“Pears are typically displayed in bulk, just like apples,” Miller said. “Due to the thinner skin and ripening nature of a Bartlett it has been a difficult product to merchandise in both bulk and bags, but the pouch bags seem to be the perfect vehicle.”

Retailers can best market California pears, Miller noted, by placing them up front in the summer months with POS materials on how to ripen them. 

“We need to re-introduce the flavor of a ripe Bartlett,” Miller said. “We need to educate the millennial parent that ripe Bartlett pears are a natural baby food. That a ripe Bartlett pear is just as delicious and healthier than any processed fruit snack or organic processed treat.”

Of note at the company, Rachel Elliot, who has served in a sales support role for the last few years as she finished college, has now taken on the marketing responsibilities of the company’s website and social media. She will also soon take on a more substantial role in the sales department.

“The most exciting thing for me to see is the commitment from the sixth generation of Elliots. They are young, intelligent and enthusiastic,” Miller said. “They are constantly looking at what’s new in farming innovation and sustainability, as well as what’s new in the packing/processing side.”

The company also recently participated in a food bank program with the California Association of Food Banks that donated 680,000 tons of food, and it’s a program it will be participating in again this year.