The Fruit Growers League has disbanded after 96 years, due to dwindling league participants and significant revenue losses. Founded in 1913 to help Rogue Valley, OR, pear growers fight fire blight, the organization went on to tackle additional pear growers’ issues such as pest control, air quality, and land-use laws.
The league’s successes included funding research at Oregon State University’s Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, as well as compelling the passage of an ordinance in Jackson County requiring the removal of abandoned orchards.
The industry is now dominated by some of the largest pear orchards in the world, with fewer than a dozen small growers who pack fruit to ship and a few more who market locally, according to Bill Eckart, executive director for the Fruit Growers League since 2002.
The large companies who were part of the organization provided the bulk of its funding, and the smaller growers were represented by the packing cooperative Southern Oregon Sales. That company’s closure in 2008 cut revenue because it had collected fees for the league from its members. Taking into account the diminishing roster of league members and their inability to afford an office and a director, the remaining members voted in December to disband.
The league’s office has closed, and the group’s files will go to the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center. Eckart is also working with a variety of institutions to preserve the organization’s records of the area’s agricultural history.