There is a reason that Harry & David, known for their flavorful pears, beautiful gift baskets and multitude of treats (Moose Munch!), has been been around since 1910 and has employees that have worked for the company for 20, 30, even 50 years. They are dedicated to product quality and intent on taking care of their employees. These are just a couple of things that struck me in my recent trip to Medford, Oregon, and the surrounding areas of Jacksonville and Ashland.
Others who attended (such a fantastic group of people!)…
Left to right:
Brenda of A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
Carrie of La Pomme de Portland
Brian of A Thought for Food
Sandy of Reluctant Entertainer
Heather of Farmgirl Gourmet
Me (doing my best Vanna White with the Harry & David sign)
Matthew of A Good Time with Wine
Gaby of What’s Gaby Cooking
Julie of Peanut Butter Fingers
Aggie of Aggie’s Kitchen
Maggy of Three Many Cooks
Sommer of A Spicy Perspective (stuck on a plan that evening)
Kelly of Martha Stewart Living (she joined us later)
Magnolia Inn – Jacksonville, Oregon
I can’t simply gloss over our accommodations for this trip because Magnolia Inn in Jacksonville, Oregon deserves every compliment I can throw its way. The two owners, Robert and Susan, are nothing short of charming and hospitable.
From the thoughtful decorations (seriously, Susan thinks of everything) to the homemade treats each afternoon, it feels like a place you could call home for a week.
I’m very tempted to make a special trip back to the area with my family just so we can stay at the Magnolia Inn.
Our fabulous hosts:
The hospitality didn’t stop with our comfortable accommodations. To say that Sandy and Paul Coughlin know how to entertain would be a sorry understatement. Sandy fills her fantastic blog, Reluctant Entertainer, with ideas to make casual and fancy entertaining effortless and memorable.
They invited us to their warm and comfortable home for a lovely dinner, peppered with tasty Harry & David products, set under glowing lights in their beautiful backyard.
They thought of every detail and managed to make us feel so welcome and relaxed.
The Pear Orchard:
This is where we got into the nitty-gritty and started to learn about the growing and harvesting of Harry & David’s famous pears.
Matt Borman, the director of the orchards, educated us on the ins and outs of caring for the trees and the fruit. While Harry & David grows a variety of different pears, they are most well-known for the Royal Riviera pears, which are found nestled in almost all Harry & David gift baskets. The extreme temperatures found in the Rogue Valley are not only good for growing grapes (leading to thriving vineyards in the area), but it also a hospitable environment for Royal Riviera pears.
The contraption seen on the right is a heater to safeguard the delicate fruit during harsh temperatures.
Speaking of wine, Harry & David announced to us that they will be launching their own line of wines in 2013, including nine varietals. We had an opportunity to taste the wine. My personal favorites were the Sauvignon Blanc and the Pinot Noir. The wine will be a wonderful addition to Harry & David’s line of products.
Back to the pears…During the 4 to 5 weeks of harvest each year, the 300-350 pickers at Harry & David harvest 700 tons of pears per day. Each person responsible for picking the pears is trained to treat each pair as gently as a newborn kitten.
Gaby demonstrating that we do what we have to do to send a tweet.
The pears are carefully picked and carried to insure that as few of them as possible are bruised. Any fruit that does have broken or bruised skin is sent off to make concentrate or baby food.
At the Harry & David Packing Plant & Around Ashland
Now, if you met a third-generation candy maker, who spent his day perfecting chocolate creations, what would you hope his name would be? Well, “Charlie” of course. And so we met Charlie and learned the ins and outs of making Harry & David’s cakes and confections.
From our perches above the factory floors, we witnessed pears being carefully transported towards the gift baskets, pan after pan of peanut butter and jelly bars being constructed by diligent workers, holiday boxes being filled for the Christmas season and yards upon yards of ribbon being cut to decorate those boxes and baskets.
Around every corner was a friendly employee, dutifully working at their job or hustling off to another part of the factory. We even stumbled upon a lunchroom celebration where cake was being presented to an employee who worked at Harry & David for 50 years.
We each tried our hand at packing a gift basket for a loved one (mine only stayed together because of the careful instruction by Pam, one of the packing trainers who helped us). You’ll be glad to know that the basket I’m giving away was not packed by me. I’ll leave that to the experts!
Disclaimer: Harry & David provided the gift basket for this giveaway and paid my travel expenses for the trip. However, I was not compensated to write this post.