When I was a little girl, I used to walk home from school each day in December hoping with all the hope I could muster, that “the package” had arrived.
I’d walk into the house and unload jacket, scarf and mittens, then timidly tiptoe into the kitchen to check the mail on the table. As soon as I turned the corner I would know… if the Harry and David Tower of Treats had come.
This is a memory that is repeated throughout the entire course of my childhood.
I couldn’t wait to carefully open each cascading box to see what edible treasure was inside: apples, pound cake, various chocolates, and the end-all of holiday treats Moose Munch, a caramel corn mix with chocolate and nuts.
And let’s not forget the pears.
Harry and David sent the most flawless, juicy, golden wrapped pears, that sliced like butter. We would ration them out after the package arrived, to ensure everyone in the family got their fair share.
Harry and David is the centerpiece of one of my fondest holiday memories and has made it possible for me to relive this nostalgic experience year after year.
Even now, I secretly hope each and every year, that a business associate, or a good friend will send us a box from Harry and David.
So when I was invited to tour the Harry and David Orchards and Chocolate Factory, there was not a single moment of hesitation.
I would have crawled from Asheville, North Carolina to Medford, Oregon, to get there.
What I learned about Harry and David once I arrived in Oregon, only enhanced my devotion to the company.
First and foremost, Harry and David is not just a pretty packaging company. They actually produce the majority of the items they offer.
The breathtaking orchards spread across 19 farms in southern Oregon and boast 700,000 pear trees. These Comice or “Royal Riviera” winter pears are treated with as much care as newborn puppies.
Harry and David hires approximately 330 professional pickers each year to gently hand-pick every pear. The pears are picked in the state of “maturity,” not ripeness to protect the skin.
The harvesters use a special hand technique and gloves to ensure no bruising occurs. Harry and David transports the pears with water flumes, specially designed trucks, and padded sorters to make sure every pear comes to you as perfect as it was, hanging on the tree.
Harry and David has spent years fine-tuning their method of farming to grow smaller trees that produce the very best fruit. They actually graft the comice pear trees onto quince root beds, causing the trees to stay small, so the orchards are safe for their pickers.
This is not genetic modification. Grafting roots is an agricultural art you can experiment with in your own backyard, if you happen to have a green thumb and a whole lot of patience.
On top of growing these magnificent pears, Harry and David makes thousands of chocolates and baked goods each year, right in Medford, Oregon.
The Head Chocolatier, Charlie (yes, Charlie) told us they make up to 130,000 truffles on any given day and pop 100 pounds of popcorn to make Moose Much each hour.
We watched bakers make tantalizing baklava, brownies, cakes, cookies and candies.
We learned to hand tie the intricate bows that go on each package.
We met with packaging designers that spend countless hours making sure they have a basket, box, or tower to fit every occasion and personality.
We even got to build our own Harry and David basket on the packaging line. Mine kept falling apart–it takes a lot more skill than you think!
Harry and David also shared a surprise announcement with us. They’ve planted their own vineyards and are now producing the first batch of H&D made wines.
We were able to experience all nine of the wines they are offering. These wines will be available for purchase in early 2013. Make sure to try the Pinot Noir.
Everyone we met at Harry and David had a different story of what the company has meant to them, yet the resounding message was clear:
Harry and David is GOOD to their employees.
From our tour guide, to the pickers, packers, recipe testers, bakers, bow tiers, and package designers, most of the employees we met had been working for Harry and David for over ten years, and many have worked there for decades.
One tour guide told me she had resigned after finding out she had cancer and needed to focus on her recovering.
She said the CEO immediately called her and ask why she was leaving. When she explained she was having some health issues, he told her, “You go get healthy. Your job will be right here waiting for you when you’re ready to come back.”
You just don’t hear stories like that anymore, you know?
You can read more about Harry and David from friends that visited the orchards with me:
- Aggie – Aggie’s Kitchen
- Brenda – A Farmgirl’s Dabbles
- Brian – A Thought for Food
- Carrie – La Pomme de Portland
- Dara – Cookin’ Canuck
- Gaby – What’s Gaby Cooking
- Heather – Farmgirl Gourmet
- Julie – Peanut Butter Fingers
- Maggy – Three Many Cooks
- Matt – A Good Time with Wine
- Sandy – Reluctant Entertainer
Disclosure: Harry and David hosted me on this trip and provided the giveaway today. All H&D-loving opinions are my own.