This is the final leg of our Harry & David visit and if you were to ask any employee about their most popular product, they'll most likely answer: The Royal Riviera Pear.
I'm here with a group of food bloggers, who were really great. (I've attached links to their blogs at the bottom of this post).
Let's go visit the orchards!
The orchards are spread all around the Rogue valley, tucked in here and there. Their biggest crop is undoubtedly the Royal Riviera, which is a Comice pear.
Our guide is Matt, who is Harry & David's horticulturist. We all grow attached to Matt as he worries aloud about an impending hail storm that threatens about 40,000 tons of pears waiting to be harvested.
Because the pears are so delicate, they're packed in shallow crates, stacked atop one another to create a pallet-sized load for transport by the tractors. I'm happy to see that like my orchards at home, there are lots of grasses and growth beneath the trees, indicating healthy soil. The more sterile looking the orchard, the more likely they're using lots of chemicals.
Our next stop is one of the organic orchards. I'm taken aback by the ashen appearance of the leaves and learn they've been sprayed with an organic substance that pests don't like.
Luckily, the hail storm doesn't materialize and we head back to the fruit processing facility, to watch the pears being processed.
The complex is enormous.
We're passing through during a shift change.
These sorting work stations are so incredibly cute and vintagey.
The next shift begins. The fruit starts coming down the line in the baskets seen on the conveyor belt. Each and every pear is photographed 30 times, searching for blemishes. The blemished pears are sent in the other direction, on the juicing line. The pears that pass the photo test make their way to the worker's sorting stations, where they inspect each one for imperfections. The pears that make their way to the numbered bins are just overflow and once the employee catches up, they'll slowly make their way through sorting those pieces of fruit.
The good ones are boxed and the others go to juice.
This next area we pass through serves as the various Towers of Treats packing area:
We watch as each tower is wrapped together, by hand, with a fabric bow. Each wrapper has their own wrapping station. We talk to the ladies who are wrapping and tying the bows and learn that some use a newer sort of station, while others who have been with the company longer, prefer the vintage style.
After the towers are wrapped up, they move down the conveyor to the person who boxes them up.
He makes the shipping box, grabs a tower, places it inside the box, and places it back on the conveyor. All in a matter of seconds:
Next up, we're on to gift baskets where a similar process takes place, also completed by hand. I even take a stab at packing one.
But the real fun begins when we start sampling. Cheese - cracker - gingerbread petit four - cheese - cracker with red pepper relish - chocolate truffle. This is my ideal situation. Salty then sweet. Salty then sweet. I could do this all day. Oh ... then we do.
Well, I'm stuffed to the brim. Next up is a beautiful farm dinner. I'll tell you all about it soon.
Click on the links below to visit the blogs of my new friends by clicking on their links below:
Delilah from Cool Mom Picks
You can visit Harry & David's website here.
Photo Credit: First image of group courtesy of Sandy Coughlin.