The main goal for, Oregon Growers is to utilize the fruit from, well, Oregon. (Crazy concept, we know!) Oregon is an agricultural mecca and once summer is in full swing, all of the farms are busy as bees harvesting their crops. Whether it be cherries, blueberries, marionberries, strawberries, peaches, or pears you will find everyone hard at work from early mornings until evening making sure the crops are picked at their fullest flavor and quality!
Since our great state is so agriculturally driven, it makes finding quality fruit as easy as driving 10 minutes or 2 hours from our office. Nothing beats getting out of the office on a sunny warm day, and that’s why planning field trips are a must! Last month we (minus our operations aficionado, Dana and our master Bookkeeper, Rana) took a full on FIELD trip and moseyed on down to see our berry grower. The berries we purchase come from the Willamette Valley Fruit Company(WVFC). This company has been growing, processing, and selling fruit for generations, if anyone knows the ins and outs of berry growing, it is them! The founders of the WVFC, the Gerald Roth family, have been growing berries locally in Salem for three generations. Due to the volume of which it has grown, the WVFC also sources fruit from around 30 family farms in and around the Willamette Valley. Many of which are located in a 10-mile radius. WVFC made its start as a small cannery in 1999 and has now since grown into a company that processes around 20 million pounds of fruit each year! That makes the ~100,000 pounds of Oregon berries we process into jam a year seem like an ant hill.
The Willamette Valley Fruit Company has strong sustainability practices and have several high levels of certification; Food Alliance Certified, EarthWISE certified, SQF Level 3 and perform rigorous testing on the fruit before it is processed and sold. These certifications verify sustainability and responsible environmental practices. WVFC wants to ensure the quality of the fruit they grow and buy are up to the standards they hold, and the standards of those organizations. The health of their plants, soil, air, and everyone they work with are of great value to them. WVFC continues working on sustainable practices and said “Our company and our growers stand united in keeping our fruit, the soil, plants and water all in balance with nature. In fact, we bet our future and the next generation’s future on this claim.” This is one of the many reasons we love buying fruit from them!
A few highlights of the trip were meeting one of the growers, taking a ride on the marionberry picker and strolling through the Marionberry canes chowing down on perfectly ripe berries. It’s not every day you get to take a ride on a marionberry picker or even see one. Try to imagine a smaller boat gantry rolling down the field with a deck on top where you steer. Then, imagine it has two upside down round bristle brushes on either side that spin and knock the berries into large containers on either side of the machine. It was quite a trip and something we will cherish for years to come! We will say this, nothing beats picking and eating marionberries right off the canes!
Having the ability to visit the farms that grow our fruit and the privilege to meet and talk to the people who are responsible for making the fruit taste so good, makes what we do that much more rewarding. The Willamette Valley Fruit and Pie Company states “We take great pride in bringing the best from our land to your hands!” Because of this, we (Oregon Growers) take pride in the fruit we buy and the jams and preserves we make from them. Oregon Growers takes pride in capturing the perfectly ripe fruit flavors that showcase what these amazing Oregon farmers do. In turn, we are all able to enjoy the flavors of their crops all year round!