Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Safeway Fresh and Local Produce Tour with Ron Rivers Pear Orchards and Duckwall Fruit

Me at the Pear Orchard (photo
credit: Safeway)
This free trip was sponsored by Safeway. I also received free swag for going, but I was not obligated to write up this post. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for posting.

On August 22nd I was whisked away to a gorgeous pear orchard nestled in the Hood River Oregon Valley. This is one of many farms and orchards that supplies Safeway stores with fresh produce locally. This particular pear orchard is owned by a 5th generation grower and farmer named Ron Rivers and Duckwall Fruit. They have been producing and perfecting pears since 1919.

I carpooled with a local blogger, Maryann Collier and her colleague Dawn from Coupon Savvy. We headed to Portland to meet the other bloggers, media and Safeway representatives, etc. at the Hawthorne Boulevard Safeway. When we arrived we were greeted warmly by the Safeway representatives and put on a very large tour/shuttle bus complete with its own bathroom for the journey to Hood River. They also had made us each a large gift basket filled with goodies to sit next to. I felt very spoiled ;)

When we got to the Hood River Safeway we picked up some other Safeway representatives along with Fred Duckwall (President of Duckwall Fruit), Ed Weathers (VP and Sales Manager of Duckwall Fruit) and Scott Bradley (VP of Safeway produce). They answered some of our questions as we were transported to the farm. When we got to the orchard we all got out, took in the gorgeous scenery and had a lesson on pears from the experts. We met Farmer Ron Rivers and his wife. They told us the ins and outs of having a pear orchard.

Ron Rivers has over 200 acres of pear orchard located in the foothills of Mt. Hood outside of Parkdale Oregon. We learned that because of the micro-climate and fertile soil that is rich with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the volcano, Hood River Valley is one of the best places to grow pears and other fruit. A single pear tree can produce pears for over 100 years and some of the trees we saw while we were there were over 50 years old! When frosts threaten the crop they turn on large fans and heaters called smudge pots to help the orchard warm up and create a smoke blanket to protect the fruit trees from radiative cooling. A pears skin is fairly delicate so the really cold moisture can damage it or the blossoms before fruition. On the Ron Rivers farm they have about 55 employees that work 10 months out of the year to prune the trees, thin the fruit, and hand pick the fruit. Hand picked fruit is in better condition with less bruising than fruit picked by machine. Duckwall Fruit gets over 2.5 million cartons (7000 bins) filled with pears annually that were picked in the 60 day long picking process. The pears are transferred from the farm to a ambient air cold storage or controlled atmosphere storage (CA) facility at Duckwall Fruit to be further hand sorted and graded. The CA storage suspends the normal ripening process and allows the fruit to be held up to eight months after harvest. You can read the complete process at Duckwall's website.

I told Mr. Rivers that I had a farm with a couple of pear trees on it and he told me that he would love to visit sometime and give me pointers on my small orchard. I thought that would be fantastic and told him I would like that very much. We then rode the tour bus to the next area where they had set up a yummy looking spread of food and some tables and chairs for us to sit at all under a canopy tent. We were welcomed at the entrance by a Safeway banner that said, "Welcome Have fun and enjoy the farm!" It started raining and we could hear thunder and see lightning in the distance. We hurried with our cameras and other blogging devices to the closest shelter. Mr. Rivers saw me trying to get photographs of the canopy with Mount Hood in the background and he personally invited me up to his covered upper deck that overlooked the valley. It was a breathtaking view!

Chef Ben from the Celilo Restaurant and Bar in Hood River prepared a feast that incorporated pears into everything we ate and drank. For the drink we had Sparkling Pear Soda with Honey Drinking Vinegar. It wasn't overly sweet with the honey and minced pear and it had mint or basil to bring out the flavor. Next on the table was Phyllo Wrapped Pears and Curry Butter. These were really good and I loved the interesting combination of sweet and spicy. Next was Pear Endive Spears with Walnut Vinaigrette. These were one of my favorites. They had a great crunch with the endive spears and the pear that was paired with the nuts and tangyness of the dressing was perfect. Next was Pear Jam and Crackers. I love the Open Nature Multi-Grain Cracker Crisps they picked for spreading the jam onto. I am definitely going to have to seek out a box of them at Safeway. The Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Pears were so good with the salty and the sweet! I also loved the smokey flavor of the Cedar Planked Pears that were grilled to perfection. Then there was the Grilled Pear, Turkey, and Brie Sandwiches with Roasted Garlic Aioli. These were actually two sandwiches skewered together and since I love brie and garlic this was delicious!

Me dishing up the yummy food. (photo credit: Safeway)
I was getting a bit full when they brought out the desserts! There was a Thai Sweet Chili Glazed Pear Tartin which was something I wouldn't have thought of to put together, but it was really good and there was Roasted Pear Pie Butterscotch and Caramel Parfait which was, in my honest opinion, too sweet. I wanted to finish the parfait, but I just couldn't. While we ate under the canopy we listened to the rain and thunder. Wow so much yummy food! They also gave us some pears and large bags to bring home some extra food if we wanted to. How could I pass that up!?

Once the rain cleared we had pictures taken of everyone and headed back on the bus.

We stopped off at the Hood River Safeway again and got a first hand look at the display for the Duckwall Fruit pears with Ron Rivers' picture hanging over it. We then wrapped up the day with our last questions, headed back to Portland and then back home with our swag. Safeway is an awesome host! This was a very fun and productive day. I learned a whole lot and wouldn't mind visiting the pear orchard and Mr. Rivers and his wife again if they would have me.

You can go to Safeway's Website and see other fresh produce that is in season and in their stores now. You can also read and watch video clips about other farmers that harvest fresh produce for Safeway.

DISCLOSURE/DISCLAIMER: I went to this event because I was invited. I wanted to let you, my readers, know of the awesome farmers behind the scenes of Safeway's produce so I wrote this post. Thanks to Safeway and their representatives, Ron Rivers and family, and Duckwell Fruit for providing me with the information and inviting me to this event. I received free swag for attending. My thoughts are mine and my family's own opinion and have not been altered by anyone else. I did not receive any other compensation for posting.

1 comment:

Tina Kelley said...

Great post Crystal! Looks like you had a great time and I have to say, the scenery if gorgeous!