Dan and Carol Vandell have spent much of their lives in food and agriculture-related industries.

Dan and Carol Vandell have spent much of their lives in food and agriculture-related industries.

They both possess food technology degrees from Iowa State University and have more than 30 years of experience in the industry.

He has worked for the likes of General Mills, Keebler and Harry & David, where he once was vice president of fruit acquisition.

She worked for Leprino Foods and Sabroso Co. before leaving to start a food-product development and safety-consulting business.

When his position with Harry & David was eliminated last winter and her work slowed because of declining product development, they began searching for the next thing.

Industry acquaintances in citrus-growing states had the ticket — providing gift packs to community groups to sell as fundraisers.

"We talked to people both in Texas and Florida who were in fundraising operations and they said, 'You should really do it because nobody in the Northwest is doing it," Dan Vandell said.

"A gal we've worked with in Florida has 200 customers."

They formed Quail Valley Farms and trademarked the phrase: A Fresh Idea for Fundraising. (While there is no Quail Valley in the region, the name sounded catchy and Carol Vandell liked it.)

The company will acquire oranges from California, Rio Star grapefruit from Texas, D'Anjou pears from the Rogue Valley and Fuji apples from Washington.

The company will use the SOS fruit-packing facility in Medford, where it eventually will have the capacity to handle 400,000 to 600,000 boxes annually.

"Once an order comes in, we give ourselves a day to put the variety and combination packs together at SOS," Dan Vandell said.

The goal is for between 20 and 25 percent of the fruit sold to come from the Rogue Valley.

"One of our goals is to use local produce, secondly this will help SOS be busier, and it provides a healthy alternative fundraiser," he said.

"Caramel corn, cookie dough and candy bars aren't honestly what you want if you can offer bags of grapefruit or something actually healthy to eat."

The fresh fruit is available from late November through February with profit for groups ranging from $2 to $7 per bag or box of fruit. Suggested sales prices range from $10 to $25.

Through a Women Entrepreneurs of Southern Oregon gathering, Carol Vandell, made an early connection.

"I took the idea to a League of Women Voters member from Ashland," she said. "Once they saw we had such a variety they switched from the grapefruit-only fundraiser they were doing and Medford followed."

Although they missed promising clientele with a fall launch, they already have signed up more than a half-dozen customers, including the Phoenix High School band, Klamath Union High School's volleyball program, the Boy Scouts, FFA and the Arthritis Foundation.

February and March are primary marketing months to organizations looking for fundraisers.

"Our goal is to have maybe 60 customers this time next year, she said.

Taking advantage of the many incentives available for women-owned firms, Carol Vandell is president and sole owner of the company.

"I've learned what to do and what not to do with the consulting business," she said. "We used a lot of the same things we had already set up with the accountant, licenses and personal property tax stuff."

Quail Valley Farms will focus on Oregon, Idaho and Washington to start.

"There's plenty of business to be had if we focus on those three states," Carol Vandell said. "We want to do the job really well in those states."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.