Alooming apocalypse doesn't mean Southern Oregonians have to start stocking up on canned tuna. Not when the country's source for gourmet pears and Moose Munch sits in our own backyard.
Harry & David has been a Rogue Valley mainstay since 1910, when Seattle businessman Samuel Rosenberg purchased Bear Creek Orchard in Medford.
Harry & David's hour-long tours run Monday through Friday. Times are 9:15 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1:45 p.m.
Admission is $5 and includes a $5 off coupon on purchases of $40 or more spent at the Harry & David Country Store. Tours start and finish at Harry & David Country Village, 1314 Center Drive, Medford.
Tour space is limited, so call 1-877-322-8000 to make a reservation, or call the Country Store at 541-864-2278.
In 1934, his sons, Harry and David, started marketing their pears to some of the wealthiest men in New York. Three years later, the Fruit of the Month Club was born, and Harry & David has been a leader in the gourmet gift industry ever since.
It's no wonder, then, that the behind-the-scenes Harry & David tour is a popular draw among locals and tourists alike.
"I think a lot of people who have lived in the valley come and are quite shocked how much is going on," tour director Kay Armstrong says. "It's happening in their own backyard."
You meet at the Harry & David Country Village, 1314 Center Drive, where right off the bat you're treated with samples: fresh-baked scones with blood orange marmalade. Freshly brewed Orchard Peach Tea from Harry & David and the Republic of Tea. Chocolate-covered cherries.
Then it's a short van ride to Harry & David's baking and candy-making plant on South Pacific Highway. Along the way, a video provides background on the brothers.
David had the gift of gab and reveled in attention-grabbing publicity events, such as bringing an elephant to the orchard and riding it, while Harry worked behind the scenes as a savvy businessman and numbers guy who didn't do anything involving elephants.
Inside the baking and candy-making facility is a sweet-tooth's paradise, where from a bank of windows you can watch cookies, cakes and other confections being made.
Visitors accustomed to the perfect cookies and chocolates they find at the store and delivered from the catalog might be surprised to learn many of the goodies are made and inspected by hand. Any broken pieces, by the way, go to the company's break room.
The aroma of Moose Munch wafting from the building is reason enough to add the tour to your bucket list. Butter and sugar are combined into large heated mixing tubs. Once the caramel reaches a precise temperature, the popcorn is dropped in, and the Moose Munch is spread on a cooling conveyor belt before heading to the chocolate enrober.
Armstrong says Harry & David produces four tubs of Moose Munch an hour, 10 hours a day, four days a week, with each tub holding 200 pounds.
In a different room, workers are hand-feeding graham crackers through the chocolate enrober, after which they are topped with squiggly lines of white chocolate by a Woody Stringer machine and then inspected by hand. Cookies and cakes are frosted by hand, too.
On the way to the packing and production building, the bus heads through one of the original pear orchards, where horticulture nerds will appreciate such phrases as "sustainable agriculture," "organically grown" and "high yields per tree."
For everyone else, there's plenty of scenery to take in as you learn Harry & David grows 17,000 tons of pears annually and its campus holds 100,000 square feet of dry storage and 135,000 square feet of cold storage.
In the packing and production building, employees assemble raw goodies into finished Towers of Treats. Ribbon Area supervisor Margaret Moser takes a regular piece of ribbon and transforms it into a three-dimensional gift bow, all by hand, with no guide other than her years of experience.
"People expect it to be just robots and machines, but we pack our boxes with love and care," says Armstrong, a 23-year veteran of the company.
Armstrong recommends locals take the tour in September or October, when Harry & David has finished harvest and is gearing up for the holidays. Armstrong says many people come in December hoping to see the factory in full swing, but by then the rush is over.
"Christmas pretty much ends (in production) on Dec. 5," Armstrong says.
And if you want that intoxicating smell of Moose Munch, don't come on Fridays. Moose Munch isn't made on Fridays.
"There's just lots of excitement going on," Armstrong says. "You never know what you'll see getting made."
Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at firstname.lastname@example.org.