If you love whole grains, you would really enjoy visiting Bob’s Red Mill located in Milwaukie, Oregon near Portland. Perhaps you have seen this product line where you shop as they are sold all over the U.S. and even around the world in supermarket chains and specialty grocery stores. We occasionally buy Bob’s Red Mill products and I had been curious about visiting here for several years. Bob’s provides a factory tour to see their production facility and at a separate location nearby there is a restaurant, bakery and store. We started out with the tour which is held at 10:00, Monday through Friday and takes about 90 minutes.
While waiting for the tour to begin we heard a piano being played in the next room. Turns out that Bob, the Company’s founder loves to play, frequently delighting guests with his songs. He couldn’t stay long though because as he came out of the room and I shook his hand he reported that he was, “off to a meeting.” At the age of 90, it appeared that Bob was still not retired!
As our tour began, we sat in a room surrounded with Red Mill products, information and advertisements. Our guide gave us a history of the company and how grains are processed. In 1978, Bob and his wife Charlee moved to the Portland area to retire and having an interest in milling, opened a business in an old mill building. They began stone grinding grains into flours and cereals and blending whole grain mixes. Over the years the company grew and they moved into a larger facility in 2007. They now have 410 employees working three shifts. On February 15, 2010, Bob celebrated his 81st birthday and announced to his employees that Bob’s Red Mill was now an employee owned company. An Employee Stock Ownership Plan was created that provided an orderly transition of ownership to the same employees that helped it grow.
During our tour we were able to look into windows and watch grains like corn and wheat being milled and packaged. They don’t allow photos though of the production floor. Everything looked very clean and orderly. We learned that employees start out as “temporaries” and if they do well can be kept on. Workers wear different colored uniforms depending on their job duties. After seeing the production we went to a room where we could pick out a few samples to take with us as well as visit the tiny gift shop for souvenirs.
After our tour we drove to the restaurant for lunch and a little shopping in their beautiful, modern building. We ordered food at a counter downstairs and ate at a seating area looking out over the store and bakery on the first floor.
The menu is pretty good and true to their whole grain concept. They offer whole grain hot and cold cereals as well as oatmeal for breakfast and grain bowls, salads and vegan sandwiches for lunch. But they also offer egg breakfasts and sandwiches with meat. Different varieties of bread are baked onsite and sold in the store.
While we were eating upstairs, I looked down at one point and saw Bob standing in line waiting to order at the counter. It struck me as funny that the founder of the company would wait in line rather than just go in the back area and have someone rustle him up a sandwich or grain bowl. Kudos to Bob for being just a “regular guy.”😀
The store sells every product that they make and I found it rather astonishing how many products are for sale here. There were shelves of different kinds of cereals, flours and nut meals, some of which I had not heard of before like kamut, garbanzo fava, amaranth, teff, cassava and coconut. There were baking mixes, grains, seeds, berries, beans and rices. Besides all the packaged items they also have a bulk area where you can buy a little or a lot to try out. I bought a little teff flour, an ancient grain from Ethiopia. I was tempted to buy a lot of their products, but alas we have limited space in our trailer. I did get some steel cut oats which we often eat for breakfast, an 8-grain hot cereal mix and a kamut hot cereal. Kamut is an ancient wheat grain with probable origins in the Fertile Crescent. I haven’t tried the kamut cereal yet but the 8-grain was delicious! I also got a bag of Scottish oats so I could make oat cakes. Below is a photo of them using the recipe I got at Bob’s Red Mill.
Located in the Southern Oregon town of Medford is the headquarters of Harry & David, who produce and ship all kinds of gourmet gift baskets full of sweet and savory treats. During other past trips to Oregon, we had stopped at the Harry & David store, but had never done the factory tour. During this trip we made a point to go and it turned out to be the right time of year as the company was busy getting lots of goodies packaged for the holiday season.
Our tour was to start at the the main store where we would board a large van to be driven to the production facility a mile or so away. But since we got there early we checked out all the goodies and samples the store offered. I was most interested in the “Moose Munch” which is an addicting popcorn coated with different kinds of chocolate, caramel and nuts. There were samples of each kind they sold, yum!
The Harry and David Company started when a man named Samuel Rosenberg bought some pear orchards and began marketing them in 1910. In 1914, his sons Harry and David took over and in 1934 began a mail order business. The company still produces special pears called “Royal Riviera” and during our bus ride to the production building, our driver took us by the orchards to see them. From pears the Company eventually moved on to other sweet treats.
We covered a lot of ground on our walking tour as the main building is huge. This is probably the largest food factory type building we have been in. We walked above the factory floor and watched hundreds of people filling and completing gift baskets and boxes. It was quite a sight. Including seasonal employees, approximately 8,000 people are working here.
Although the gift box/basket area was interesting, the best part was going to the baking building. The delicious smell was incredible! From windows above, we watched moose munch popcorn being made in big mixers. Large chunks of butter were combined with hot bubbling syrup to make a luscious caramel sauce. Popcorn was then mixed in and dumped onto a conveyor belt where it made its way to be packaged. I could have stayed in the moose munch area for a long time taking in those smells and watching the process!
The Company makes an incredible array of candies, cookies, cakes, cheesecakes, pies and fruit cakes. During our tour, we watched them make cinnamon rolls – spreading out the dough, putting the cinnamon sugar on and rolling it back up before putting the rolls in paper cups.
At the end we got a little box of delicious shortbread cookies filled with raspberry jam, a nice ending to a sweet day and fun tour of Harry & David.
Thanks for checking in and hope you enjoyed a look at our factory tours. Stay tuned for my next post on our Hollywood visit from one year ago.