Because of its location, soil and micro-climates, the Rogue Valley has always been premium farming land. And with its connections to national and world markets, it has continued to attract people from all corners looking to benefit from its agricultural bounty.
Two of Medford’s most enterprising individuals—Harry and David—changed the area’s agricultural footprint forever. Harry and David was founded in 1910, when Seattle hotelier Samuel Rosenberg purchased 240 acres of orchard land along Bear Creek. Samuel’s sons, Harry and David, took over the business in 1914.
The brothers decided to specialize in Comice pears—a sweet and juicy variety originally from the south France—because the Rogue Valley had the ideal growing conditions to produce them on a large scale. Much to their pleasure, Rogue Valley pears were even more delicious than their French counterparts! Harry and David named their pears “Royal Riviera” and marketed them as luxury items to European buyers. You can still experience this same luxury today when you order from Harry & David, as each box of pears contains one wrapped in gold foil.
Following in the tradition of previous agricultural leaders, Tom Vella opened a small creamery in Southern Oregon in the 1930s, joining the sprawling pear orchards and diverse local farms. Vella had the immediate support of local farmers, who supplied milk to his cheese factory. The creamery started producing blue cheese in 1954 and it was met with immediate accolades, including being the first blue cheese produced in caves west of the Missouri River.
The Rogue Creamery continues to thrive today and has won numerous awards, including World’s Best Blue Cheese at the 2003 World Cheese Awards in London, a first for a U.S. creamery. Their cheeses are a Rogue Valley specialty and pair well with another landmark agricultural product: Wine.
The Rogue Valley wine history dates back to 1852, when an early settler—Peter Britt—was fascinated by grapes and wine. In 1873, Britt opened Valley View Winery, Oregon’s first official winery.
The Rogue Valley AVA is the southernmost wine-growing region in Oregon. It’s comprised of three river valleys—Bear Creek, Applegate and Illinois—that extend from the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountains, north to the Rogue River. The Rogue Valley is home today to over 80 wineries producing over 70 varieties of wines.
Medford and the Rogue Valley have been an agricultural mecca for more than 100 years. As you visit the vineyards and farmlands that started it all, you indulge in over a century’s worth of tenacity and refinement of flavors found nowhere else in the world.
To learn more, go to travelmedford.org/articles/rogue-valley:-firsts-in-pears-blue-cheese-and-wine.