By JAN JACKSON Freelance Writer
Fresh fruit inspired sweet specialties
HOOD RIVER, Ore. - David Gee, co-founder
of Oregon Growers & Shippers, is a biology and anthropology
major from New Haven, Conn., who, after spending several summers
wind-surfing in Hood River, couldn’t get the Northwest out
of his mind.
He first visited in 1991 as a college student
on summer break. He came to stay in 1999.
In 2003 he founded Oregon Growers & Shippers
and started making, marketing and distributing high-end preserves
and fruit spreads. Helping to connect the urban marketplace to
agriculture, Gee capitalizes on the fact that he buys fresh fruit
directly from local growers.
“It’s all about quality, and I need
the best possible fruit to start with,” Gee said of his
OGS venture. “I worked my way through college cooking in
restaurants that believed that the best food is found growing
fresh in our own back yards, and that’s my philosophy for
When Gee moved to Hood River permanently, he
had to look to Portland for work because, at the time, jobs in
Hood River were scarce.
“I was employed with Provvista Specialty
Foods selling and marketing specialty foods to area restaurants
and retailers,” Gee said. “My love for quality food
and my background as a restaurant chef helped me sell the products
that Provvista carried.
“I developed my recipes in the 6th Street
Bistro’s kitchen in Hood River in the morning hours before
the restaurant opened for the day. I started with apples, pears
and cranberries because it was the season to get them fresh, and
by spring and summer I added cherries and berries.”
Looking ahead to national distribution, Gee
started right off using a co-packer to process his jams.
“Because my ambition is to take these
products nationwide, I knew there was no need to try to start
cooking it in any back room,” Gee said. “Aside from
actually making the products, I do as much of the work myself
as I can to keep production costs low.
“I give many tastings at farmers’
markets and specialty stores in the Portland and Seattle areas
because if I can get people to taste it, they tend to buy.”
Craig McCurdy, one of the major Hood River orchardists
from whom Gee buys fruit, thinks that though Gee is starting small,
he likes the job he is doing in promoting Hood River specifically
and agriculture in general.
“Dave has the ability, the backing and
the cumulative experience to make it work,” McCurdy said.
“My wife and I took over our family’s orchards 11
years ago, and we’ve seen others think about doing what
OGS is doing, but Dave is actually doing it. If I didn’t
think supporting him had a future, I wouldn’t be working
Choosing to work with growers who practice sustainable
agriculture, Gee has a clear plan of action for his company.
“I am satisfied with six of my jam recipes,
but I’m still fine-tuning the other three,” Gee said.
“We are also working on adding a line of dried fruit, mushrooms
and savory products, but I will probably cap the preserve line
at 12 varieties.
“I can’t make the fruit taste better,
but I can arrive at the perfect balance of ingredients to keep
the subtle flavors alive. I just use the best ingredients available
and try not to screw them up.”
For more information about Oregon Growers and
Shippers, contact David Gee at P.O. Box 207, Hood River, OR 97031,
phone at (541) 386-5600, or visit www.growersandshippers.com.