Our Family Learned Our Trade from the Ground Up
At the end of the nineteenth century, my grandfather, John “Pete” Naumes, and his hard working parents made their way from Western Europe to the promised land – America. They began building their American dream in the fast growing and exciting city of Chicago.
In 1907, Pete started his own family and found himself working for the railroad. It wasn’t the long hours or backbreaking work that bothered him. It was the lack of future or opportunity that characterized the “American Dream” he sought when he came to this great country.
A labor dispute between Pete, his fellow railroaders and their employer, Chicago North Shore ended up being the best thing that ever happened to Pete. After losing a valiant fight, Pete found himself without a job. He packed up his young wife Dillie and his baby boy Edward and headed west to create a better future for himself and his family.
Pete was magically and mysteriously drawn to the fresh fruit business. In 1908, having absolutely no farming experience, Pete took the last of their savings and bought a run down, sixteen-acre apple farm in Hood River, Oregon. Pete worked morning, noon and night on his farm. And when he wasn’t on his farm, he could be found at a neighbor’s or a friend’s, learning as much as he could.
In the years to come, the family was blessed with the arrival of two more sons, Joe and Nooks. Pete also found that he was blessed with an uncanny gift for growing apples on his now thriving Oregon farm. The Newton apples he grew were soon famous for their rich flavor and crispness. The Naumes name quickly became synonymous with quality fresh fruit and could be found in gift baskets all over the country.
In 1929, after over twenty years building a solid reputation and a flourishing business, Pete was faced with the Great Depression. Pete’s hard work could not forestall the immanent financial crises that would take down many American farmers. But adversity was nothing new to this son of hard-working immigrants. Rather than crumble in defeat after losing their home and their farm, Pete and Dillie packed up their growing brood and moved to Medford, Oregon.
With the knowledge he had gained from his years of work on his Hood River farm, Pete soon found a job as a buyer for Pacific Fruit and Produce. Pete, Dillie and their three energetic boys fell in love with the beautiful Rogue Valley, a stunning and picturesque basin surrounded by the majestic Siskiyou and Cascade mountains. It was home to some of the richest soil and best growing conditions for pears in the world.
As the years passed, Pete’s middle son (my father), Joe, inherited the love of farming. Joe graduated from Santa Clara University in 1934 and began his career working as a fruit inspector. In 1937, he accepted a position managing several fruit packing houses in Argentina. These extremely diverse circumstances would give Joe a vast knowledge of how to grow and pack quality fruit on a massive scale.
In 1941 he joined the Navy where he learned skills that would later advance the way fruit was packed and shipped. He became an expert on moving vast quantities of supplies and he saw instantly that he could streamline fruit packing by using forklifts. Joe possessed and unquenchable thirst for knowledge and people were always amazed by his profound love for studying ideas, systems, people and cultures. He embraced all things foreign, complicated, or even strange.
In 1946, back home in Medford, my grandfather Pete bought a pear farm outside of town. That same year Lieutenant Commander Joe Naumes returned home from the Navy, and he and Steve Nye started “Nye-Naumes Packing Company” by renovating an old, dilapidated ice skating rink. As the world’s love of quality pears grew, so did its consumption. The Naumes family was once again growing and shipping quality fruit around the world.
Joe and Frances had three children, myself and my two sisters, Mary Pat and Sue. It wouldn’t be long before us kids started learning the family trade by working on the farm along side our father. A strong work ethic was ingrained in us from a very early age.
In 1972, after earning my bachelor's degree from Santa Clara University and my MBA from Cornell, I joined the business. In 1974, after earning her Law Degree from Willamette University School of Law, my sister Sue also came on board.
My three children, triplets, are currently in college and are the new generation of Naumes.
I guess it just proves that the pear doesn’t fall far from the tree.