I think one of the things that fascinates me the most from our tours is not necessarily the product or the process, but the longevity of the companies. Don’t get me wrong, I totally appreciate the process and the work that goes into these products, but when a company tells us when it was founded or that it’s a family company, that almost shapes my opinion of the company even more. Maybe it’s because my dad is part of a family company that his grandfather started, so I have a deeper appreciation for that dynamic in a company.
For example, the honey company we went to on Monday was started in 1983, and we got to see how the family worked together. The patriarch is the one who gave us the tour, explaining how they have 600-700 hives and the hives are put in groves 10 acres in diameter so they only pollinate one type of flower (i.e. orange, lemon, eucalyptus, multi-flower, or chestnut). Then he showed us the extraction process as his wife worked the machinery: the frames with wax and honey are put on the assembly line, and the first step removes the outer wax so that the honey can drip off. Then comes the centrifuge step with frames 9x12 and the honey comes out. It’s a big piece of machinery that you know was a large investment for a small family company, but it’s totally paid off. In an eight-hour day they produce three tons of honey with two people working. The family really only needs itself. The wife was so excited to talk about the process with us, and the daughter was the one in charge of the taste testing. They work together well and they’re successful. Honestly, that stop was one where we stayed an unusually long time after the tour was over so I went outside with a couple of the girls to hang out with Millie and Paul. That ended up being a really fun thing because we got to know them better and talk about things like Millie’s research and their dog. But, even though they lost me at the end, that stop was still so memorable for me, purely for the fact that they do it as a family.
|The patriarch explaining the cooling process|
|The 9x12 honeycomb entering centrifugation step|
The olive tree grove we stopped at on Thursday was another example of a family business. The lady in charge told us how it used to be a vineyard, but then her father made the risky decision to switch to olive trees to make olive oil. They now have acres filled with trees ranging from 5-70 years old and produce an award-winning olive oil product. While she gave us a tour in the field, her elderly father came out and listened to his daughter, the new manager of the company. He would occasionally nod approvingly or add a random interjection, and while he listened he would prune dead leaves off of trees around him. Seeing the two of them interact and seeing him still caring about his product made me appreciate that place so much more.
|Molly and I made friends with the donkey|
|The third-generation manager of the grove|
Seeing the family companies is such a sweet thing to witness. These families have a bond most families don’t understand, because it’s beyond just being related. You have to work together for your livelihood. The companies that had that additional element were by far my favorite.