Muirhead Canning Company - home of Hood-Crest fruit - is a throw-back to the down-home, family run, white picket fence American experience that's getting harder and harder to find these days. Russell and Jenny Loughmiller - the owners of the cannery - highly value their marriage, family and business: in their eyes it's all connected.
The cannery began in 1946 when Sam Muirhead returned from WWII. He knew that no fruit was as good as the fruit grown in and around Hood River and The Dalles. Operation began, for the most part, as a “do-it-yourself” cannery. Individuals could bring their own fruit to the cannery and can it themselves on the equipment. The excess fruit locals had would then be taken to ranches out toward the Lakeview and Harney county area of the state. Sam began to get more ranchers interested in the product as time went along. The “do-it-yourself” aspect of the cannery proved to be a bit of an operational challenge so Sam switched to a cannery with a regular staff, to which individuals could bring their fruit, leaving it to be canned in “lots” during the cannery production.
This continued until 1960 when Sam started the Hood-Crest brand of canned fruit. The taste and quality of the premium fruit quickly gained loyal followers from areas all around the Northwest and the emphasis gradually shifted from custom canning orders to producing fruit for the Hood-Crest label. Sam sold the company to his nephew and his wife, Randy and Dawn Barrett in 1978. They continued with Sam’s legacy and processes to provide delicious fruit while establishing a broad, fiercely loyal customer base with their friendly and very personal way of doing business.
In 2006, after almost 30 years in the canning business, the Barretts found themselves ready to retire while Russell and Jenny Loughmiller discovered they were ready to embark upon a new business. The Barretts worked closely with the Loughmillers, for the first canning season and then for several years as consultants. The reigns are now squarely in Russell and Jenny's hands who feel honored to be carrying on the Muirhead tradition.
Today we can about 200,000 cans a year - about as much a big industrial cannery does in several hours - on much of Sam's original equipment! We operate on the same principle that Sam did - quality fruit direct to the customer. You can find Hood-Crest on the shelves of a few stores and fruit stands in the Northwest but the majority of it is either picked up by or delivered to our loyal and devoted customers.
Canneries like ours used to dot our country but with the shift toward global food production, preserving fresh, local fruit isn't a priority like it used to be. It's too bad. We love working with local growers who pick our fruit when at its flavor peak, creating local jobs, and offering premium canned fruit to people who value quality, home-canned taste for themselves and their families.
Muirhead Canning Company has been an institution in our region for over 70 years - we're doing everything we can to help it continue for 70 more.