Sunday, April 10, 2011

E. Waldo Ward & Son

Several weekends ago, N and I had an eventful Saturday at a orange grove/marmalade factory. Sounds random, right? Well--it was amazing.

I had heard about E. Waldo Ward & Son through LA Mag and a couple other places like LA Weekly--LA Mag listed it as the best free tour in Los Angeles. It wasn't too far from us, and seemed like it would be interesting (at the very least). N and I both really didn't know what to expect. I guessed it would be lots of orange trees, and maybe some historical photos. It turned out to be much, much more!

I called beforehand to reserve a place for me and N on the next Saturday tour. The person on the phone seemed pretty confused, which made me *very* confused. They asked me what time I wanted to come, which caught me off guard since I assumed there were a few set tour times I could choose from. I suggested 10am, and they seemed fine with it and didn't take my name or anything. After I hung up, I wasn't 100% sure if I had made an actual reservation or not! The whole thing seemed pretty disorganized, but we went for it anyway.

Sierra Madre is less than an hour's drive northeast of us. It was a very charming town--it had a combination wine country/tropical feel to it. Everything was quaint and old without any modern polish to it, which I appreciated.

E. Waldo Ward & Son actually is just a large house (it kind of reminded me of those Southern white houses you see in paintings) with a couple smaller buildings behind it--we drove past it the first time and completely missed it. Their orange trees are very few; over the years they sold off the majority of their land and are now a very small operation. Most of their business actually comes from packaging and canning other companies' products although they have their own line of marmalades and gourmet foods.

A picture of some trees with the mountains in the background...

The person who gave us the tour (and I really mean "us"--N and I were the only ones in it!) was actually Jeff Ward, the great-grandson of the original owner of the company. He was very approachable and knowledgeable about the entire production process and history of the company. And since it was just us two, we got to ask lots of questions about everything!

Some shots of the big vats/containers the jams/jellies are cooked in...

Aside from the marmalade-making process, the house and barn were just a treasure trove of old machines and all kinds of rusty but definitely charming farming/factory tools. The most exciting thing I saw was a really old manual printing press that still had plates on it! You could actually read the backwards letters and see that they once printed labels for the products they sold! I thought that was amazing.

Couldn't resist taking a picture of their shiny green truck, which is mostly just used to lead town parades:

Everything about the tour was really fascinating. They operate a tiny gift shop, and with the free tour and everything, I did not hold back when buying a sampling of their products:

I think a couple jars are missing from that photo, but we got a few marmalades (including a lime one), pumpkin butter, brandied cherries, and olives. We're slowly making our way through trying them all. And they are t-a-s-t-y.

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