Patriarch of the current ownership, Merritt Bloxom, had significant ownership in the Perham company. In 1948 Bloxom’s family obtained full control of Underwood Fruit, consequently shifting all marketing responsibility to Washington Fruit and Produce Company, in Yakima., where Merritt’s son, John, was an owner and manager. The marketing relationship continues 65 years later, with the two Underwood managed facilities packing nearly 2 million boxes of pears, 500,000 apples and over 1 million cherries, providing a majority of fresh pears and cherries for Washington Fruit’s domestic and international sales.
Underwood Fruit was initially 3 miles west of it’s current location, squeezed between the highway and railroad tracks, in building segments 50 to 70 feet wide and one-quarter mile long. It contained a packing room and a high capacity refrigeration system designed for pears, as they require 50% more horsepower than apples for proper cooling at harvest time. In the late 1920’s Underwood initiated use of that capacity to manufacture ice and load it into the bunkers at each end of what were then “refrigerated” rail cars. In early June, 1955, that plant was destroyed by a fire. Three months later a modern cold storage with packing line was completed at the current site.
Underwood Fruit began in 1957 packing cherries from the Hood River-White Salmon district as well as from The Dalles, Oregon.
Production of season long varieties of high quality fresh cherries has increased exponentially near The Dalles. In 2009 The Dalles Fruit Company was formed with the newest cherry packing technology. It is operated by Underwood Fruit personnel . Fruit is packed from 68 grower families operating 116 orchard properties. Cold storage at the cherry plant adds to Underwood Fruit’s controlled atmosphere capacity for apples and pears.
Merritt Bloxom was raised on a farm in Eastern Virginia. After high school he packed his bags and headed west, to Seattle, where, for 40 years, he was a fruit and produce jobber and broker. His roots in farming and marketing experience were instilled in family members who are currently Board members of the parent company, Mt. Adams Orchards Corporation. They continue the commitment to invest in the newest technology required to optimize the quality of our product and the returns to our growers .