Amy’s Kitchen joins the community – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

The new local management has prompted efforts by the company to be more visible and involved

Amy’s Kitchen plant manager Josh Self greets visitors Wednesday from a booth set up at the Jackson County Fairgrounds. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

From sponsoring free parking at the Jackson County Fairgrounds to helping local nonprofits, Amy’s Kitchen is doing its best in a decade and a half to meet its southern neighbors. ‘Oregon.

The Petaluma, Calif.-based vegetarian convenience juggernaut has largely kept a low profile since expanding into southern Oregon in 2006. But Josh Self, who has run the company’s White City plant since October, has a new vision that includes a bigger place in the local community.

“Some people don’t know we’re local,” Self said Wednesday in a phone interview as he walked to a booth at the Jackson County Fair. This is the company’s first-ever stand in nearly 16 years in southern Oregon.

Self said he admires the community presence of other major Rogue Valley employers, such as how Harry & David sponsors a Medford baseball park and is active in local community events such as Medford’s Pear Blossom Parade. .

“We want to be involved in outdoor activities, supporting things that fit our brand, that fit what Amy is,” Self said.

Self said his main goal since taking on the role of plant manager in October is to create a “better community presence.” He described co-sponsoring free fair parking with the People’s Bank of Commerce as a first step towards that goal.

“It was one of the first big things we did for the community,” Self said.

They want to do more. Self said the company donated more than 150,000 meals to the Oregon Food Bank last year, and earlier this spring it began a partnership with Community Works to provide meals to victims of domestic violence staying at the local nonprofit Dunn House temporary shelter.

“We are looking for more local opportunities to provide donations,” Self said.

During the 2020 Labor Day fires, Expo became the site of mass evacuation for people displaced by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires. According to him, part of the reason Amy’s is starting her outreach with the fair is because the next time there’s a community emergency, they’ll have the relationship in place with the Expo to help.

“I think the key is to network so people know we’re available,” Self said. “As we mature in what we’re trying to do, who knows where we’ll end up?”

It all adds up to the company’s biggest bid for visibility since October 24, 2006, when Amy’s cut the ribbon on its 176,000 square foot facility in White City.

According to Mail Tribune records, the arrival drew a crowd that included Rachel and Andy Berliner – who founded the company in 1987 to create vegetarian meals suitable for their daughter, Amy – and involved the governor of Oregon , Ted Kulongoski, who flipped the ceremonial switch.

The Antelope Road plant — which added an additional 120,000 square feet in 2015 — was the company’s first expansion outside of California. In addition to its processing plants in Santa Rosa and San Jose, California, the private company also operates a processing plant in Pocatello, Idaho.

Self said Pocatello has a larger footprint, but the southern Oregon plant and its 800 employees are currently the company’s largest producer. When it started in 2006, it was primarily a pizza factory.

The Southern Oregon frozen line makes pizzas, entrees, meal bowls, and all of the gluten-free burritos the company makes.

“Wheat burritos are made in Santa Rosa,” Self said. The Santa Rosa plant manufactures many of the company’s most labor-intensive products.

On a typical day, the southern Oregon plant makes 80,000 gluten-free burritos, up to 80,000 pizzas and 250,000 cans of soups, chili and refried beans.

As with so many other businesses in Southern Oregon and across the country, one of the biggest reasons for local outreach is recruiting. The company currently has 30 open positions, with the greatest needs being maintenance mechanics and production.

Especially on the canning line, kitchen roles are operator positions. Staff in these positions can work with up to 77,000 pounds of tomatoes entering a kettle at a time.

“We call it a kitchen, but it’s on a very large scale,” Self said.

He said the White City plant was aimed at hiring and developing in-house talent, and he described positions at the plant as high upward mobility jobs. Of the 10 managers who report to him, five started in the hourly ranks.

“All of my management staff grew as this plant grew,” Self said. “It’s just irreplaceable to have that.

“They can call on those past experiences to set us up for success.”

Contact Nick Morgan, Mail Tribune Web Editor, at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmeda.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.

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