Mike Naumes thinks Oregon schoolchildren should be eating more Oregon pears. And not just the D’Anjou, Bartlett and Bosc pears approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s School Lunch Program, but the lesser-known Comice pears of southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley.
Anyone who’s ever tasted a Comice pear would have a hard time arguing with that. They’re fat and green, extraordinarily sweet and juicy — a world apart from your typical supermarket pear.
But Comices are not on the USDA’s OK-for-free-school-luncheslist, probably because they’re not a high-volume variety available nationwide.
That’s why Naumes, a third-generation pear grower and president and CEO of Naumes, Inc., was standing in the parking lot of Sherm’s Food for Less in Medford, Or., yesterday, touting the benefits of Oregon Senator Ron Wyden‘s new bill aimed at making it easier for schools to buy local produce.
“We find the school lunch program fairly cumbersome,” Naumes tells The Salt. He’s been lobbying to have the school lunch standards allow all types of pears, so he can sell the schools Comices that are too small for supermarkets. “They would be perfect for schoolkids,” says. “And it would return more money to us farmers.”