Float Trip Pickles
How a canoeing necessity and some popular sauces became locally produced must-have treats.
It all started with the annual Harmison Family Float Trip that Jerry Harmison’s family took starting in 1992. His dad had always insisted on having a red canoe for the trip. In 1995, Jerry Harmison began developing a recipe for his “float trip pickles.” Those pickles led to a second tradition when Harmison’s friend, Greg Pearman, joined the float trip in 1996. Pearman always made sure they brought a gallon of the pickles with them. Friends and family still ask for the pickles every when it’s time for the float trip, which spurred the idea of a new business for Harmison: Float Trip Pickles. And although Harmison’s father has since passed on, his red canoe remains a part of the pickle tradition, in the logo for this new locally made product.
Pearman and Harmison are partners at their law firm in Springfield, and they also decided to team up and expand the idea of Float Trip Pickles to a local crowd. They knew they loved the pickles, but they wanted to test them out on a bigger audience. Both men are members of the Sunrise Rotary Club, which had a cooking team for the 2010 Rock’n Ribs barbecue festival. Pearman and Harmison brought a gallon of their sliced pickles and jalapeños to the festival and handed out samples from the Sunrise Rotary team tent, and they went fast. The men set a goal to create a pickle business by the next year’s festival.
The goal was easily achieved. Although Pearman and Harmison were both busy with their law firm, Harmison’s daughter, Jessica, was also available to help. She is the third owner, along with her father and Pearman. When she finishes up her master of business administration at Missouri State University, she will begin to manage more of the business. Float Trip Pickles, LLC made its debut at the 2011 Rock’n Ribs festival on April 15. In addition to the signature sweet-and-spicy pickles and jalapeños, the pair also produce a sweet-and-spicy pickle and jalapeño relish and sweet-and-spicy jalapeños.
The unique aspect of Pearman and Harmison’s product is that almost all their supplies are made locally. The ingredients come from local vendors, the jar labels come from Nixa and the boxes they ship their pickles in are produced in Springfield. The only supplies that aren’t from southwest Missouri are the jars, simply because there aren’t many jar producers in the country. The men even prepare their pickles at a local kitchen that’s designed specifically for such projects.
Pearman and Harmison found they needed a certified kitchen in order to produce their products. They had heard about Your Commercial Kitchen in Springfield, a venue that allows local people wanting to start their own business to rent the space and cook their products there. It was started by Carol Muldrow, who was in search of a place to make her wine jelly. Your Commercial Kitchen is equipped with everything from cooking appliances to cleaning supplies. The men are able to store their ingredients and supplies there, so when they reserve the kitchen, they can come in and get started quickly.
The trend of buying, selling and producing locally has been on the rise in 417-land and elsewhere. Pearman says that it helps promote our economy and improves local living. Since he has two businesses, and Harmison is the chairman of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, they recognize the importance of helping our local economy.
In fact, restaurants in the area have helped promote the local foods. Emack & Bolio’s uses the Float Trip Pickles relish on some of their dishes.
But Float Trip Pickles aren’t the only delicious treats to come from 417-land. Ryan Tiller, owner of Dining by Design catering company in Springfield, created special sauces that he uses in his business. The most popular of the sauces is the Green Bean Marinade, a sweet sauce that goes perfectly on foods like green beans, carrots, asparagus and salmon, to name a few.
Tiller says he tries to buy as many ingredients as possible locally. Some of the product is bottled right here in their kitchen, and the rest is bottled not too far down the road in Rogers, Arkansas.
The best thing about locally made foods is that they have a taste you truly won’t find anywhere else. Beyond the economic benefits, local foods are special for people who have pride in their hometown. The sweet and spicy pickles and jalapeños from Float Trip Pickles have a one-of-a-kind taste. The key is in the timing of the flavor: As you eat them, you first experience the sweet taste for a few seconds, and then you taste the sassy heat of the jalapeños.
But don’t bother asking Pearman about how they achieve that flavor. He’ll just tell you, “That’s a secret!”
How to Get the Grub
Where you can buy locally made Float Trip Pickles and Green Bean Marinade
• Harter House (1500 E. Republic Rd., Springfield, 417-886-4410, or 1625 S. Eastgate Ave., Springfield, 417-883-1650)
• Brown Derby International Wine Center (2023 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield, 417-883-4066)
• Homegrown Foods (601 S. Pickwick Ave., Springfield, 417-868-7004,
• PFI’s Diamond Ridge Market (2816 S. Ingram Mill Rd., Springfield, 417-889-2668)
• Macadoodles (1439 Hwy. 60 East, Republic, 417-732-4453)
Tiller’s Green Bean Marinade
• Dining by Design (5021 S. National Ave., Springfield, 417-866-4630)
• Sam’s Club (Available occasionally; call to check. 3660 E. Sunshine St., Springfield, 417-882-4487, or 745 W. El Camino Alto Dr., Springfield, 417-881-9676)
• Dean and Deluca (4700 W. 119th, Leawood, Kansas, 913-498-3131)