Oneonta will coordinate sales and marketing, with one of the company’s sales people and a support staff member based at Columbia Valley Fruit’s Yakima, Wash., offices, said Dalton Thomas, president and owner of Oneonta, Wenatchee, Wash.
Thomas said he has been considering a major expansion into organics for some time and adding Columbia Valley Fruit is the solution he has been seeking. One of Oneonta’s growers, Gilbert Fruit, Yakima, had provided Oneonta with a limited volume of organic apples, but when Gilbert’s owners decided to go with another distributor, Thomas wished them well.
“They’re good people and good growers,” Thomas said, adding that Gilbert’s departure provided more motivation to find an organic partner.
Thomas said he met with Columbia Valley Fruit owners the day before to look at numbers for the coming season. They expect Columbia Valley Fruit to pack about 765,000 bushels this year. That will increase Oneonta’s overall volume by about 10%, Thomas said.
“This deal will give us about 8% of all the organic apples in Washington,” Thomas said.
Oneonta will likely export about 10% of the organic apples from Columbia Valley Fruit.
The mix of varieties of organic apples and stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines and apricots available through Columbia Valley Fruit, Yakima, Wash., combined with the company’s modern packing line were the factors that attracted Thomas.
Columbia Valley Fruit offers gala, fuji, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and granny smith organics.
Scott Marboe, marketing director for Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, said in the news release that increasing customer demand was behind the move to seek out more opportunities in the organic sector.
Oneonta has been in the fruit business since 1934. They grow, pack and distribute apples, cherries, grapes, pears, stone fruits and citrus.
Paul Thomas, father of Dalton, started the business as Oneonta Trading Co. and became the first exporter of Washington apples, according to the history section of the company website.