After 27 years of providing a full line of desert vegetables, Keber Distributing Inc., Thermal, Calif., will close its doors for good after the spring season, said Dick Keber, partner in the company.
Joe Kitagawa, Keber’s partner and the company’s main grower, will lease his 2,200-acre ranch to Bakersfield, Calif.-based Grimmway Farms, Keber said.
The pair started the firm in September 1986 and grew a wide range of vegetables, including romaine, red, green and butter lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and some parsley and kale during the winter season and beans, eggplant, bell peppers and corn in the spring.
The company shipped more than 3 million packages of vegetables annually during its peak years — from the mid-1990s to around 2006 — Keber said. Now, the company ships about half that amount.
Keber, 73, began his produce career as a single-pallet driver in a lettuce cooler in 1972 and then moved into sales for several desert-area firms before establishing Keber Distributing.
Kitagawa has been involved in farming at his family’s growing operation since he was in grammar school.
“He made it what it is today,” Keber said.
Keber’s wife, Jennie, also works for the company, and Al Romero and Tom Grunnet work with Keber on the sales desk.
Once the company closes, Keber said he and his wife plan to spend more time with their 21-month-old granddaughter.