(Dec. 22, 5:34 p.m.) Just a year after putting the finishing touches on a multi-million dollar packing and cold storage facility, Bravante Produce, Reedley, Calif., is adding to the company’s inventory of citrus fruit by taking the table grape plunge.
Bravante Produce has acquired about 1,000 acres of table grape vineyards from Gary Pitts Ranches, Fowler, Calif., said Ron Wikum, sales and marketing for Bravante Produce. The deal closed in early December, he said, after nearly a year of meetings and discussions.
“It’s a nice acquisition,” he said. “The acreage includes 11 table grape varieties.”
The varieties range from green table grapes, such as thompson seedless and princess, to the red varieties of scarlet royals and sweet scarlets, Wikum said. Another red variety, vintage red, was planted early this year and will be in production in about two years, he said.
The various varieties will offer customers a full season of fresh California table grapes, Wikum said.
Gary Pitts was among California’s grower pioneers in developing the trellis system for table grapes, Wikum said. Among the advantages of the trellis system is that it minimizes sunburn and facilitates harvesting.
Wikum said he was not at liberty to discuss financial details of the acquisition.
Bravante Produce handled sales and marketing for a few small growers this year “to get our feet wet,” Wikum said. The company’s volume will increase dramatically in 2009.
“We’re hoping to be about one million boxes in house,” he said.
In addition, Bravante Produce is looking to reach agreements with other table grape growers, Wikum said.
Scott Cooper, owner of Cooper Ag Services, an agriculture consulting firm with offices in Kingsburg, Calif. and Terra Bella, Calif., will manage table grape growing for Bravante. He has been involved in table grape growing for more than 25 years, Wikum said.
“Scott Cooper is one of the very, very best grape growers in the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley,” Wikum said. “He’s just a wonderful grower.”
Cooper, who will continue to operate his consulting firm, is relocating the company’s headquarters to the newly-acquired Bravante Produce table grape acreage, Wikum said.
The table grapes will be field packed and line packed at Bravante Produce and Cold Storage, which also packs the company’s navels, minneolas, valencias and lemons. Bravante Produce owns and farms 2,000 acres of citrus crops.
“We have the flexibility to pack in any kind and size of clamshell and punnit,” Wikum said.
Sales and marketing of the Bravante Produce table grapes and citrus will be handled in house, Wikum said. A Web site that will include the table grape varieties is under construction, he said.