(April 18, 12:45 p.m.) When you’re 150 years old, maybe you ought to take it easy on your birthday. Get some rest, relax.

Not The Oppenheimer Group. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company has plenty to keep it busy this year as it celebrates its sesquicentennial.

The company recently announced it plans to source California stone fruit from Kingsburg area grower-shippers Wildwood Packing & Cooling, Bujulian Bros. Inc. and YNT Enterprises. The move gives Oppenheimer nearly year-round supplies of stone fruit and doubles its volume in the category.

“We’re probably one of the largest stone fruit growers out of Chile,” said John Anderson, president, chairman and chief executive officer of Oppenheimer, which also sources stone fruit from New Zealand. “We hadn’t seen the right opportunity to round that out with domestic fruit until now.”

Communications manager Karin Gardner said adding California stone fruit makes Oppenheimer a more comprehensive supplier.

“It helps us improve the way we serve the customer,” she said. “We can help them plan, and they know they can count on us. When the Northern Hemisphere starts they can continue on the same platform they’ve been on.”

Gardner said adding domestic fruit also will help customers at a time when the U.S. dollar is weak. She said the company will look for opportunities to add more domestic product.

The new agreement adds apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots to a California program that already includes grapes and kiwifruit.

“Stone fruit is a logical addition,” Gardner said. “We’ve established a foothold in the San Joaquin Valley.”

Oppenheimer added conventionally grown strawberry tomatoes from Houweling’s Hot House, Oxnard, Calif., last fall and started shipping organic strawberry tomatoes from Origin Organic Farms Inc., Delta, British Columbia, in April.

This also is the first year that Origin Organic has significant volumes of its organic Gemini tomatoes available. Those sweet, red and orange cherry tomatoes started shipping in early April.

Another new product, Envy, is on tap for 2009. The new apple variety will start shipping in June of next year with supplies from Washington, New Zealand, France and possibly Chile.

The company will mark its birthday with more than one party. The first will be July 12 when Vancouver celebrates David Oppenheimer Day on July 12. David Oppenheimer was one of four brothers who helped form the company, and he served as the city’s second mayor. Oppenheimer will have its company picnic that day in Stanley Park, which David Oppenheimer opened in 1888.

The company will celebrate its birthday with the industry at a party for its retail and grower partners on Oct. 25 in Orlando, Fla., during the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit.

Finally, the company will have simultaneous parties on Dec. 6 at its 13 global offices.

“The theme of our anniversary is ‘our roots keep us growing,’” Gardner said. “These roots — our communities, our relationships with growers and customers and our people — are what has kept Oppenheimer thriving for a century and a half.”

Oppenheimer looks to its roots for growth
The Oppenheimer Group's president, John Anderson, cites the company's commitment to new products and sourcing options as the key to its 150 years of success and the marketer's growth plans.