New partners, faces among California grape grower-shippers - The Packer

New partners, faces among California grape grower-shippers

08/16/2010 04:22:17 PM
Don Schrack

KINGSBURG, Calif. — California table-grape grower-shippers have not debuted any new breakthrough varieties for fall, but there are new faces with new labels and familiar faces with new programs.

Among the familiar faces is Mitch Ritchie, whose family has been growing grapes packed under the Tarzen label for nearly 30 years.

This season, some of those grapes are being packed in cartons bearing the new Family Fruit Farms label, which signals the launch of the company’s in-house marketing effort.

Over the years, Family Fruit Farms has focused on developing late season varieties, Ritchie said.

“We are well known particularly for our high quality, late-season thompsons,” he said.

Picking, packing and shipping of the Family Fruit Farms thompsons are scheduled to begin Sept. 20, Ritchie said. They will share the shipping dock with flames that began to come out of the vineyards in mid-August.

Later varieties at Family Fruit Farms are autumn royals, crimsons and red globes. Picking of the royals is scheduled to start Oct. 1, Ritchie said, with the crimson and red globe harvests expected to start Oct. 15.

Long established Valhalla Sales & Marketing Co. has made a change in its table grape program.

“We’ve always done Chilean grapes, but this year we’ve started a domestic grape program,” said Steve Nelsen, co-owner. “We’re looking to market 300,000 cartons.”

The fall varieties offered by Valhalla will include crimsons, autumn kings and red globes, he said.

Bari Produce LLC, Madera, is in its first full year of marketing fruit.

The company’s fall table grape inventory will be crimsons and red globes, said Justin Bedwell, president of marketing. The grapes are packed under the Bari label.

“In the future, we’ll be adding autumn kings to the line up,” Bedwell said. “Those are new vines that are scheduled to produce a commercial crop beginning in 2012.”

Bedwell, former director of marketing for Z&S Fresh, Fresno, joined Ryan Logoluso, president of Frank A. Logoluso Farms, Madera, and Jim Stillwell, controller of the Logoluso farming operation, to form Bari Produce.

The fall table grape program for Visalia Produce Sales Inc. will jump about 20% this fall. The reason is a new agreement with Robert Johnson Farms, Madera, said George Matoian, domestic grape sales manager.

“We’ll be co-marketing their grapes with R.J. Sales, the marketing arm of Robert Johnson Farms,” he said.

Robert Johnson Farms produces several summer and fall varieties, but the majority of the volume will be flames and crimsons, Matoian said.

“We’ll have about 500,000 cartons of crimsons,” he said. “They will be available well into the fall.”

Also available from Visalia Produce in late summer and fall will be scarlet royals, autumn kings and a limited supply of red globes, Matoian said.

Visalia Produce will continue to pack grapes from other sources under the company’s SunPower label. The fruit from Robert Johnson Farms will continue to carry the family-owned farm’s Jenelle label.



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