Chelan, Wash.-based fruit grower-shipper Chelan Fresh reports 100% year-over-year growth in its organic program in 2017, thanks to a deal it reached over the summer to be the exclusive marketer for Columbia Valley, Wash.-based Columbia Valley Fruit’s organic, as well as conventional, apples, said Kevin Stennes, Chelan’s organic sales manager.
“We’ve got huge retail demands that are demanding us to grow the organic program.”
“Gala, fuji, Honeycrisp, granny are growing, but we also have some smaller quantities of what I call oddball varieties like Ambrosia, Pinova, winesap, so we have a pretty wide range of apples,” Stennes said.
The company also offers five or six kinds of organic pears, plus “a nice little pluot program,” Stennes said.
In all, Chelan’s organic volume will be around 1.1 million to 1.2 million boxes this year, Stennes said.
The fruit is marketed under the organic Cascade Crest label.
Columbia Valley Fruit works with farmers in Washington to grow, store and pack organic and conventional apple varieties.
The company has nearly 30 years’ experience growing organic fruit and is a certified organic handler by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The company also helps its farmers grow in accordance with the National Organic Program standards.
“We were really happy to join Columbia Valley, because it doubled our organic program overnight,” Stennes said. “They’ve got a nice mix of conventional and organic product that fits into our manifests quite well. They have expert old-timers doing this for three decades. They’re among the best in the industry, and it filled a hole in our manifest that we needed desperately.”
Chelan also is offering a new SugarBee apple variety, which Stennes described as a “Honeycrisp cross.”
“It’s a fantastic apple with a lot of qualities of Honeycrisp, but a bit easier to grow and store,” he said.
The company has only a “very tiny quantity” of organic SugarBee apples this year.
“It’s gonna be a few pallets this year and will jump up pretty noticeably,” he said.
The SugarBee, which originated in Minnesota, is exclusive to Chelan Fresh, Stennes said.
“We’ve had some in the ground for multiple years for test blocks, and it’s been a great fit in this climate,” Stennes said.